Film has been hit hard by the financial crisis, and there may be worse to come.
“If the government does not correct its mistake, it will damage Icelandic cinema for a long time,” says Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur of Blueeyes Productions.
Last autumn, Iceland’s government announced it would slash state film funding already agreed for 2010 by 36%, while public broadcaster RUV declared it would reduce its participation in local productions due to budget cuts. The financial crisis has also strongly devalued the Icelandic currency.
“[It’s] a massacre,” says Ari Kristinsson, head of the Association of Icelandic Film Producers. “The government and RUV seem to have decided to destroy the Icelandic film and TV industry. So far, no projects have been shelved but some have been delayed.”
According to Kristinsson, it takes state support of four to five features, three or four television series and 10 documentaries annually to sustain “the minimum of an Icelandic film industry”.
“The government has made it clear it probably has to make further cuts next year. With only $3.4m (IKR450m) available for 2010, we will most likely be able to back three features only, adding a couple of feature-length documentaries,” explains Laufey Gudjonsdottir, managing director of the Icelandic Film Centre. “The effects will show later; there are only three supported features in development.
“In recent years Iceland has increasingly been able to attract international productions, due to locations, facilities - we recently opened a new fully equipped studio - a reliable infrastructure and an incentive programme including a 20% reimbursement of costs here. It’s taken a long time to build up the film industry which is doing an amazing job; now it is suffering, if not collapsing,” she concludes.
Still the Icelanders love local films: last year Ragnar Bragason’s Mr Bjarnfredarson registered the biggest opening for any film in Iceland and has so far been seen by around 20% of the population.
ICELAND AT A GLANCE, 2009
Size of box office $14m (IKR1.8bn), up 12% up on 2008
Admissions 1.7 million
Number of theatrical releases 207
Number of locally produced theatrical releases 11
Market share of local films 10.3%
Source: Iceland Cinema Now