Norway pumps up its film subsidies

Cash aims to boost business

Norwegian culture minister Trond Giske is dangling a carrot and stick in front of the local film biz.

The carrot is a tranche of NOK 60 million ($10 million) on top of the usual government subsidies.

The stick? A set of tough targets for the local players.

Not only does Giske want to double the film export by 2010, he also wants to increase the local market share from 16% to 25%. The question is, will Norway and Giske get lucky with this new deal?

Some in the business are skeptical, and draw parallels between Giske and the saying about the Norwegian shrimp who thought it was a lobster. Others are more optimistic.

Nordisk Film distribution manager Mikkel Berg is one of them.

“Sure, the sarcastic reaction would be that 25 films a year might be aiming at five or 10 too many,” says Berg. “But I think this new deal means that we’ll see new ways of bringing forward productivity and new talent. It doesn’t take two minutes or even two years to turn Norwegian film into a success — it takes a long time.

“And, it demands that you have these kinds of ambitions on a political level. To me, it seems as if there are.”

Giske himself thinks the goals are realistic, and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with his level of ambition.

“Sweden and Denmark have both had a local market share of 25% in the past. There is no reason why we couldn’t do the same,” Giske says. “When it comes to international acclaim, we got a Golden Palm and an Oscar for our shorts last year.”

He adds that Norway is “not quite there yet” when it comes to features, but points to the success of Sweden and Denmark, which have “proven that it is possible to be a small Nordic country and still have success abroad.”

To give direction to this ambition, the government initiated the biggest study of the industry since the 1980s. In March, the committee — which included reps from the Danish and the Swedish film institutes — presented its findings.

“It is clear that they have been a great influence,” says Giske. “Not only is the government now merging the main national film orgs — the Norwegian Film Institute, the Norwegian Film Fund and the Norwegian Film Development — but other similarities are to be found, too.

“We have to focus on filmmaking, not administration,” Giske says.

So, how will all this affect the local market, and will it change what Scandinavian co-productions look like? In the past, more film money has certainly traveled out of Norway than has gone into the country.

Still, Giske has high hopes for the future.

“I hope that we will make films of such a quality that the Nordic market discovers Norwegian film. If Nordic films would finally begin to have the entire Nordic region as an arena, we would certainly stand stronger to take the leap out into Europe and the rest of the world.”

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