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Scandinavian Films' Webinars - Videos

Scandinavian Films hosted five webinars during Cannes Marché du Film Online from June 22-26 moderated by Wendy Mitchell. Icelandic filmmakers and film professionals taking part included Kristinn Thórdarson, head of the production company Truenorth; the writers/directors Ásthildur Kjartansdóttir, Marteinn Thórsson, and Tinna Hrafnsdóttir; and the arthouse exhibitor and distributor Hrönn Sveinsdóttir.

Below you can find a recap from each of the five webinars 

Pandemic Production: Lessons Learned in the Nordics

Icelandic participant: Kristinn Thórdarson, head of production at Truenorth.
Click here to see all panelists.


Learning from the Nordic experts about pandemic production

The world's film and TV producers are closely watching the Nordic countries, as they have resumed production during COVID earlier than most other parts of the world.

By Wendy Mitchell

During the Scandinavian Films webinar on June 22, Pandemic Production: Lessons Learned in the Nordics, producers, filmmakers and executives discussed lessons learned and best practices in restarting film shoots during the pandemic, working across all kinds of shoots and budget levels.

Lars Bredo Rahbek, head of production at SF Studios Denmark, has two features shooting now: Charlotte Sieling's Margrete - Queen of the North and Bille August's The Pact. Margrete is a very large pan-Nordic production – originally budgeted at about €9m and with another €1.2m added for COVID measures (they are hoping to finance part of that surplus budget through the Danish Film Institute). The shoot brings together crew from 9 countries, and can have as many as 150 people on set per day. The production, currently based near Prague, was shut down on March 12 before resuming on June 15.

Rahbek said, “All decisions we have taken were evaluated from these three vantage points: To always keep cast and crew safe; To keep our investors' money safe; And to always take into consideration the human factor. Because one thing would be for countries to decide to take themselves out of lockdown allowing us to shoot, but another thing would be how to handle individual anxieties and take these seriously.”

Each cast and crew member was tested for the virus twice before coming to the Czech Republic, and everyone is temperature checked on arrival at set every day. One actor tested positive for COVID but luckily was clear of the virus just a few days later. They have instituted colour-coded teams within the crew and diligently disinfect the set as well as all the period costumes.

He said paying for all the testing was one huge cost, as was transport (especially because most commercial flights weren't running regularly).

Aage Aaberge, producer at Nordisk Film Norway, is currently in production near Oslo for Narvik, the World War 2 epic directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg. They had to significantly change the film's shooting schedule—the film had been slated to shoot the rest of the summer to be readied for a Christmas 2020 release. That release is pushed back a year, to give the crew time to shoot the bigger war scenes (also needing snow) starting in April 2021. They were able to renegotiate some terms of their insurance with Hiscox. “We had 10 weeks of shutdown,” Aaberge said. “This is an extreme situation but we did a lot of things to secure the shooting, first we had to wait from week to week to see when we could start up again, against the risk of one of our own getting infected. And we had to see if we could finance the extra costs – we got the positive signals that the Norwegian Film Institute would help with 65% of the extra costs. And we had to figure out how to shoot in a safe way. Health was the first priority.”

Sara Young, writer/director of Most Unwanted, was able to keep her smaller, lower-budget action comedy in production even in March, because Sweden never totally locked down. She had to make changes day to day and used a “guerilla” spirit. “We were constantly rearranging and being very very flexible, changing locations,” she explained. She noted that most of her cast and crew was young and there was rarely more than 12 people on set. And “we used a lot of hand sanitizer.” Some members of the crew came down with a feverish illness during production, and without COVID tests available in early March, they would all sit out from work, and the rest of the crew, even interns, would step in to help with their roles.

Young added, “I think for me as a director, the most stressful part is the part where you couldn't go close to each other, and you have to give directions from a distance. You could feel that somebody was stressed out, and I couldn't put a hand on somebody's shoulder.” The silver lining was that most actors weren't working in March, so she could call in some bigger names for cameos.

