NORSE FILM DIALOGUE: Impressions from Haugesund
Tom Swanston Reports from the NORDIC CO-PRODUCTION FORUM
Haugesund, Norway 21-23 August 2006
This year the beautiful coastal town of Haugesund, Norway was host to the first ever Nordic Co-Production Forum, held from 21st to 23rd August. The town is situated on a long sea inlet in the South West of the country, a 45-minute flight from Oslo.
The Norwegian International Film Festival is held in Haugesund each year, and was celebrating it's 23rd birthday this year. It runs concurrently with a small market, with presence from Scandinavian distributors (e.g. Sandrew Metronome), sales agents (e.g. Trust Films) Film Institutes (e.g. Norsk Filmfond, Danish Film Institute), and international press (e.g. Hollywood Reporter, Variety).
But this year two organisations, Film London and media content financer Peacefulfish, Nordic Co-Production Forum, set up by, to encourage collaboration between UK and Nordic producers. There is a common misconception that Nordic and Scandinavian are synonymous terms. To clarify, the Nordic countries comprise of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark (traditionally the Viking countries), whereas Scandinavia comprises of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. A word of advice: never tell a Finn that he is Scandinavian, he will not treat you kindly!
Ten British producers with Nordic-based projects were invited to the forum to introduce themselves and their films to Nordic producers, distributors and film commissioners. I was among them with a project entitled Christmas Story, set entirely in Lapland, Northern Finland, with script complete (in Finnish) and Finnish cast and crew already in place.
Over the course of the two days several discussions were held with panels of Nordic producers and commissioners. Although very informative these provided very little opportunity for dialogue between the UK and Nordic producers. The UK producers were sitting among the audience just listening to the panel of Nordic producers complaining about changes in the industry. This do not enable much dialogue.
For the last 30 years the amount of financial support from regional and national sources in Scandinavia has been very high, with 50%+ of a film's budget being provided by these sources. These films are then released in Scandinavia through cinemas, TV and DVD and make back the money for the financial sources, who do not demand a profit, only that their investment is recouped. The producers are given decent fees for their work, but do not have a share in the revenues. This means that they are not involved in the distribution of their films and do not care much about it either. Their job is to make the film, get paid and move onto another project. Finance and distribution are both guaranteed.
This sounds like a luxurious, even idyllic, environment to filmmakers but there are some negatives.
- 1) These films are not seen outside of the Nordic countries
- 2) Funding of films with budgets over €4M is not possible
- 3) There are few tax or financial incentives for Nordic producers to work with producers from other territories, and very little financial incentive for co-productions, unless the filming takes place in one of the Nordic countries, in which case the relevant regional body will provide finance.
It has also meant that Nordic producers are narrow-minded in their thinking. They have had the luxury of being able to make the films they want to make, as long as these productions are set in on of the producer's home territory and in their home language, with Nordic cast and crew. The fact that their product does not leave the Nordic region means that they do not consider a world market at any point during production.
But national funding in this beautiful and icy area of the world is reducing and the Nordic producers are being forced to change their thinking. There response is not one of confidence and progress, but instead one of anger and a lack of understanding. They want to keep making the films that they have always made, and they do not want to have to work harder, think harder or become more commercially minded.
Currently there are no incentives for co-productions between UK and the Nordic countries, and any new legislation along these lines will not arrive in the near future. However, if there is one positive to be taken from the event, it is that, as put so succinctly by Adrian Wootton, Head of Film London "this is just the start of our dialogue, there is a long way to go".
However, if you are a UK producer wanting to make a film containing outstandingly beautiful rocky, snow-covered landscapes, Vikings, icebergs, Eskimos, reindeer, herring, or mad people jumping into icy water, then the Nordic countries are a wonderful place to film. And, once filming is confirmed in one of these territories, the local and national film bodies will provide excellent financial and practical support.
On another plus from the event was that, almost without exception, the Nordic people were very open, friendly and helpful. I would encourage anyone to make a visit to the Norwegian International Film Festival, to see an old traditional fishing village put on a programme of very unusual and original films that are not available to see elsewhere.
Tom Swanston is managing director of wysiwyg (wizzeewig) film distribution and production and an executive member of the New Producers Alliance
Tom tells how he came to establish his company in an interview on Shooting People's Shooters Films website