COPENHAGEN — “If properly distributed, Scandinavian state subsidy for feature film production is second to none,” says Danish producer Per Holst, one of the few Scandi filmmakers to have won a grand slam — the Cannes Palme d’Or, the Golden Globe and the foreign-language film Oscar with 1988’s Bille August-helmed “Pelle the Conqueror.” He recently has benefited from local funds for his two new films, Hans Kristensen’s “Two-Penny Dance” and Lotte Svendsen’s “Voice of Bornholm.”
Yet most of the Nordic countries are adjusting their government support schemes in order to encourage cost-effectiveness and to target larger audiences. The Nordic Film & TV Fund — a Scandinavian joint-finance operation — is reshaping itself following the departure of CEO Dag Alveberg and the pending exit of fund contributors such as Iceland’s IBC, Sweden’s SVT and TV4. Jeanette Sundby has been appointed interim chief of the annual $9 million fund.
A model for the consultant systems in Norway and Sweden, the Danish Film Institute has hit troubled waters, with its new management labeled “incompetent” by veteran producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen of Zentropa Entertainments. Still more money is fueling the industry, with this year’s $16 million for production growing to $30 million in 2001, for such projects as Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark” and Bille August’s “Second Chance.”
More and more international co-productions are moving into Finland, particularly attracted by the locations. These include Spanish director Julio Medem’s “The Lovers of the Arctic Circle” as well as local directors Ilkka Jarvilaturi’s “History Is Made at Night” and Mika Kaurismaki’s “Highway Society.” The Finnish Film Foundation’s annual $10 million subsidy for new films may benefit any project with local participation.
After 20 years of spring, summer finally has arrived for Icelandic film production. Last year, government funding allowed the Icelandic Film Fund to allocate $1.6 million for new films in 1999, with the annual figure gradually increasing to $4.3 million by 2002. However, foreign coin still is necessary for a yearly output of up to five features, shorts and documentaries. Zentropa and Eurimages, for instance, are major backers of Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s “Angels of the Universe,” a $3-million Icelandic-Danish-German co-production.
In Norway, there’s a re-shuffle on the horizon after a report by Ernst & Young consultants concluded that all Norwegian support for feature film production should be channeled through one institution. The report claims the annual coin of $20 million currently results in fewer productions, lower admissions and a smaller domestic market share than in other Scandinavian countries. Forthcoming major Norwegian output includes Erik Gustavson’s “Sophie’s World.”
And a new five-year plan starting Jan. 1 in Sweden will increase state support to the local film industry by more than 25%. Of the $45 million allocation, some $24 million is earmarked for production. Foreign projects require 20% Swedish finance and local participation. High-profile productions in the works include Liv Ullmann’s “Faithless,” from Ingmar Bergman’s screenplay, and Roy Andersson’s “Songs From the Second Floor.”