Nina Laurio, producer at Dionysos Films in Finland, is currently shooting 70 is Just a Number, a heartwarming comedy about an older woman. Thankfully they were able to shoot all of the scenes in senior homes before the lockdown. They had to make some of their own rules. “There are general rules from the government, but also we made up our own instructions, based on our government rules and the few industrial rules, we also adding what we saw in Norwegian guidelines and elsewhere.” She noted that every day the producers would look at the number of COVID cases near where they were shooting. “The biggest challenge is to keep the set and environment safe, so that we could eliminate the risk of infections,” she added.

They tried to rotate crew and on off set so not everybody is on set at the same time. A scene planned with 300 extras was rejigged to include 20 actors and more filled in digitally in post. Laurio estimated the film's budget had risen just 5% with extra COVID-related costs, mostly because of extra staff or extra hours.

Kristinn Thordarson, head of production at Truenorth in Iceland, said as of June 15, Iceland's border is opened, and the government tests everyone coming into the country. Even back in late April, Baltasar Kormakur had safely resumed shooting his Netflix series Katla near Reykjavik.

“It's now getting more back to normal,” Thordarson said of shooting in Iceland. “But we still have special personnel checking on everyone [on sets].” He noted that one big US studio project is already planning on coming to Iceland to shoot in the autumn, and the country is now open for business, also for smaller shoots. Since Netflix announced on April 21 that Iceland was one of the only places in the world it was safely shooting, Thordarson said, “the phone has been ringing off the hook, since spring in terms of foreign production. We're definitely seeing a huge spike upwards in interest.”

Further reading and resources

Going Green

Icelandic participant: Ásthildur Kjartansdóttir, director of The Deposit.
Click here to see all panelists.


Going green, from reusable bottles to skipping planes


Filmmakers and green experts from across the Nordics called on the industry to be more mindful of environmental issues as they plan their productions, especially regarding air travel.

By Wendy Mitchell

The Going Green webinar, presented on June 23 from the Scandinavian Films umbrella group, welcomed six experts.

Ronny Fritsche, producer and environmental strategist at Sweden's Film i Väst, recently authored the report A Study in Green: The Detective, The Film Industry & The Eco-Villains, based on the shooting of TV drama Bäckström. That series' biggest CO2 emissions came from not 63 days of shooting in Sweden, but from the air travel for 10 days of shooting in Thailand.

Fritsche explained: “It is important that the film industry begins exploring the potential of the alternatives visions needed for how film and TV drama can be produced with less or without air travel.” He also hopes the film industry will embrace storytelling that addresses climate change.

Fritsche was emphatic that the film world has to make big changes, now. “Even though we work with something fantastic -- art and entertainment -- we are no exception from taking part in the necessary societal transformation. But I haven't heard of anyone in the global professional film industry that does enough… production companies receive public funding in the Nordic countries without any environmental restriction on how to use it.”

He continued, “The industry has to cut down 15% [of emissions] every year. We need to follow up on the Paris Agreement, and to achieve that, the financier needs to demand working methods that track down our emissions to that level.”

At Film i Väst, he added, “I really hope that we will launch requirements before the end of this year to requirements that must be increased over time.”

Finnish filmmaker Saara Saarela is planning a lot of green measures when she shoots her dystopian drama Memory Of Water later in 2020.

The film's theme has an ecological connection – “it's about a world where fresh water is running out. So it already has quite an environmental issue that I'm very concerned about, and want to talk about through this film,” she said.

Saarela said the biggest green measure would for all filmmakers to only shoot locally or only with green screens – this isn't possible with many productions, including for Memory Of Water, which will shoot mostly in Estonia. “We need the locations,” she says.

But one silver lining of the COVID pandemic has been less travel during pre-production. “Coronavirus has actually made this production a little bit greener because we can't get to those locations for recces. And still it works just fine.”

Saarela was one of the experts that helped create Ekosetti, Finland's guidebook for sustainable production. It covers anything from production offices to shooting to financing and post-production. She said the guidelines don't offer all the answers, as options will be different for every production. “It doesn't give you solutions, it just raises questions.”

