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Scandinavian Films' webinars - Videos

Scandinavian Films hosted three webinars from March 2 - 4 during the EFM - on coproduction, on new trends in family films, and on international sales - all of which will be moderated by Wendy Mitchell.

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

Joining Forces: Collaborating for Strong Co-Production

Joining Forces: Collaborating for Strong-Coproduction

Panelists discussed the need for passion, resilience and a robust sense of self at the first of three Scandinavian Films' webinars during this year's virtual EFM.

By Stuart Kemp

The online event entitled Joining Forces: Collaborating for Strong Co-Productions, moderated by journalist and festival consultant Wendy Mitchell, saw top flight producers and players behind high-profile co-productions including Flee, directed by Danish filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Sweden's Ruben Östlund's Triangle Of Sadness, Triangle of Sadness and Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen's Compartment No 6, gather to offer sage advice to a large virtual audience.

Aiming to tackle the whys and wherefores of co-production practicalities between Nordic region countries, Europe and beyond, the panelists also mulled the impact of COVID, streaming platforms and why the five Nordic territories (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland) should open up to creative partners internationally.

Nordisk Film & TV Fond CEO Liselott Forsman explained, "When we give support, we look at quality, uniqueness being one important factor and primarily Nordic distribution with international being secondary.”

Forsman has also overseen the launch of start up project launch Audio-visual Collaboration 2021 co-organised by Nordisk Film & TV Fond and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, under its presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

"The whole idea is to build bridges between the industry and the decision makers and to look at the vision for 2030 from the diversity, sustainability and of course compatibility," Forsman said.

She noted the ministry is weighing up the ability to work more actively with outside territories to help dissuade potential international partners that partnering with the Nordic countries is hard.
And there is a fresh 2021 guide to co-producing with the Nordics just published.

London-based Mike Goodridge, who founded production company Good Chaos in 2019, having previously been CEO of Protagonist Pictures, discussed co-producing Ruben Östlund's anticipated English-language feature Triangle of Sadness. Goodridge helped bring funding from the British Film Institute and BBC Films to the film's complex co-production finance table. The Swedish film has myriad co-production territory backers including France, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Greece. The film is set all around Europe.

Goodridge explained, ”Philipe Bober [of Coproduction Office] is a great creative producer and he also builds these amazing complex financing structures. There are many partners, it is German, French, Swedish, Greek and has the UK and many others. It is not a low-budget film."

Goodridge noted one of the biggest challenges of mounting a co-production with so many partners was melding the paperwork between different legal styles in the UK, US and continental Europe. "Legal fees started racking up and time started to pass on when we needed to close the financing on it. Because of COVID there were multiple closes on this. It is an ongoing issue the Anglo system versus the Euro system."

Goodridge suspects Brexit might not make things worse. "I think that rather than the complacency the UK has had in terms of co-production, Brexit might be the opportunity we need to make ourselves more aggressive in terms of working not just with Europe but also the rest of the world. I hear nothing but exciting things coming out. Our public funds (the BFI, the BBC and Film4) tend to look outside borders. Because English is a world language we make films that don't necessarily fit into a specifically British box."

A self-confessed Scandiphile, Goodridge wants to play his part in getting projects to the big screen from Scandinavian filmmakers. He's working with Finnish filmmaker Jalmari Helander and his producer Petri Jokiranta and in Iceland with Hafsteinn Sigurðsson and Grímar Jónsson on a feature film in English.

Monica Hellström, producer at Denmark's Final Cut For Real, recently had an award-winning launch at Sundance for Jonas Poher Rasmussen's animation hybrid Flee. "We built up Flee to become a five-partner feature length production," Hellström said. "What is beautiful about co-production is when you start working over many years within the different countries in the Nordics and beyond, you get to know creatives from other countries who you would choose to work with again. You build up a team of creative talent across countries that can really help your film develop." Flee began in Denmark and added backers in France, Sweden and Norway.

European Producers Club president and Norwegian film producer Gudny Hummelvoll said almost all the features she has made have all been co-produced with Nordic partners apart from the last one that had a Lithuanian partner. "When you co-produce it is like a marriage. You really need to find someone you trust and also somebody who has your vision and understands the project. For that you might go with different types of producers.”

