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Haugesund: Nordic Countries Plan New Pan-Regional Fund to Support Nordic Film and TV

Money talks at the film-political seminar at the Norwegian International Film Festival on how to secure high-quality Nordic film and TV series content for the public

HAUGESUND, Norway — Norwegian culture minister Linda Hofstad Helleland has announced that the Nordic countries are planning to set up a new pan-regional fund to support Scandinavia film and TV, which will be administered by the Nordisk Film & TV Fond.

The announcement was made at Bridging the Nordic Market, the Haugesund Festival’s main seminar, held Monday at the Norwegian festival to debate how to strengthen Nordic content in a digital age.

Taking place at Haugesund’s Scandic Maritim Hall, the seminar discussed new business models which can secure a diverse and high-quality Nordic film and TV series content for the public, ensuring that funds are being plowed back into new productions.

“The initiative comes from the Nordic film institutes, which discussed it with us, and it is great to hear of political interest so soon,” said CEO Petri Kemppinen, of the Oslo-based Nordisk Film & TV Fond.

The five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are all small markets, and it is difficult to build models that are financially sustainable for only national content, though that content looks to be on a longterm upsurge.

“During the first half of 2017, Norwegian cinemas registered the largest number of admissions in 10 years. These are exciting years: There is an international focus on Nordic TV series – ‘Shame,’ ‘The Bridge,’ ‘Borgen,’” Linda Hofstad Helleland added.

She argued that “the world is coming to Nordic countries to produce films, with both Norway and Finland following Iceland’s example and organized incentive programs to attract international projects.

“I am sure that if we decide to work together, we will be able to meet the challenges the film and TV industries are facing; jointly we have a larger audience potential, and we can provide bigger budgets,” the culture minister concluded.

The Nordisk Film & TV Fond has just published a report on Distribution and Viewing of television in the Nordic Countries, based on quantitative analysis and qualitative interviews with television schedulers and acquisition executives from the Nordic region. The report focuses on 21 TV series (19 supported by the fund) and “proves clearly how well some Nordic series perform across borders. Scheduling and marketing the shows seem to have a huge impact, and they are bringing the countries together,” said CEO Petri Kemppinen.

The five top series across the region were “The Bridge” 3 (“Broen” 3, Denmark-Sweden) with an average of 3.5 million viewers, “The Bridge” 2, with 3.2 million, “The Heavy Water War” (”Kampen om tungtvannet,” Norway) with 3 million, “Dicte” (Denmark) with 2.9 million, and “The Seaside Hotel” (“Badehotellet,” Denmark), with 2.4 million.

Top local series were “The Seaside Hotel” (a 64% share for Denmark’s TV2), “Bordertown” (“Sorjonen” – 31% for Finland’s YLE), “Trapped” (“Ófær∂,” 87% for Iceland’s RUV), “The Heavy Water War” (64% for Norway’s NRK), and “The Bridge” 3 (40% for Sweden’s SVT).

“Hollywood blockbusters still dominate the Nordic box-office, but Nordic cinema has reached its local goals and has achieved a great performance at international festivals and awards,” Kemppinen said, citing Swedish director Hannes Holm’s “A Man Called Ove” (“En mand som heter Ove”/2015) which was nominated for two Oscars, and Danish director Martin Zandvliet’s “Land of Mine” (“Under sandet”/2015), nominated for one. Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s ”The Happiest Day of the Life of Olli Mäki” (”Hymyilevä mies”/2016) won Un Certain Regard in Cannes and was named European Discovery of the Year, and this year Swedish director Ruben Östlund ”The Square” (2017) conquered Cannes’ Palme d’or.

At the seminar, Peter Dinges, managing director of the German film fund Die Filmförderungsanstalt and secretary general for the European Film Agency Directors Association, delivered an update ob German efforts to charge taxes on foreign streaming platforms programming German films which can be received by German customers.

”For 49 years we have had a levy, but this year – as the first country in the world – we said that it is impossible only to tax VOD services in Germany and not those from outside the country, because the offers are identical and compete: same market, same language, marketed on a German website,” Dinges explained.

”There cannot be any difference, just because they are based in Luxembourg or the Netherlands: We are in the EU,” he added.

German film law has now introduced a levy of between 1.8%-2.5% on the services’ turnover from German cinematic feature films made in the German language addressed to German clients.

This has been greenlit by the European Commission, but Netflix and Apple refuse to accept it and have sued, claiming it is illegal, Dinges reported.

Meanwhile, the Commission has updated its Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) so it is now legal to impose the levy. Seven countries – among them, France, Belgium, Poland, Croatia – “are waiting for the court decision, because they want to do the same,” Dinges said.

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