With strong state support, Norway has ambitious goals to attract international partners.
Last year, Norway’s then culture minister Trond Giske declared his ambition that Norway become the leading film country in Scandinavia. Having increased public support of cinema by $25.4m (NKR150m) since 2005, Giske wanted, among other things, an annual production level of 25 local features controlling 25% of the market.
In 2009 Norway also signed the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, making it easier for the territory’s film-makers to co-produce with foreign partners.
“The ‘internationalisation’ of the film industry is one of our main objectives; the endorsement of the treaty, which had been delayed by technicalities, is an opening to the foreign markets,” says Nina Refseth, managing director of the Norwegian Film Institute (NFI), which has an annual budget of $62.2m (NKR367.8m) for Norwegian cinema. “Several Norwegian productions have already taken advantage of it.”
Refseth adds: “In 2010 we will see close to 30 new Norwegian films, and after two years with market shares above 20%, 25% is now within reach.” She points out that the challenge will be to keep up production volume.
Producer Karin Julsrud, of 4 ½ Production, says the signing of the co-production convention was “crucial in getting the 10% French financing in place” for Norwegian director Marius Holst’s King Of Devil’s Island. Co-produced with France’s MACT Productions, Sweden’s St Paul and Poland’s Opus Film, the $8.1m (NKR48m) film is the story of a 1915 riot in a boys’ detention centre which was crushed by Norwegian troops. The film is set for local release in December. “You set up co-productions not only because it is difficult to find all the money you need in Norway, but also because you want an international network which makes it easier for your films to travel, and to put Norway on the map as a film country,” Julsrud says.
Asle Vatn of Friland Film, whose credits include Sara Johnsen’s Upperdog - which opened last year’s Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund - says the company is focused on international relationships. “This way we can make more expensive films and they’re better equipped for European distribution,” he says.
The two next features from Vatn and his partner, Christian Fredrik Martin, are also backed by foreign money. Jens Lien’s Theory And Practice is co-produced by Sweden’s GotaFilm, Denmark’s Nimbus and France’s Les Films d’Antoine, with Eurimages support, while Morten Tyldum’s thriller Headhunters is a co-production with Sweden’s Yellow Bird.
“I’ve always been interested in international co-productions, not only because of the extra funding but because they improve a film’s chances to reach new markets,” says producer Aage Aaberge of Neo Film, who is about to complete packaging a sequel to CGI-animation Ploddy The Policecar while negotiating Chinese distribution for No 1, a children’s film directed by Rasmus A Sivertsen.
Neo Film is also involved, alongside Germany’s Knudsen & Streuber and Badlands Film, in German director Matthias Glasner’s new film, from a script by Kim Fupz Aakeson. Aaberge will also produce Kon-Tiki, the $17.2m (€ 14m) 3D epic from Nordisk Film and the UK’s Recorded Picture Company set to start shooting this month.
Guttorm Petterson, managing director of SF Norge, points out that fully financing large-budget films is difficult in Norway. For its first series of Varg Veum films, based on Gunnar Staalesen’s crime novels, SF co-produced with Denmark’s Miso Film and Germany’s ARD-Degeto. The company is also seeking European funding for a fantasy film project adapted from Sigbjorn Mostue’s Sign Of The Elves. “The advantage is not only that many European countries have funds or incentive programmes which make it attractive to find international partners,” says Petterson. “They also have a production expertise which could be a stimulus to the Norwegian industry.”
The overseas links will also help to get smaller projects off the ground, especially those with international potential. The Norwegian Film Institute’s head of promotion and marketing Stine Helgeland has also registered a growing interest from foreign distributors. “In spite of the problems in the independent market, Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning’s Max Manus has [so far] been licensed to 62 territories, and most recently Hans Petter Moland’s A Somewhat Gentle Man has sold to 16, including the US.”
Adding further to the support, the NFI recently introduced slate funding, subsidising a package of films rather than a single production.
NORWAY AT A GLANCE, 2009
Population 4.9 million
Size of box office $177m (NKR1bn), up 13.6% on 2008
Admissions 12.7 million
Number of theatrical releases 233
Number of locally produced theatrical releases 22
Market share of local films 20.6%
Source: Film & Kino, Norway