Blog Series: Searching for Sugar Man – how, why and to what effect are Nordic producers turning to the English language to obtain growth and sustainability for their businesses.
October 1, 2018
In this series of posts, I'll be looking at producing English language films in the Nordic region, both in terms of the economic benefits as well as flagging some potential issues with internationalisation, including lack of authenticity and international competition. The material in the posts is based on secondary research as well as over 20 interviews with Nordic film industry professionals, conducted in summer 2018. Interviewees included producers, sales agents, film critics and representatives of national film bodies. Full list of references can be found at the end of this post. But first, an introduction to the topic.
The Nordic film landscape appears healthy – national admission shares have risen to the top of Europe and popular local films rival their international competitors at the local box offices. However, like many smaller countries in the continent, the Nordics share the same problem; tiny language area with a small population parallels hardly enough purchase power to support a commercial, profitable film business. The Nordic countries have since the 1960’s combatted the issue with state subsidy systems, covering the film value chain from development to exhibition. Regardless, the unified view from the industry in the Nordics is that the local language markets are, or are about to be, maxed out. With national market shares of close to 30% already achieved, combined with limited original language audiences available as well as the high screen penetration across the countries, it is appropriate to consider if further growth is achievable in the local Nordic markets.
The question therefore is, to which market should the Nordic producers aim their products for. In the upcoming blog posts, I will be discussing in detail the potential of the international, English language market to answer the question. English language producing is of course not new to the region, with past examples ranging from the works of Lars von Trier to films like Iron Sky (Vuorensola, 2012), Big Game (Helander, 2014) The Salvation (Levring, 2014) and Louder Than Bombs (Trier, 2015). However, with the local institutions increasingly receiving applications for English language productions it is clear that more and more producers are viewing the international market as an avenue for expansion (Rossi, 2018), (Ladegaard, 2018).
In this series of posts I aim to discuss a variety of issues surrounding English language producing to analyse if it can provide a valid alternative for native products aimed at the local box office. The findings are based on discussions with a number of film industry professionals in the Nordic region including producers, film institutions, financiers and sales agents. The interviews were conducted in summer 2018.
The outlook for the research is to determine ways for Nordic production companies to grow and to achieve economic sustainability. The Nordic production landscape is fragmented and consists mainly of very small production companies with fluctuating revenues, producing less than one film a year. Sustainability is needed to increase producers’ possibilities to further invest in development, preproduction and the long-term expansion of their businesses (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2018).
This series focuses on four Nordic countries, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. To limit the scope of the study, it will not be looking at Iceland, which due to the size of its film industry compares inadequately to the rest of the Nordic region.
Please find below a list of secondary source material for the study as well as list of indviduals interviewed as part of the research.
Bondebjerg, I. and Novrup Redvall, E. (2011). Small Region in a Global World. Patterns in Scandinavian Film and TV Culture. [online] Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen, pp.7-60. Available at: https://cemes.ku.dk/research/research_literature/workingpapers/scandinavian_cinema-final_lrl_.pdf [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].
Boxofficemojo.com. (2018). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010) - Box Office Mojo. [online] Available at: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=girlwiththedragontattoo.htm [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018].
Boxofficemojo.com. (2018). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (2011) - Box Office Mojo. [online] Available at: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=girldragontattoo11.htm [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018].
Businessfinland.fi. (2018). Audiovisuaalisen alan tuotantokannustin. [online] Available at: https://www.businessfinland.fi/suomalaisille-asiakkaille/palvelut/rahoitus/av-tuotantokannustin/lyhyesti/ [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018].
Copenhagen Film Fund. (2018). How to get funding. [online] Available at: http://cphfilmfund.com/en/long-version-2/ [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018].
Danish Film Institute (2018). Co-producing with the Nordic countries. [online] Copenhagen, pp.4-20. Available at: https://www.dfi.dk/files/docs/2018-02/Co-producing%20with%20the%20Nordic%20Countries%202018.pdf [Accessed 31 Jul. 2018].
Danish Film Institute (2018). Facts and Figures, Danish Films in 2017. [online] Copenhagen: Danish Film Institute, p.4. Available at: https://www.dfi.dk/files/docs/2018-04/Facts-and-figures-2018_0.pdf [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
Film i Väst. (2018). Film i Väst as Co-Producer. [online] Available at: https://filmivast.com/postproduction-companies/ [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018].
Finnish Film Foundation (2017). Elokuvavuosi 2016 Facts & Figures. [online] Helsinki: The Finnish Film Foundation, pp.3-22. Available at: http://ses.fi/fileadmin/dokumentit/Elokuvavuosi_2016_Facts_Figures.pdf [Accessed 2 Jul. 2018].
Finnish Film Foundation (2017). SES - toimintakertomus 2017. [online] Helsinki: Finnish Film Foundation, pp.7-14. Available at: http://ses.fi/fileadmin/dokumentit/SES_toimintakertomus_2017.pdf [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
Gaustad, T. (2008). Private Film Financing; Gains and losses at the Norwegian Film Sector. [online] Oslo: BI Norwegian School of Management, Department of Public Governance, pp.22, 26. Available at: http://web.bi.no/forskning/papers.nsf/0/c803e8a470ed124ac12573f5004824ee/$FILE/2008-01-gaustad.pdf [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
Harrison, M. (2018). What Went Wrong With 2011's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?. [online] Den of Geek. Available at: http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo/270560/what-went-wrong-with-2011s-the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo [Accessed 28 Aug. 2018].
Jääskeläinen, S. (2009). Kansainväliset Yhteistuotannot Suomessa. Undergraduate. Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
Kofoed Hansen, M. (2018). Danish Cinema Admissions. [email].