Icelandic director Ásthildur Kjartansdóttir spoke about the eco-friendly measures on the set of her 2019 feature The Deposit. She said even simple steps like reusable coffee cups and water bottles helped the crew think much more mindfully about the production's overall consumption. Using real plates and cutlery instead of plastic for craft services meant a more “cosy” atmosphere too. All these measures meant “we saved money….we didn't believe it would (save costs) in the beginning but it turned out very well,” Kjartansdóttir said. Making transport as ecologically friendly as possible was also crucial – “some people cycled to work” she noted, or at least carpooled. Some of these measures turned out to be simpler than the old ways – it's easier to email a call sheet than to print out copies.

Anne Ahn Lund, the Head of Production and Teaching at new Danish eco-consultancy Jordnær Creative, noted, “We offer three services. The first one is eco management, where we work setting a strategy with sustainable goals, together with the production; linking them with sustainable suppliers. We execute that by sending our trained green runners to set, to make sure materials are sorted corrected and tools are implemented. We also offer reporting, which is crucial right now to measure the impact on each production and create a report.”

Just one example is supplying leftover catering from sets to local food banks. She also hopes Jordnær can do more training work so that knowledge can be spread and spread across workers on many productions.

Oslo-based Mads Astrup Rønning, Founder and Creative Director at Babusjka, has been ramping up sustainable actions on their productions, mostly commercials. They have taken steps like clearly marked waste containers on set, using solar lamps or equipment that uses less energy, or serving mostly vegetarian or vegan food on sets.

Just doing a few specific measures wasn't giving them the big picture of change, he realised. “After some time, producing by this list, we've got in third party consultants to validate points and develop a climate calculator, in order for each production to get a climate score.”

They soon recruited like minded production companies to join the Green Producers Club (which is mostly Norwegian companies for now but open for all.) “The checklist is in English and we want to expand and make it a kind of industry standard.” It's not just a feel-good organisation, as he noted that the producers in the club can come together with “big purchasing power….there is a chain reaction.”

Mikael Svensson, Film Commissioner, Southern Sweden Film Commission (part of regional film fund Film i Skåne), noted that Film i Skåne requires its applications for the past three-plus years to have “some kind of sustainability plan” and the commission has also done case studies on local productions like the TV series Sisters 1968.

Southern Sweden has taken part in Cine Regio's Green Regio report, and plans to join the Green.Film rating model being discussed now. “It's being developed in Italy, in Trentino, with Green.Film, and can adapted to Nordic conditions. Hopefully we can create a common education for consultants,” Svensson said.

Fritsche is not sure that a global international standard for sustainable production will be possible, as the situation in, say, Scandinavia, will be very different than in India. He said, “The green infrastructure is so different in our countries, so the requirements for an international standard would be very low. In Sweden, we have a lot of suppliers with electric cars, for example we, and it's very easy to find plant-based food catering, but that's harder in other countries. So, we, we cannot have the same rules in Scandinavia as in other countries.”

Sometimes co-productions are necessary for financing European films, but that can sometimes not be the most efficient way to make films, Sareela noted. “This is something that I have been struggling with is that we can use exceptional talent from different parts of Europe. But at the same time, that can impossible in terms of when you think in terms of sustainability. Using crew from somewhere else, just because we need to cut spending in one country, etc. There are many examples of this and this is something that we need to tackle.”

Resources and further reading

Reaching Audiences in 2020 and Beyond

Icelandic participant: Hrönn Sveinsdóttir, arthouse exhibitor (Bíó Paradís) and distributor.
Click here to see all panelists.


Nordic audiences show confidence returning to cinemas

Nordic distributors and exhibitors are adapting to the unprecedented times of 2020, using innovative approaches for reaching audiences, from VOD partnerships to outdoor screenings.

By Wendy Mitchell

During the “reaching audiences” Scandinavian Films webinar on June 24, experts from across the Nordic countries shared lessons safely reopening and what they expect for the future.

