Nordics Boost Prod’n Pace

The revolution in the media landscape, which made commercial TV one of the hottest growth areas in the Nordic territories during the past couple of years, has now kicked over to the production side.

Led by congloms Kinnevik, Svensk Filmindustri and Schibsted, major players are snapping up independent production facilities; consolidating what they already own; and slapping together new studios in a thrust to provide programming with a whole raft of new commercial channels on line or expected to launch within the next couple of years.

Driving the production pace is the steady growth of advertising revenues for the state commercial charters, such as TV4 in Sweden and TV2 in Norway. Also helping to speed things up are expansionist plans of such outfits as Kinnevik and Schibsted, which are acquiring and vertically integrating production at a dizzying speed for a full-blown launch east across the Baltic States and south into Central Europe.

In the meantime, more and more smallscreen coin is winding up in the bank accounts of bigscreen developers, and not just in massive coproductions, such as the $16 million Danish Broadcasting/Den Dansk Bank/Nordisk Film costumer “The Brewer,” the most expensive Nordic series ever produced for TV.

Politicians and movie makers alike now see the tube as the new cash cow of the feature film industry. More and more funding outlets are bringing TV on board either as a direct investor in movie production or as part of the distribution cycle. And the smallscreen is now seen as an important window that could stretch bigscreen dollars by boosting long-term audience potential.

In some cases, TV may even provide the first window for features, according to Nordic Screen Development producer Petter Borgli (“Cross My Heart and Hope to Die,” “The Telegraphist”). “We’ve come to realize that some films made for the bigscreen shouldn’t be there,” Borgli reckons. “A lot of good drama works better on TV.”

New regs often require funds to be earmarked from the outset for marketing and distribution – another revolutionary change in a region that has long disdained the commercial aspects of the film industry. Until a short while ago, standard Scandi practice was to make films, then worry about sales and distribution.

Many of the region’s top helmers ensure that their product is well-marketed and distributed for the international market. Erik Gustavson (“The Telegraphist”), Marius Hoist (“Cross My Heart and Hope to Die”), Lars Von Trier (“The Kingdom”) and Ole Bornedal (“Nightwatch”) are among the established and newer names now pumping out internationally digestible fare.

They also are crossing regional borders to tap the best talent to create the best product. “We’re trying to create a pan-Scandi market,” says Erik Crone, producer of the biopic “Hamsun” at lead producer Nordisk. “Hamsun” has Swedish thesp Max von Sydow and Danish co-star Ghita Norby playing the well-known Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun and his wife. Director is Swedish new wave vet Jan Troell.

The smallscreen, perhaps most importantly, has helped changed old attitudes of film: The idea that film should be art first and entertainment second is a “pretension” the industry can no longer afford, according to Dag Alveberg, new topper at the pan-regional Nordic Film and TV Fund. Adds the Norwegian: “TV has much of the money and influence, and feature film producers fear it could take over the whole show.

“And it could,” Alveberg says, “if indie producers don’t start delivering movies that are entertaining and that will reach wide audiences.”

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