Ministry of Education and Culture (2018). Report on the impacts of public subsidies for film productions. Helsinki: Ministry of Education and Culture, p. 13, 19, 23, 30-32.
Nordisk Film & TV Fond. (2018). Finnish IPR.VC Fund expands across Europe. [online] Available at: http://www.nordiskfilmogtvfond.com/news/stories/finnish-ipr-vc-fund-expands-across-europe [Accessed 31 Jul. 2018].
Nordisk Film & TV Fond, (2017). Distribution and viewing of television series in the Nordic countries report. Oslo.
Nordisk Film & TV Fond, (2014). Nordic Film Crossing Borders. Report on Distribution of Nordic Films 2009-2013. Oslo.
Norwegian Film Institute. (2018). The Incentive Scheme. [online] Available at: https://www.nfi.no/eng/grantsfunding/the-incentive-scheme [Accessed 29 Aug. 2018].
Norwegian Film Institute (2017). NFI 2016 Facts and Figures. [online] Oslo: Norwegian Film Institute, pp.6-21. Available at: https://www.nfi.no/eng/about-us/facts-figures [Accessed 2 Jul. 2018].
Olsberg, J. (2012). Building sustainable film businesses: the challenges for industry and government. [online] London: Oslberg SPI, pp.9-14. Available at: http://www.filminstitutet.se/globalassets/2.-fa-kunskap-om-film/analys-och-statistik/publications/other-publications/building-sustainable-film-businesses---the-challenges-for-industry.pdf [Accessed 4 Jul. 2018].
Pro.imdb.com. (2018). A Moment in the Reeds 2017. [online] Available at: https://pro.imdb.com/title/tt6256872/details [Accessed 9 Jul. 2018].
Pro.imdb.com. (2018). Borg vs McEnroe (2017). [online] Available at: https://pro.imdb.com/title/tt5727282/ [Accessed 11 Jul. 2018].
Regeringskansliet. (2018). Goals and visions. [online] Available at: https://www.government.se/government-policy/culture/objectives-and-visions/ [Accessed 3 Jul. 2018].
Ses.fi. (2018). Suomen elokuvasäätiö: Kotimaiset katsojaluvut. [online] Available at: http://ses.fi/tilastot-ja-tutkimukset/kotimaiset-katsojaluvut/ [Accessed 3 Aug. 2018].
SF International. (2018). Svensk Filmindustri International Sales. [online] Available at: http://www.sfinternational.se/About-Us/ [Accessed 9 Jul. 2018].
SF Studios. (2018). Production. [online] Available at: http://www.sfstudios.se/en/production/ [Accessed 9 Jul. 2018].
SF Studios. (2017). Borg/McEnroe opens Toronto International Film Festival. [online] Available at: http://sfstudios.dk/en/news/borgmcenroe-opens-toronto-international-film-festival/ [Accessed 11 Jul. 2018].
SF Studios. (2018). About. [online] Available at: http://www.sffilm.fi/en/about/ [Accessed 29 Jul. 2018].
Taylor, D. (2018). Tomas Alfredson’s ‘Brothers Lionheart’ Set To Become Most Expensive Scandinavian Movie Ever, Targeted For Christmas 2014 Release. [online] IndieWire. Available at: https://www.indiewire.com/2013/04/tomas-alfredsons-brothers-lionheart-set-to-become-most-expensive-scandinavian-movie-ever-targeted-for-christmas-2014-release-98818/ [Accessed 31 Jul. 2018].
Argillander, Timo. Managing Director if IPR.VC and Finnish Equity financier. Interviewed on 09/08/2018 in Helsinki.
Bardy, Aleksi. A Finnish film producer and CEO of Helsinki Filmi. Interviewed on 29/08/2018 via Skype.
Blenkov, Malene. A Danish film producer and CEO of Creative Alliance. Interviewed on 13/08/2018 via Skype.
Börjeson, K. (2018). Research on producing English language films in the Nordic region. Interviewed by Annika Ranin on 24/08/2018 via Skype.
Halonen, Arto. A Finnish director and producer. Interviewed on 12/06/2018 in Helsinki.
Ilievski, Martin. International Sales Manager at SF Films. Interviewed on 10/07/2018 via Skype.
Kemppinen, Petri. CEO of Nordic Film and TV Fund. Interviewed on 27/06/2018 via Skype.
Kinnunen, Kalle. Finnish film critic. Interviewed by 20/06/2018 in Helsinki.
Kivinen, Maria. Sales Executive at the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Interviewed on 13/06/2018 in Helsinki.
Ladegaard, Claus. CEO of Danish Film Institute. Interviewed on 12/07/2018 via Skype.
Laurio, Niina. Finnish film producer, Solar Films. Interviewed on 27/06/2018 in Helsinki.
Næss Riise, Silje. Film Commissioner at Norwegian Film Institute. Interviewed on 24/08/2018 via Skype.
Rossi, Petri. Head of Production, Finnish Film Institution. Interviewed on 26/06/2018 in Helsinki.
Röhr, Marko. Finnish film producer, Matila Röhr Productions. Interviewed on 29/06/2018 via Skype.
Mäkelä, Mikko. Finnish film producer. Interviewed on 09/07/2018 in Helsinki.
Wendt, Susan. Managing Director, Trust Nordisk. Interviewed on 04/07/2018 via Skype.
Werner, Michael. Managing Director, Eyewell AB. Interviewed on 27/06/2018 via Email.
Wikström Nicasto, Fredrik. Swedish producer, Senior Vice President of International Productions, SF Films. Interviewed on 10/07/2018 via Skype.