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Searching for Sugar Man: Approaches to producing

The Olsberg SPI report Building sustainable film businesses identify a few key factors that contribute to the success of a film business. These include on-going relationships with successful talent, strong entrepreneurial leadership as well as strong relationships with international business partners and networks, including corporate players.

In the Nordic region where production culture is fragmented and consists mainly of very small companies, many interviewees see that to benefit from the international market successfully, producers need to widen their networks and further develop their business skills, as opposed to merely thinking of the creative product. Whereas it is common in the international market to have producing partners consisting of both financial and creative producers, it is still common in the Nordic region for directors to self-produce their films. In these scenarios, the creative side often overtakes the other and not enough attention is being given for how the project is being put together financially.

Timo Argillander from IPR.VC thinks that because the Finnish production culture has been mainly focused on the local language market, many producers lack the experience to negotiate international agreements.

‘In Finland, we still have this ‘I got a sales company’ –mentality, whereas we should be thinking about which sales company and with what kind of deal. We still tend to give too large sales commissions and generally do bad deals. Internationalisation is not about getting a single deal, but it should be present throughout the process, including building and maintaining international networks. There is a big mental difference compared to the UK, where producers regularly meet with sales companies.

Nina Laurio from Solar Films stresses the importance of getting to know the sales companies as their operations and approaches can vary significantly. She believes producers in the Nordic region should share more knowledge with each other so that producers could learn from each other’s experiences.

Many interviewees believe that the attitude towards producing needs shifting when aiming for the international market. Whereas the majority of the films do not recoup in the Nordic region, and producers can live by producing and not the performance of the titles, internationalisation becomes an issue of ambition.

Mentally, our production companies need to be committed to making the effort to go abroad and aim for the big successes, either economic or festival success. There is still a long way for that to materialise.

Timo Argillander


Similar applies for financing. Kristina Börjeson, the Head of Film Funding at the Swedish Film Institute discusses that as the Swedish and Nordic societies are heavily based on taxes and the state subsidising a variety of sections in society, it has resulted in certain conventions of financing. ‘There is no tradition of looking for the private money, and there is no tradition in the private money to look for the films’ (Börjeson, 2018).

*This blog post is part of a larger research project titled: Searching for Sugar Man - How, why and to what effect are Nordic producer turning to English language to obtain growth and sustainability for their business.

*For full bibliography as well as an outline of research methods and interviews, please refer to the first post in the series - which can be found here.

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