Hummelvoll said that as a producer securing Nordic funding allows you to keep your rights to the project. "But one of the things we need to work on [in the Nordics] is that everybody thinks of the Nordics as one market and we are not," she said. "It is still really hard to have a Norwegian film seen by the Swedes for instance."

Last but not least to join the webinar session was Riina Sildos, founder and producer of Estonia's Amrion Productions, the Estonian co-producer of Apartment No 6 from Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen's upcoming Trans-Siberian Railway-set drama Compartment No 6. "My role included bringing the partners in Russia for the film which is set up as a co-production between Russia, Finland, Estonia and Germany," said Sildos. "Estonia is a small country and so if you want to make films of a certain scale you have to coproduce. I have co-produced with more than 15 countries."

Finland and Estonia are very close in mentality and they are familiar with their respective talent pools. "We (as co-production producers) are creative and have to find ways to reinvent ourselves all the time. Working with Russia you just have to know the funding bodies and how they work.”

Compartment No 6 was able to just finish its shoot in March in Russia before lockdown fully closed productions.

The Nordisk Film & TV Fond is set to publish a study later this month into the impact of COVID. Forsman gave a sneak preview of the report's findings which looked at 155 Nordic projects. COVID budgets have risen between nine and 12% but there is also changes in content in 55% of series and 29% of the films being made. "The research shows the staggering resilience of the industry," said Forsman. "It's a tough industry from before COVID but they have been fighting like hell to survive". She hopes the fallout from COVID will mean plans to better support the industry will emerge.

Goodridge said all the Triangle co-production partners stepped up and helped financially and supportively to overcome the challenges of a pandemic-era shot. "There was a substantial impact on the budget, we shot in three blocks over nine months and all the participants were incredibly supportive. It brought out the best in everybody because we wanted to get this film made."

Hummelvoll suffered several COVID stops for her films, but we got some extra support from the Norwegian Film Institute. She notes that some of her European colleagues were not so lucky with support as minority producer stake holders. Most COVID emergency funds will not support minority production, which is a challenge for some productions in this era.

With much chatter at EFM this year about how the global platforms are changing dealmaking, Goodridge, formerly head of sales company Protagonist Pictures, noted that streaming platforms are disrupting the long-established international film sales and distribution models. "I talk to platforms early on and if they're not interested and say come back when you've got it made, then I know the avenue I have to go down," said Goodridge. "I think it's when they get involved later in the process that sales agent get into a muddle because then independent distributors have essentially got the film made and they are told they can't have the film because a platform wants it. I think it's becoming a severe problem.”

Hummelvoll said as a European independent producer it really important to stick to co-production set ups amid the arrival of multi-territory rights hungry streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. "We need to decide our content," said Hummelvoll. "It is important that we as European independent producers stick together to make diverse European projects. We need to work out how to be more compatible on European co-production."

But are the Nordic players open to co-productions with other countries beyond Europe? Yes, as long as it makes sense for the project. "Norway has a very strong points system and it is expensive," noted Hummelvoll. "I've co-produced with Argentina and South Africa."

Hellström is working with a first time director from Norway and says Denmark is very international facing.

The informative panel wrapped up with Mitchell asking each participant to relay a top tip for wannabe co-production partners.

"You need to have really good communication between the partners and be solution orientated and try to understand each other's culture," mused Hellström.

Goodridge, an executive producer on Quo Vadis: Aida, which boasted no fewer than 13 co-production countries, said mutual passion got the project made against all the odds. "It was a labour of love for everybody and that's what drove everybody. It was the passion for telling such a particular story, getting it made and having that feeling you were doing more than just film. Any project has to be driven by a certain desire to get it made rather than just an opportunistic way to raise money.”

Hummelvoll also really has to like the project and have partners she can trust. "And I have to believe I can somehow contribute, not necessarily to mess the creative, but you don't get rich in the Nordics, you do it to get the film made. Passion and knowing and liking the people you work with."

