Danish Film Institute international producer Noemi Ferrer Schwenk tells Wendy Mitchell about the country’s aim to do smarter co-productions.

Denmark is starting to look outward in a new way. Traditionally, the Nordic countries have favoured national production or banded together regionally for their co-productions. While that continues to be true in most cases, there is a new generation of Danish producers that is increasingly looking beyond its own borders.

“There is a younger generation that is very interested in international work,” says the Danish Film Institute’s international producer Noemi Ferrer Schwenk. “There are more and more Danish film-makers venturing out there and figuring out how to finance films internationally.”

Indeed, Ferrer Schwenk’s job itself is a sign of changing times. The DFI created the position in late 2011 after a 2010 study looked at the international potential of Danish films and Danish companies. “It identified that Danish films have a huge potential but probably given the amount of changes currently in the financing landscape of films - like MGs [minimum guarantees] no longer being available for smaller films, VoD revenues not replacing DVD yet, TV having a different remit right now - there would be a need for people to find some money outside of Denmark or even Scandinavia,” Ferrer Schwenk notes.

The executive, of Spanish and German heritage who has a master’s degree in Scandinavian studies, was a natural fit for the post, after working at Zentropa, the Irish Film Board, Eurimages and Germany’s Prokino.

As part of her multi-faceted job, Ferrer Schwenk gives Danish producers the tools they need to work in a successful manner internationally, such as organising seminars and talks from potential foreign partners. She also guides them to the right international events - for instance, getting Danish producers involved earlier this year with Rotterdam’s CineMart, the Berlinale Co-Production Market and producers’ workshop EAVE.

Her position encompasses the supervision of funding for minority co-productions, working with Eurimages and the MEDIA Desk, and consulting on international opportunities with Danish producers. “I can lead them in the right direction about other funds or put them in touch with people who could be good co-producers,” she says.

Danish projects that have recently expanded international horizons include Susanne Bier’s Italy-set Love Is All You Need, Kristian Levring’s South Africa-shot western The Salvation, Tobias Lindholm’s Somali pirates story A Hijacking and Ole Christian Madsen’s Argentina-set SuperClasico.

“Producers are being pushed outside. They feel they want to tell different stories, and they know they will have to know about international co-production.”

Even with the DFI’s annual pot of funding of about $2.1m for minority co-productions, co-producing with Denmark does not make sense financially for many productions, partly because there is no tax incentive, unlike in many other countries or US states.

Yet for smart cultural co-productions the funding is useful - and it could become more attractive as the Copenhagen Film Fund is expected to become operational this autumn.

More non-Nordic minority co-productions are being put forward for DFI funding. Recent awards include two projects with Poland - Pawel Pawlikowski’s Sister Of Mercy and Anna Kazejak’s The Word, and a first co-production with Israel, Yaelle Kayam’s The Mountain.

Other recent co-productions include UK director Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman, Irish animator Tomm Moore’s Song Of The Sea and Boris Rodriguez’s Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal with Canada.

Ferrer Schwenk says: “We are trying to not lose the ties to the north but at the same time enabling people to work outside of Scandinavia if they need to. And to be curious enough to work possibly with projects coming in from completely different parts of the world.”

DFI Minor Co-Production Funding

  • Features and animation, three deadlines per year: six to nine selected annually
  • Shorts and documentaries, two deadlines per year: four to six selected annually
  • A Danish co-producer has to make the application to the DFI
  • Danish creative or technical elements are required, as is commitment to Danish theatrical release or broadcast on national Danish TV
  • Overall budget for feature co-production is $2.1m (€1.6m) per year; most grants are capped at $445,000 (€335,000) per project
  • Denmark’s regional funds are the West Danish Film Fund in Aarhus, FilmFyn in South Funen and the new Copenhagen Film Fund
  • Denmark has a bilateral co-production agreement with Australia that was signed in 2011