For 40 years, the oil and gas industry has been a driving force in Norway’s economy — the country has 860 billion in its oil fund — but the drop of oil prices in the international market have drastically reduced the earnings: some 100,000 jobs have been lost, and 30,000 within the last year. But is film production Norway’s new oil? That question arose during a seminar at the Norwegian Intl. Film Festival in Haugesund when it was reported that the country’s 10-month old production incentives program drew two international features: Working Title’s “The Snowman,” a U.K./U.S. production, and Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing,” a U.S. title, with a direct $24 million expenditure in the country.
Despite the early success, no, film cannot possibly replace oil — the proportions are totally different, said Sindre Guldvog, managing director of the Norwegian Film Institute. “The annual turnover of the Norwegian cinemas is $145 million, and the film industry nationwide employs only 5,000.”
But Guldvog noted that film is one of the culture industries that’s growing; both the government and parliament are interested in supporting filmed content, not only because it creates jobs and diversifies the economy but also because it contributes to national identity, culture, pride, and Norwegian footprint abroad.
“The institute has estimated that we can handle four major international productions annually, and we are pleased that foreign companies want to use our film crews and natural resources. But the scheme has just been implemented and is still in development, so we must still consider whether it is the right way to spend money,” he said. “The Norwegian film industry has not backed the initiative unilaterally — it want to make sure that the incentives are not taken from subsidies for local productions. But according to the new film legislation which has just been passed there is still $58 million available for new Norwegian film projects.”
The regulations have been simplified, and they are platform neutral: film, TV, digital. The government also emphasizes the track records of the filmmakers appplying for money. “Filmmakers who have had successes artistically or financially will get a higher priority in the distribution of grants,” he said.
“The institute will still support productions from an artistic evaluation by a film consultant, other from a more market-oriented potential estimate, to secure that Norwegian films maintain their high quality and reach a large audience, as stated in the film policy. We are all the time adjusting the numbers,” he added.
A business economist, the institute chief has previously been head of JW Cappelen Publishing and Norwegian CEO of Sweden’s Bonnier Media, which owns 150 companies, including SF Studios. He was appointed managing director of the Norwegian Film Institute in 2013.
The institute will shortly open an office in Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city, on the Western Coast, to operate the new incentive scheme and also “to be closer to undestanding what happens with the film industry in the regions,” per Guldvog.
At the same time the institute’s Oslo headquarters at the Film House has been divided into three departments: Production and Development (headed by Sveinung Golimo), Communication, Strategic Insight, International relations (Stine Helgeland), Audience, Distribution and Festivals (Julie Ova).
Pictured above: Sindre Guldvog, manaing director of the Norwegian Film Institute