Ditte Daubjerg Christensen, Managing Director of Aarhus' seven-screen arthouse cinema Øst for Paradis, said her cinema re-opened four weeks ago, after being shut for nearly three months. She said the Danish audience “is feeling quite confident and feeling it's okay it's safe to return [to cinemas].” The Danish government has also supported the exhibition sector.

“We opened with a mix of new and old titles, and the safety and distancing restrictions.” For most small titles, the ticket sales have been healthy; the one title that feels like it could have sold twice as many tickets is Little Women by Greta Gerwig (newly released in Denmark). “That was proof to us that when the right film is there, the audiences are not afraid to come.”

As a distributor, Øst for Paradis experimented with its first VOD-led launch, on the Blockbuster platform, for German film Aren't You Happy. “We took the opportunity to try something we've never done before…and we got a lot of good reactions.” But she said theatrical would be the usual way forward for the company in the future.

Even during lockdown, they've been encouraged to see more than 300 loyal customers signing up to be one of the “Angels of Paradis” supporting the cinema's activities and projects through a donation of about 65 Euros each.

Mika Siltala, CEO of exhibitor Cinema Mondo, was in a good mood as the day of the webinar, June 24, was the day that more Finnish cinemas could reopen in a more significant way (a handful of cinemas had started reopening in early June).

Changes at the cinemas include updating their ticketing kiosks to make sure tickets sold have empty seats round them, and installing plastic screens at box office like other retailers.

As in other territories, local films are the main draw for audiences now in the absence of Hollywood films. He has also started screening the Japanese animation Weathering with You, which Siltala says “looks like it has strong legs.” Mostly he is working with slightly older films but they will open their popular outdoor cinema with Haifaa Al-Mansour's Saudi-set drama The Perfect Candidate; audience appetite is high, and the outdoor screenings sold out in just a few days. Overall, as things are reopening, “tickets are moving,” he says, although perhaps might be hampered slightly by gorgeous sunny weather. Overall, “in this situation Finland is not looking bad at all,” Siltala added.

Even if the studios keep delaying the launches of Mulan and Tenet, his more arthouse programming will offer alternatives. “We try to cover the corners that the studios are not covering.”

Some multiplexes have reopened in Iceland with local comedy The Last Fishing Trip has been a big hit during this time, some cinemas remain closed especially because of a lack of big new films to screen. Iceland's only arthouse cinema, Bio Paradis in Reykjavik, finds itself in an unusual situation of being closed not just because of the pandemic, but because of a real estate negotiation ongoing. Hrönn Sveinsdóttir, Managing Director, Bio Paradis, revealed the good news that the real estate contract is likely to be newly signed this week, but the cinema will remain closed this summer for renovations.

Bio Paradis had been at its busiest ever period in February and March 2020, but then shut on March 24 because of Icelandic government regulations on the size of gatherings.

While the cinema has been shuttered, Bio Paradis has stayed in touch with its “very loyal fan base” through social media or emails. And as a distributor, Bio Paradis has also been “constantly regularly reminding people of our huge catalogue of films that we have distributed in Iceland, by highlighting the VOD film of the week, reminding people of films they missed,” Sveinsdóttir added.

Truls Foss, Head of Programme Cinema, at Oslo-based VEGA Scene, noted that his cinema closed down on March 12 and reopened on May 7 “with quite strict restrictions,” including two seats separating patrons. He said it went well at the start and is growing as now as regulations about crowd sizes can grow. “I would say it's gone surprisingly well,” he said. He, too, has had to be creative with programming, working with smaller titles for instance, or planning special events like an interview with Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson. They have enjoyed having more direct contact with their audience on social media during this time.

As with all cinemas, there is a financial implication from COVID, so VEGA is thankful for the Norwegian government support for lost ticket income. “You have to think creatively, but without that funding, it would have been impossible I think,” Foss said.