Sildos believes getting through a disastrous co-production is an experience to learn from. "Trust your gut feeling and do your homework. If you have questions in your head, always ask them out loud and get the answers, then you will be safe."

Forsman supports the necessity of trusting intuition and doing your homework. "It comes through when you apply for financing."

Co-producing With the Nordic Countries 2021 guide

Liselott Forsman
, CEO, Nordisk Film & TV Fond (Finland)
Mike Goodridge, founder and producer, Good Chaos (UK)
Monica Hellström, producer, Final Cut for Real (Denmark)
Gudny Hummelvoll, producer, Hummefilm, and president, European Producers Club (Norway)
Riina Sildos, founder and producer, Amrion Productions (Estonia)



The Kids Are All Right: The Boom in Family Films

The Kids Are All Right: The Boom in Family Films

Exciting a fresh generation of cinema goers, talking up and never down to children and making films with enough quality to tear teenagers away from YouTube and mobile devices were among the hot topics discussed during the second of three Scandinavian Films' webinars rolling during the virtual EFM 2021.

By Stuart Kemp

The online event entitled The Kids Are All Right: The Boom in Family Films, hosted by journalist and festival consultant Wendy Mitchell, drew together experienced voices from across the Nordic region and beyond to talk all things juvenile in an adult way.

With four films out of 15 selected for this year's Berlinale Generation section from the Nordic region (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland), the panel revealed why kids' films are hot and why youth can help cinema survive.

Berlinale Generation section head Maryanne Redpath opened the webinar with a clarion call for the industry. "This is no time for ordinary cinema. For children, for young people for everyone," said Redpath. "We at Generation like to believe we screen films that truly matter for young people and for everyone else. The everyone else are film goers without an ‘alibi child'. You don't need to have one to come to one of our films and get a lot out of our films."

Redpath's Generation 2021 selection played host to four very different films from the Nordic region: Danish filmmaker Robin Petre's cinematic nature documentary From the Wild Sea; the Norwegian pregnancy dramedy Ninjababy directed by Yngvild Sve Flikke; Any Day Now directed by Finnish/Iranian director Hamy Ramezan about an Iranian refugee family in Finland; fantasy film Nelly Rapp: Monster Agent, Swedish director Amanda Adolfsson's take on Martin Widmark's book of the same name.

Linda Hambäck, director and founder of Sweden-based LEE Film, has Swedish, Norwegian, Danish production The Ape Star unspooling to buyers during this year's EFM. Her 2D animated film Gordon and Paddy debuted in Berlinale Generation 2018. "When you work with a film, I never think about it as a children's film, I just work to tell my stories with children. Hopefully it reaches out to the broader audience including parents,” Hambäck said.

Producer Venla Hellstedt of Finland's Tuffi Films worked on Selma Vilhunen's documentary Hobbyhorse Revolution, about three teenage hobbyhorse enthusiasts, when she joined Tuffi, confessing that prior to that she never had any interest in youth projects.

"You can't take the youth and child audiences for granted. They have grown up with screens and have so much content available to them that you really have to concentrate on quality. We don't want to compromise on this."

Tuffi has Sihja, The Rebel Fairy at the EFM, a live action film for children ages 6 to 10 about an unconventional fairy and an eccentric boy who overcome their own fears and obstacles in order to save nature. "We wanted to develop an original story not based on an existing book like many children's films. It's a realistic fantasy film. We are targeting children but also their parents because at this age children don't go and buy tickets to the cinema on their own."

Solveig Langeland, founder and MD of Germany-based sales company Sola Media has been selling youth and animation films for decades, including Nordic projects like Dreambuilders and Louis & Luca. "What is so special about Scandinavian filmmakers is they always put so much incredible quality in their productions even on small budgets. I am from Norway and I always say everything is so expensive in Scandinavia except for animation. What they can do for a budget of €3 million you get half a film in Germany and one third of a film in France."

Langeland said the hunger for family fair varies across the globe and that live action and animation appetites differ with animation able to travel across borders more easily. Nordisk Film (Denmark) channel editor Kirstine Vinderskov believes family films are popular in the Nordics because the countries have a strong storytelling tradition and enjoy cinema going as a cultural pursuit.

