Norway film chief aims for efficiency

Nina Refseth takes over beleagured Institute

OSLO — Nina Refseth is stepping into her position as the CEO of the Norwegian Film Institute at a tough time for the org.

Three institutions — the Norwegian Film Fund, the Norwegian Film Development and the Norwegian Film Institute — are becoming one entity, keeping the name of the Norwegian Film Institute.

As happens with mergers, there have been some layoffs, including heads of departments. And all staffers had to re-apply for their jobs. So tensions are flying high and lawsuits are threatened.

The 42-year-old Refseth, who, before settling into her office at Oslo’s Filmens Hus April 1 was topper at the book publishing company Det Norske Samlaget, says she understands the anxiety among the staff, but adds, “Considering the complexity of what we are doing, I think it is running quite pain free.”

Her first order of business, even before taking up her post, was to assemble a board of directors. Filmmakers were waiting for marketing grants of more than 1 million kroner ($200,000).

On March 31, Refseth proudly announced a board ranging from politicians to helmers and authors.

As for merging the three entities into one org, Refseth points out that in a country the size of Norway the industry is too small to need more.

“This is a way to make the bureaucracy smaller and to make the work more efficient,” she says. “Our job is to support the Norwegian film industry, to help it, to encourage the producers without interfering with their job.”

The next task before her is to nurture talent in a country where tyro helmers often disappear after their debut films.

“We are going to make sure these talents get a second and third chance. … I see a system where they can go back and forth between TV and cinema.”

She also intends to develop more helming talent, saying, “We need lots of first-time directors and producers.”

And it’s not all doom and gloom. Refseth takes over the reins at a time when there is much confidence in the Norwegian film industry. Five of the top 20 pics at the box office so far this year are domestic films, including such hits as “The Kautokeino Rebellion,” which drew 320,000 in 11 weeks; “The Man Who Loved Yngve” with 153,000; and “Lange Flate Baller 2” with 210,756.

And then there’s the festival success of films like “The Bothersome Man,” which won kudos at Cannes, Sitges, Montreal, Gothenburg and the Hamptons, while “Uro”/”Restless” won awards at Stockholm and Liege.

“Our task is to make 25 features per year,” Refseth says. “Five should be kidpics, five documentaries and 15 features for an adult audience. Within this, there should be width, everything from smaller arthouse films to big blockbusters. The minister of culture has said that domestic films should have no less than 20% of admissions every year. This is something we should live up to.

“And I firmly believe, that if the audience goes to see a Norwegian blockbuster, it will trigger them also to go to see other, smaller, domestic films.”

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