Peter Fornstam, CEO of Swedish cinema chain Svenska Bio, explained that Swedish cinemas never had a total lockdown, even during the pandemic Svenska could offer “Kino on Demand,” letting customers rent an entire cinema screen to bring from 8-50 friends, and choosing a film that was already on the server. It proved hugely popular. “We've done 2000 of those events across Sweden,” Fornstam said, noting that social media helped spread the word about the service.

The Swedish government is also helping the cinemas there with a help package to make up for some lost income. But Sweden, which is still battling the pandemic, still has a cap of 50 people maximum in a cinema and Fornstam is not sure when the government will likely increase that maximum.

Svenska has mostly been playing recent or older films but he hopes that changes next month. Fornstam said, “I think the whole industry is sitting here waiting for the Walt Disney Company to decide whether they're going to go with Mulan on July 26 or not (after the panel, Disney confirmed a new date of Aug 21). I think we need that kind of movie to bring the audience back; but I'm very encouraged by my colleagues in Denmark and Norway because it seems like once they reopened, people came back to the movies.”

Jonas Holmberg, artistic director of the Goteborg Film Festival, knows it's too early to predict exactly what shape his January 2021 festival will take (they are currently planning a physical event). But he has been keeping in close contact with audiences through the festival's VOD arm, Draken Film.

Draken was one of the first organistions to snap into action when lockdowns were starting – on March 18, they announced the VOD release of several films, in collaboration with Swedish distributors. For six months, half of the revenues from new Draken subscribers will go to independent Swedish arthouse cinemas, with each subscriber picking a specific cinema to support. (Several other international initiatives followed suit, including with Neon in the US supporting exhibitors.)

The titles were particularly strong –including A White, White Day and Portrait of A Lady on Fire-- as Holmberg noted, “We launched several new films that had just been released or we're about to be released in cinemas so it was very attractive programming during this discovery period. It was very successful and attracted a lot of people to sign up for for Draken and we have now three times the substitution base that we had before the pandemic.” So far, €60,000 has been raised for the 100 cinemas.

The Draken collaboration will change shape as things go “back to normal,” but Holmberg sees the benefits for a festival, digital platform, distributors and exhibitors to keep working together closely in years to come. “I think the big advantage for us in the long term is that we now have relationships to cinema and cinema owners all across Sweden. There are many people talking about the conflict between streaming and the cinema sector now, but I think especially for our market, the key is collaboration.”

Further reading and resources

Fresh Flesh: The Rising Nordic Genre Talents

Icelandic participant: Marteinn Thórsson, writer/director of Recurrence.
Click here to see all panelists.


Fresh Flesh meet the rising Nordic genre talents

A Scandinavian Films Cannes 2020 webinar, Fresh Flesh, on June 25 spoke to six rising genre talents from across the Nordic territories about their upcoming films and what makes the region's genre films so unique.

Text by Wendy Mitchell

Hanna Bergholm, director, Hatching (Finland)

Hatching, Hanna Bergholm's debut feature, explores themes of control and keeping up appearances in a twisted coming-of-age body horror meets psychological drama. The plot follows as 12-year-old gymnast who finds a strange egg that soon hatches.

Bergholm said, “The film is very much about this girl, trying to hide all her own flaws, and her sorrow and her aggression so that her mother would love her. But, and she's terrified and afraid of losing control of all her feelings.The story actually was very close to me because when I was a child I had a closet full of imaginary monsters and I knew them so well that they became my friends.”

The look of the film will have many contrasts – “The world the mother has created is this kind of this perfect surface of this family, and the sun is always shining. But the only shadow in the house is the shadow of the wardrobe of this girl, where there is this slimy, disgusting creature.”

The film is sold by Wild Bunch International, and in one of the first deals announced at the 2020 Cannes Marche, IFC Midnight acquired North American rights. Bergholm's previous short Puppet Master screened at festivals including Fantasia and Fantastic Fest.

