Beginners Guide: The Film Institutes
Have you ever sat down to watch your favourite Scandinavian film, only to have up to a minute of various company logos appear at the start? Or maybe, if you hang around until the credits, you notice walls of companies at the end. It’s quite common in Scandinavian film and television to see logo after logo of a film institute, film fund, or production company. For a small region like Scandinavia, it takes a lot to get a film made. The money is just not there, so films these days are funded by the state. In Scandinavia, most films, documentaries and television series receive funding from the state. The Scandinavian countries are small regions with small populations and languages spoken by few, so it is difficult to successfully make films without the help of the state. How do the film institutes contribute to the funding of Scandinavian films, and what options are there? We explore the different funding bodies available to Scandinavian film production.
The Film Institutes
The Danish Film Institute
The Danish Film Institute was founded in 1972. Before then, films were funded by a Film Law that took a percentage of cinema tickets sold and used it to fund productions. The Film Law started in 1938 and only funded films of ‘cultural value’. When the Film Law was renewed in 1964, it specifically defined film as an art form in need of support, and the tax on cinema tickets was 30%. However, the general public didn’t want to see art films; they wanted to see the comedies of The Olsen Gang, or the ‘sexploitation’ films that were coming out after the lift on censorship. When the Danish Film Institute was established, they introduced a consultant scheme in which selected individuals got to choose which films got funding. They also took money from the state, rather than the tax on cinema tickets. The law was then changed in the 1980’s to view film as culture, not film as art, and since then a number of films that blend genre with art (see Andrew Nestingen’s definition of the medium concept film) has been released, proving popular with audiences. With the rise in these popular films, the Danish Film Institute also established a market scheme, which targets films with broad audience appeal. If a producer raises 60% of the budget, the Danish Film Institute supports the other 40%. Read more: current Danish funding schemes!
The Norwegian Film Institute
Since the 1950s, all Norwegian feature films have been funded by the Norwegian state in one way or another. The film laws have changed multiple times; for example, in 1950 they only funded films of artistic quality, then in 1955 they only funded popular films, but in 1964 they were back to funding films of artistic quality. The Norwegian Film Institute was known as the Norsk Filmfond until 2008. where everything was then placed into the one funding body. Read more: current Norwegian funding schemes!
The Swedish Film Institute
When we think of the Swedish Film Institute, we think of Harry Schein. The current Swedish support system was founded by Schein, who has been described as ‘the most important figure in Swedish film after World War II along with Ingmar Bergman’. Schein was an engineer who in his spare time worked as a film critic. He used the downward trends of Swedish cinema in the 1950s (in which ‘rural melodramas’ and comedies were favoured over art films) to enforce his view that cinema was art. He founded the Swedish Film Institute and convinced the government to raise taxes to fund films. He was able to do this through his close connections to Ingmar Bergman (he is in some of Bergman’s films) and the Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme. Schein was a strong advocate of the European art cinema, so it is hardly surprising that Swedish art films were funded over the genre productions. When the Swedish Film Institute was established, Schein established a jury of critics who would then vote on what films would receive funding, not really caring about what the audience thought. Schein lost his position in 1978 after the governments changed and he could no longer use hs influence to get funds for films. The Swedish Film Institute hasn’t overly changed since Schein’s days; the film agreement is renegotiated every six years but it has been mostly the same since it was inaugurated. At the beginning of the 1990s, a new law stated that Swedish films shouldn’t just be made, they should be seen. The Swedish Film Institute then created a new system similar to Denmarks market/consultant scheme. Read more: current Swedish funding schemes Read more: who are the film commissioners?
Regional film funds
Due to the dominance the film institutes have held over Scandinavian film production, municipalities in the region are starting to create their own funding schemes in an effort to bring film production to their region. More than just an initiative to bring money to the region, these regional film funds wish to portray their local culture on the screen and drive interest and tourism to the regions. These new regional film funds have become vital in the funding of contemporary Scandinavian productions. As a general rule, the production needs to use some resources from that area in order to receive funding.
- Copenhagen Film Fund: official website
- FilmFyn: official website
- West Danish Film Fund: official website
- Nordnorsk Filmsenter: official website
- Midtnorsk Filmsenter: official website
- Vestnorsk Filmsenter: official website
- Filmkraft Rogaland: official website
- Sørnorsk filmsenter: official website
- Viken filmsenter: official website
- Østnorsk filmsenter: official website
Due to the monopoly the Swedish Film Institute held over Swedish film, the various regions in the country began creating their own regional film funds in order to assist film-making in the region. The biggest of the Swedish regional film funds is Film Väst, which was founded in the small western industrial town Trollhättan. Film Väst has grown considerably since its founding; supporting over three hundred films across Europe and bringing many of these films to their facilities in Trollhättan, thus boosting the industry in the region. For example, Danish auteur was attracted to use the region for his Dancer in the Dark and Dogville. Learn more: Film Väst Today, it’s common to find a film made in the countryside of Sweden rather than the city due to the influence of these regional film funds.
- Film i Dalarna: official website
- Film på Gotland: official website
- Region Gävleborg: official website
- Regional Halland: official website
- Region Jönköpings län: official website
- Film i Skåne: official website
- Film Stockholm: official website
- Film i Sörmlands: official website
- Region Uppsala: offical website
- Region Varmland: official website
- Film i Västerbotten: official website
- Region Västmanland: official website
- Scenkonst Västernorrland: official website
- Film i Örebro län: official website
- Film i Öst: official website
- Filmpool Nord: official website
- Kultur i Väst: official website
The Nordisk Film & TV Fond
The Nordisk Film & TV Fond was established as a pan-Scandinavian film fund. The fund primarily supports high-quality film, television and documentary productions. Most major Scandinavian films currently receive some level of support from the fund.
Danmarks Radio In the 1980s, DR was the only television station and it was able to set its own agenda. DR and its sister channel, TV2, are vital in the production of film in Denmark, and in the Film Law of 1996, it was decided that a percentage of the station’s budgets should be allocated to film production. Danmarks Radio was heavily influential in the rise of Nordic Noir, and through these high-end, quality television dramas, many up and coming directors, screenwriters and cinematographers got their start.
The television channels NRK and TV2 make a substantial contribution to the production of short films and documentaries, but few feature films are co-produced with television. Very few film directors have made contributions to television fiction, but in the last year, we’ve seen a change in the state of Norwegian television, for example in last year’s success Nobel.
SVT has been important for the Swedish film industry in many ways; first, as a producer of television fiction, challenging concepts of narration and style; second, as a channel for feature films, originally produced for cinema screenings; and third, as a co-producer of feature films. The interaction between television and the film industry is profound and has been of vital importance for all film movements in Sweden.
Read about film funding
- Andrew Nestingen and Trevor K. Elkington’s Transnational Cinema in a Global North: Nordic Cinema in Transition has a section in the book titled The state and film markets in transnational times which includes chapters on:
- Danish film culture
- Danish coproductions
- The Finnish funding debate of the 1990s
- Globalisation in Nordic cinema
Sundholm, John, Isak Thorsen, Lars Gustaf Andersson, Olof Hedling, Gunnar Iversen and Birgir Thor Møller, Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Cinema, London, United Kingdom: The Scarecrow Press, 2012