Mikkel Aaland

"It's All An Adventure"

Production of Perfect Sweat started in July 2017 in Helsinki Finland. Download a free ebook of production stills here.  We shoot in Russia in February 2018!  Stay up to date here.




Everyone sweats. It’s one of the most elemental things a human body can do. But when its pursued intentionally, like eating, drinking or making love, it’s also one of the few natural experiences that can rejuvenate us and bring spiritual and social reconnection to our lives.


Our ancestors understood this and have ritually practiced various forms of intense sweating since the beginning of time.


Today, all over the world, people still seek out the banya, steam room, sweat lodge and hammam. The question our program seeks to answer is why? The motivation can vary by region, culture, country and tradition. Each episode will be a journey exploring the root of that question and seeking the answer. The program will be less about the act of physically steaming and more about the story behind it.

We are in search of the perfect sweat!




Inspired by the book “Sweat” by Mikkel Aaland and starring a host of characters, our series will take the form of an exploratory journey to every corner of the world.


Each episode will take place in a new location that can be anything from a Navajo sweat lodge in Monument Valley to a gigantic Turkish bathhouse to a Swiss sauna inside a mountain gondola dangling high above the peaks.


Within that there are three goals for each show:


a) To visit someplace fascinating

b) To understand why people have historically sweat in the location we are visiting and why they continue to do it today

c) To meet some incredible and entertaining people along the way


Each episode, we will learn something about how others live their day to day lives and how the art of sweat is intertwined within that specific culture and tradition. For example:


- An Inuit in the Northwest Territories might sit in a sweat lodge for spiritual reasons.

- A South Korean might go to a steam room / Korean Bath because that’s what their mother did, their mother’s mother did and their mother’s mother’s mother did. It is part of a regular bathing routine for them and always has been.

- A Finnish person might sauna every day because they are physically addicted to the healthy benefits of steaming.


Health, spirituality, culture, sexuality, vitality, history: these dynamics are found in each character and story.




MIKKEL AALAND will appear during the show as a traveling host/guide. Aaland is one of the world’s leading experts on this topic and has written widely popular books on the subject. He’s extremely well connected and his authority on the matter will help open many doors for our production. A “master of steam,” if you will, Aaland brings wisdom, philosophy and a zest for life to our show.


LOCAL GUIDE / CO-HOST: We will see a different guide/co-host in each location. In Finland our co-host is Samuel Arnio, a young Finn who lives and works in the high tech and entertainment business in Helsinki, Finland. He is a certified sweat fanatic. Recently he made a weekend trip to Berlin with friends and squeezed in 16 sweat sessions at 16 different saunas!


In Russia our host is Anna Artemyeva, whose banya blog, NUDE, reaches thousands of banya enthusiasts all over the world, and who probably knows more about the St. Petersburg banya scene that anyone.  Other c0-hosts for other locations TBD.


Currently Scheduled Locations:


FINLAND – Finnish Sauna

RUSSIA – Bania

TURKEY / INSTANBUL – Islamic Hammam

CENTRAL EUROPE -- Sauna Aufguss (Infusion)

MEXICO/CHOLULLA – Mexican Temescal

JAPAN – Mushi-Buro

CANADA – Inuit Sweatlodge

NAVAJO / 4 CORNERS – Native American Sweatlodge

U.S./CANADA – Northern Midwest Scandinavian Culture

U.S./CANADA – Urban Hammams & Banias



Possible Future Locations:


SOUTH KOREA – jjimjilbang

CHINA – Han Zao

IRELAND – Allus Bothan

INDIA – Hindu Fire Lodge

CHILE – Baños Turcus

SVALBARD – Longyearbyen, North Pole

…and many more…






We travel to an exotic, amazing, or historically profound sweat in a foreign land and meet the characters who run it and those who use it. We are privy to his or her reactions (good/bad/happy/sad). We’re flying, driving, biking, training, hiking, exploring, eating, and sweating… meeting people along the way. It’s a journey… never quite satisfied, we keep searching for the perfect sweat.



In each show we’ll feature an internationally-known celebrity or personality. We will seek out this person and have them show us their own sweat-related ritual and place, and talk to us about what sweat means to their health and life.



We’ll discover the hottest sauna in Finland, the most modern banya in London, the most elaborate hammam in Turkey, the most elegant steam room in Japan, along with the strange: a phone-booth sauna in Helsinki, an underwater sauna-in-a-submarine, and a ridiculous wearable-portable sauna (that works).



The modern day sweat movement is directly related to an international trend towards healthier lifestyles and back-to-basics thinking. We’re sharing philosophies about health, medical benefits, and how-to techniques on this ancient art.