Emma Broström, writer, Knocking (Sweden)
Broström wrote the script for psychological thriller Knocking, which is directed by Frida Kempff. Cecilia Milocco stars as Molly, a woman who moves into her new apartment after a tragic accident and begins to hear strange sounds from upstairs. But she questions if the noises are real. Broström said, “Everyone around her thinks she's crazy and they shouldn't let her out of the mental ward. She gets more agitated to to get to know these knockings, are they real or is it just in her head? And she thinks the knockings are asking for help, like in morse code. So people are gaslighting her in a way telling her she's crazy. And then she's doubting her own sanity.”

Bankside Films handles sales on the film, which is now in post-production.

Kjersti Helen Rasmussen, writer/director, The Nightmare (Norway)
As a writer, Rasmussen has worked on films including Villmark Asylum, Varg Veum, Until Death and The Tunnel. She directed the sci-fi short Voyager in 2018 and she will make her feature directorial debut with horror feature The Nightmare, which is being presented in the Frontieres International Co-Production Market. The story is about a demon who possesses a young woman in her dreams.

“This demon is seducing her over and over again, and she realizes she is pregnant and the demon is looking for a way into our world. And if this demon is born, all our nightmares. will become real.

The story also draws on Nordic mythology – the director said, “I did the research for the nightmare demon in Norwegian mythology is called the mare, which is the origin of the word nightmare, actually.”

Handmade Films In Norwegian Woods produces; no sales company is appointed yet.
They hope to shoot the film in late 2020 or early 2021.

Marc Fussing Rosbach, director, Among Us - In the Land of Our Shadows (Greenland)
Marc Fussing Rosbach has worked as a visual effects artist, composer, and editor on a number of film, TV and music video productions in Greenland. His 2017 feature Among Us - In The Land Of Our Shadows is considered the first sci-fi fantasy made in Greenland. The story follows two young men who are swept up in a parallel world of shaman, sorcerers and evil spirits.

“It's fantasy, but there are small bites of horror, and comedy,” the director explains.
He is already in post-production on the film's sequel. “We dive deeper into the main character's story, and also his past. He has a fear of the ocean. Then we have to find out why he's afraid of the water. The theme of the movie will be fear.”

Rosbach is also the CEO and founder of Greenland-based production company Furos Image.

Sissel Dalgaard Thomsen, writer, Breeder (Denmark)
Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen graduated from Denmark's independent film school Super16 in 2014 and since then has focused on telling stories about gender, sexuality and personal identity, often with a genre twist. Among her credits are short films Venus (Slamdance). LevelK handles sales for Breeder, and had Cannes Marche screenings for the film, which is directed by Jens Dahl. The story follows a woman who is abducted while she investigates a mysterious health supplement company that is conducting dangerous experiments.

She discovers that women “are being kidnapped and held captive and used in these experiments and Mia herself is eventually also captured and has to find a way of breaking free and escaping with the other women as well,” Thomsen explans.

“It was really an ambition to make a horror film that goes all in on the genre elements, and it's very unapologetic about that, but also brings something extra to the story. I wanted to have a relationship story and I also wanted to comment on society, and relevant issues today. I wanted to explore things like consent and female agency.”

Marteinn Thorsson, writer/director, Recurrence (Iceland)
Marteinn Thorsson moves into supernatural storytelling with his fifth feature, upcoming thriller Recurrence. The story, adapted from the novel Una by Óttar M. Nordfjord, is about a woman whose infant son disappeared from his cradle a year ago; she discovers parallel stories when she meets a sinister creature. The director says, “It takes her deeper and deeper into the sort of subconscious world, and her past lives, and it deals with intergenerational trauma, depression, and oppression of minority groups, women.
“The creature is based on a creature from Icelandic folklore it comes from a story about when young mothers were forced to abandon their babies because they've been raped by the priest or the sheriff.”

The Yellow Affair handles sales and the film will shoot later this year with a cast including Udo Kier as an Irish ghost. Thorsson's other features include One Point O, Stormland, XL and Backyard Village (which is now in post).

Further reading and resources

Getting Your First Feature off the Ground

Icelandic participant: Tinna Hrafnsdóttir, director of the upcoming Quake.
Click here to see all panelists.


