Blessed with scene-stealing natural beauty, Western Norway has served as a breathtaking backdrop for international films such as Alex Garland’s sci-fi drama “Ex Machina” and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout.” But local bizzers say there’s more to the region than meets the eye.
“People may already know that our region is picture perfect,” says Sigmund Elias Holm, of the Western Norway Film Commission, but “it’s also a creative hotbed open to international co-productions, whether it’s controversial docs, uncompromising drama or inventive genre films.”
With Norway the Country in Focus at this year’s European Film Market, 10 rising Norwegian producers will be presented as part of the Norwegian Producers Spotlight at the EFM Producers Hub. A number of industry professionals from Western Norway will also be on hand with new projects showcasing what the region has to offer.
Producer Maria Ekerhovd of Mer Film, whose credits include Ciro Guerra’s “Birds of Passage” and Brazilian director Gabriel Mascaro’s Panorama feature “Divine Love,” is among a crop of local producers that Holm describes as “very internationally minded.”
For the recently wrapped shoot of “Suicide Tourist,” Danish director Jonas Alexander Arnby’s follow-up to his Cannes Critics’ Week debut “When Animals Dream,” Ekerhovd says the diverse topography of Western Norway was crucial to establishing the film’s mise en scene. “There’s a vast pool of opportunities in this region,” she says. “You can do almost anything here.”
At this year’s EFM, Ekerhovd will be presenting the latest feature from Eskil Vogt, director of the critically acclaimed Sundance premiere “Blind,” and the short-form dramedy “Clone,” directed by Berlinale regular Ole Giaever (2014’s “Out of Nature”), which will take part in Drama Series Days.
Gary Cranner of Chezville, who’s part of the Norwegian Producers Spotlight at the EFM, will bring “Sisters,” a feature film with director and Chezville partner Arild Ostin Ommundsen, as well as “Barzakh,” a co-production with Germany’s In Good Company. Another Spotlight producer, Einar Loftesnes of Handmade Films in Norwegian Woods, has a feature drama doc, “Catching the Flame,” with Danish thesp Thure Lindhardt (“The Bridge”), and a thriller with long-time collaborator and director Pal Oie, “The Tunnel,” going into production this winter with Nordisk Film.
For documentary producer Bjarte Morner Tveit (“The Act of Killing”), who arrives in Berlin after the buzzy Sundance premiere of “Cold Case Hammarskjold” with two controversial new projects looking for international partners and distribution, local producers are in a good position to push boundaries. Norway’s democratic safeguards and robust freedom of speech, he says, “makes it possible to produce films from here that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.”
There are also healthy financial incentives. The Norwegian Film Institute offers a 25% cash rebate as well as minority co-production funds. International co-productions with partners from Western Norway can also access Zephyr Media Fund. The regional film centers, Western Norway Film Center and Filmkraft Rogaland, provide additional support for documentary co-productions.
“We have two or three financiers in place from the beginning,” says Tveit, “which really gives us the opportunity to…go for the projects that we really believe in, and that we can take a financial risk in.”