Human cultures have been after the perfect sweat for over 10,000 years. The Romans had “thermae” capable of holding 3,000 bathers at once! The sweat lodge has been a prominent feature of Native American culture. In every country we visit, we’ll find the ruins and origins of ancient sweathouse practices and bring them to life






Greg Moga, CEO of Moga Productions, LLC., is the Executive Producer of ‘Sweat’. He bought Mikkel Aaland’s book ‘Sweat’ when it was first published in 1978, and credits the book for sparking his life-long interest in the great bathing cultures of the world, and particularly Scandinavia. Greg is a Seattle and Copenhagen-based angel investor and attorney who began his career with a degree in journalism from the George Washington University. His media experience includes being Executive Producer of The Artist Toolbox, the Emmy-award nominated series for American Public Television.




Mikkel Aaland is an award-winning photographer and the best-selling author of fifteen books. Aaland’s best known book is Sweat, The Illustrated History and Description of the Finnish Sauna, Russian Bania, Islamic Hamman, Japanese Mushi-buro, Mexica Temescal and American Indian & Eskimo Sweatlodge. He recently produced and hosted the first international “Perfect Sweat Summit” in San Francisco, a dynamic 2-day conference of the world’s leading experts on the subject. Aaland, who leads photography workshops around the globe, is comfortable both in front and behind a camera. He has made numerous television appearances including the David Letterman show and he is the subject of several live-action video training films for Lynda.com.


Mika Hotakainen,  Director/Producer


Mika Hotakainen is a  Finnish director and writer, known for the critically acclaimed films, Steam of Life (2010), Freedom to Serve (2004) and Ristin tie (2016). Mika is the director for the first Perfect Sweat segment, the Finnish Sauna, which was shot during the summer of  2017.





VAARA is a film and TV production company located in Helsinki, Finland.





Doug Pray has directed a number of highly acclaimed feature-length documentary films about subcultures and maverick characters. His work includes, “ART & COPY” which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming and “SURFWISE” about legendary surfer and health guru, Dr. Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz. Doug’s other films include the critically acclaimed and internationally distributed “HYPE!” “SCRATCH,” “BIG RIG,” “INFAMY,” and “LEVITATED MASS.” Doug won his first Emmy Award for an HIV-AIDS awareness campaign he shot and directed in El Salvador for Viacom. In 2012, he won international awards for “WAKE UP THE TOWN,” a series of shorts for Phillips filmed in the world’s northernmost village. He has directed a Spike TV program for Dr. Martens called “VEER,” and “FEEL YOUR HEART RACE” for ESPN about auto racing. Clients include Google, Budweiser, IBM, Samsung, Ford, PBS, Microsoft, Mobil, Kodak, Adidas, Nike, Sprite, Guinness, and the Canadian Government. He is currently executive producing, writing/editing a 4-episode docu-series for HBO called “THE DEFIANT ONES.”




Documentary director Laura Gabbert’s critically acclaimed films deploy full measures of humor and drama to unflinchingly put a human face on such difficult social issues as aging, the environment, and AIDS. NO IMPACT MAN, which the Los Angeles Times called “terrifically entertaining, compelling and extremely funny.” premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Her previous film SUNSET STORY won multiple awards, including prizes at Tribeca and Los Angeles Film Festival. Other credits include the PBS documentary THE HEALERS OF 400 PARNUSSUS, the ITVS feature film TARANTELLA starring Mira Sorvino, and the Sundance Competition and Venice Film Festival feature, GETTING TO KNOW YOU. Most recently, Laura directed and produced the feature length documentary CITY OF GOLD about Pulitzer Prize winning Los Angeles Times food writer Jonathan Gold. The film premiered in competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. About CITY OF GOLD, the New York Times said, “…the film does as much to demystify and yet romanticize Los Angeles as any Chandler novel.” IFC/Sundance Selects bought the film at Sundance and it opened theatrically in March, 2016.




Filmmaker Grant Barbeito began making films at Colorado University, went on to study film at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and was accepted to Sundance with his thesis film RUBEN. After working for years at MTV in Times Square and heading up production teams for internet startups he moved to Los Angeles to start his own web site for social good: Earth Protect. In 2014, Grant was the director and cinematographer of the critically acclaimed and widely distributed feature documentary “TOUCH THE WALL” about US Olympic swimmers Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce. He has written and produced over 30 original Internet shows and created work for clients such as Calvin Kline, Sprint, Perry Ellis, MTV, Bravo, Lifetime Cable, ESPN, PBS, California Wildlife Foundation and Baby Genius, United Cerebral Palsy.




©2018 Mikkel Aaland

All Rights Reserved