Feels like the first time - How to get your first feature off the ground

It can feel like a big leap to get your first feature made – from finding the right producer and financing, to protecting your artistic vision, and reaching audiences.

Text by Wendy Mitchell

During a Scandinavian Films webinar on June 26, six directors from across the Nordic countries talked about the lessons they have learned while making their debut features.

Khadar Ahmed, writer/director, The Gravedigger (Finland)
Ahmed is a Somali-born Finnish writer and director, who toured the festival circuit with his 2017 short The Night Thief, and makes his feature directorial debut The Gravedigger, which was developed at Cannes Cinefondation and shot in Djbouti. “No Finnish feature (fiction) film has been entirely made in Africa. I knew the kind of challenge I was getting into. I had to find a production company that would give me freedom, adventure and protection,” he said. That company was BUFO, whose credits include The Other Side of Hope.

Shooting in Djbouti meant a number of challenges, for instance the director reveals, “I was the only person in the entire crew who understood the Somali language.” In addition to backing from The Finnish Film Foundation, the team was also able to access backing from funds like France's CNC, The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and World Cinema Fund, and Germany's FFHSH. The film is now in post and no sales company is attached yet.

Nathalie Álvarez Mesén, writer/director, Clara Sola (Sweden)
Nathalie Álvarez Mesén is a Costa Rican-Swedish screenwriter/director with a BFA in Mime Acting from Stockholm University of the Arts and an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University. In 2016 her short Filip was awarded Best Live Action at the Palm Springs ShortFest and her short Asunder was screened at Telluride. She is an alumnus of Berlinale Talents, TIFF Talent Lab, Cine Qua Non Lab and NYFF Artist Academy. She is currently in post-production for her first feature Clara Sola, a co-production between Sweden, Costa Rica, Belgium and Germany. She was born in Sweden but grew up in Costa Rica and wanted to return there as the setting for this story, about a 30-year-old woman trying break free of social and religious oppression, and having a sexual awakening.

Mesén met her Swedish producers -- Nima Yousefi and Peter Krupenin at HOB -- through a speed meeting session at Stockmotion festival in Stockholm. “It's good to find people who believe in whatever you're doing, because the process is so long that you'll probably have doubts about it and they remind you why you are doing it."

Pulling together all the partners and international funding made her realize “you really need people that are committed.”

Having the right co-producers and collaborators was crucial. “I did want feedback from all the people I'm working with. I can see they all contribute in some way in the story or in the shooting.”

Erika Calmeyer, writer/director, Storm (Norway)
Erika Calmeyer graduated from the Norwegian Film School in 2014 and has since worked as a screenwriter and director. As well as shorts Lea and Weight of Spring, she has directed TV drama series Twin starring Kristofer Hivju and created teen anthology series Nudes. Erika is now in pre-production on her feature directorial debut, Storm, produced by Paradox and set to shoot in October 2020. She explains, “It's about an eight-year-old girl, Storm, who is accused of being involved in the death of her little brother, when he drowns in a river while they were playing. And then we follow the mother who deals with these accusations and tries to protect Storm and also find out about what really happened.”

It's a story she starting thinking about back when she was in film school. “I's been with me for a very long time, getting funding and financial support, even with government support (the project is backed by the Norwegian Film Institute) that can take a lot of time. And so, it's been with me for a very long time but now it's finally got set up. And I'm very excited about that.” The project, set up as a Norwegian-Swedish co-production was recently confirmed for Eurimages funding as well.

Having that time to gestate the film over about seven years, she says that time has been useful since she left film school. “I'm kind of happy that the project has been allowed to grow and show me to grow, continue to do other things and develop before doing this story.”

Tinna Hrafnsdóttir, writer/director, Quake (Iceland)
Tinna Hrafnsdóttir is an Icelandic director, actress, writer and producer. She is an alumnus of Iceland University of the Arts, Reykjavik University (MBA), TIFF Filmmakers Lab and runs her own film production company, Freyja Filmwork. She has made two award-winning short films, Helga (2016) and Munda (2017), and is currently developing her first miniseries. Quake is her first feature (now in post-production).

She agreed finding the right experienced producer to collaborate with was crucial --- in her case, Hlin Jóhannesdóttir. “I wanted the producer to share the same vision as me and of course being easy to get along with because it's like you're going into this temporarily marriage with another person,” Hrafnsdóttir recalls.

Another important step on her journey was to use international markets and labs to develop the film and her career and make new connections. She took part in the TIFF Filmmakers Lab, Tallinn's Baltic Event Co-Production Market and Script Pool, Midpoint, as well as pitching it at Haugesund's New Nordic Films.

That international profile also helped the project get funding back home via the Icelandic Film Centre. “All these all these elements of course makes the application stronger,” Hrafnsdóttir said, as did having a female-led filmmaking team and story.

Lisa Jespersen, writer/director, Persona Non Grata (Denmark)
Jespersen is a Danish writer and director who graduated from the National Film School of Denmark in 2017. Her debut directorial feature is light-hearted drama Persona Non Grata, which reunites Lisa with screenwriter Sara Isabella Jønsson, who also co-wrote her graduation film September.

The film, backed by the DFI's New Danish Screen, has been selected for the very influential Danish Cinema Club and will be released in Danish cinemas by Nordisk Film in July 2021.

She worked on a small budget of less than Euros 700,000, which seemed ideal for her – “Since I never worked on a huge budget I felt kind of safe that we could do it our way,” Jespersen said.

She was determined for her first feature to be the right personal story she wanted to tell. After her graduation short from the Danish Film School was about mature women, she had lots of offers to work on similar stories. But she wanted to forge her own path with a story that reflected her own experience – a woman who comes home from the city to visit her family on a rural farm. She said the story is about “the clash of coming from the countryside and then coming back there [after the city]. For me this film was very much a search for myself, and figuring out who I am.”

And she found the right producer in Hyaene Films' Daniel Mühlendorph, who she had met at film school. “It's nice to have a producer who -- when you're getting off your own path -- they know how to push you in again. It helps that he ‘got' what I wanted to do.”

She wanted to tell the story in a personal way that shows off her filmmaking voice, but is also can be accessible to a broad audience.

"What I do is I write a story and for some reason people can get it. My parents can totally get the film, my 18-year old niece gets the film. But of course I want to tell the story in the right way, and that's partly who you work with, like my DoP Manuel Alberto Claro. We developed a very personal style for this film.”

Ninja Thyberg, writer/director, PLEASURE (Sweden)
Thyberg is a Swedish writer and director who graduated from Stockholm University of the Arts in 2015, gaining international attention with her short films during her studies. Ninja's first short film earning international recognition was Pleasure, which won the Canal+ Award after playing in Critics' Week at Cannes 2013 and was selected for Sundance. Ninja won further festival prizes with Hot Chicks and Catwalk. Her feature debut Pleasure, inspired by her short, has been selected for the 2020 Cannes Label and is sold by Versatile (it is now in the final stages of post-production).

It's a film that she's been thinking about for 10 years. “I knew what I wanted to do back then, and I wanted to make a feature, but at that time I wasn't in a position where that felt like opportunity. So I used the short, as some kind of pilot.”

She wanted to tell her story, about a Swedish woman navigating the porn industry in Los Angles, in a new way. “I felt that I was on to something that has never been done before, portraying the porn industry from a female perspective.” She finished film school in 2015 and “started to work full time on this project,” including a lot of research in Los Angeles in the porn industry.

Her producers (at Plattform Produktion and Grand Slam) and collaborators (backers include the Swedish Film Institute, SVT and Film i Vast) on the film understood that the process had to be slower than with most films.

The partners also were patient with Thyberg because they saw she was creating something special. “They've seen the progress and they also understood that it has great value [to create it over five years],” she said. “And in the end I think everyone just wants the film to be as good as possible and they also understand what this project is.”

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