Moderator Wendy Mitchell noted that sometimes content offered up out of the Nordic territories could be perceived as too challenging for kids in other territories; one example from 2021 is Daish animated show John Dillermand, about a man with a very long penis. Vinderskov said the Nordic view on children is to believe kids are able to digest quite a lot and show them the world as it is and not wrap them in a bubble while Redpath posited that adults often project their own trauma onto the children.

Hambäch wants to challenge children knowing they want strong stories. "The only thing I ever consider whether or not it is too scary," Hambäch said. For example, she took a choking scene out of a fight in The Ape Star.

Another challenging target are the nine to 14 year olds. Usually Redpath pulls in around 70,000 viewers for the Berlinale Generation titles, and while not all of those are in that age band, she believes there is a hunger among that group for cinema. "I'm not a fan of putting a roof on the age for a film. We don't call them family films unless they are. They come, they engage, they talk to their parents, or the teachers if they are accompanied."

Vinderskov currently delivers Oiii, a commercial public service "children's universe" with a mix of films, TV series and original, locally produced children's content, developed by Nordisk Film in close collaboration with TV 2 Norway in Norway and Denmark. Sweden is next.

She says the tweens and the teens are the hardest group to target. "They tend to watch explicit content not made for them. They go their own way and that is challenging," she said.

So are the streamers -- both local and global operators -- affecting the market, looking to strike headline grabbing deals?

Langeland, who concentrates on four or five films a year, is firmly in the theatrical distribution business. "We licence all rights. We will not go in and do fragmented SVOD deals in territories. We may do a block of territories with a streaming platform but in Europe we distribute theatrical."

Hellstedt is in limbo with the cinemas closed because of the pandemic. "We are eager to take the film to the people so a global streaming deal for Sihja, The Rebel Fairy is appealing at the moment."

Hambäck hopes cinema going will come alive again. "You want to leave the couch and the streamers behind, you want to buy popcorn, go with the kids and friends and go to the cinema. I think family film will be the lasting thing in the cinemas."


Linda Hambäck, director and founder, LEE Film (Sweden)
Venla Hellstedt, partner and producer, Tuffi Films (Finland)
Solveig Langeland, founder and Managing Director, Sola Media (Germany)
Maryanne Redpath, Head of Berlinale Generation (Germany)
Kirstine Vinderskov, Channel Editor, Nordisk Film (Denmark)


Deal or No Deal: Demystifying International Sales

Deal or No Deal: Demystifying International Sales

Film pre-sale prospects, virtual festival deal making and who is zooming who and why were among the revelations during the third and final Scandinavian Films' webinar rolling out during the 2021 virtual EFM.

By Stuart Kemp

The online event entitled Deal or No Deal: Demystifying International Sales, hosted by journalist and festival consultant Wendy Mitchell, brought together a heady mix of top flight sales specialists, producers and distribution gurus to shed light on all things sales in a lively session.

Toolbox Film co-founder and producer Signe Leick Jensen kicked things off by talking through her dance to a pact with Paris-based Charades to represent Danish crime drama Shorta. The feature debut by director-writers Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid, the film was selected for Les Arcs Film Festival's work in progress section under the watchful eye of festival artistic director Frédéric Boyer and began to attract interest there in December 2019.

“We didn't want to go with a big big sales company, we wanted to have someone who has the time to work with a first feature team," Leick Jensen said. After Les Arcs sparked interest from many companies, Toolbox selected a shortlist of five sellers and sent out scripts and clips and had follow up meetings. "Some said no because it was genre and didn't want it, some wanted to go straight to Netflix," Jensen noted. "We wanted to get the director known and not just go on Netflix and disappear."

They compared proposed sales strategies and ended up really liking Charades, enjoying a good connection with co-founder Yohann Comte. (Charades also has an existing relationship with Scanbox, the film's Scandinavian distributors)."You learn a lot about your own film having all those meetings," Jensen said. Shorta went on to have a successful world premiere at Venice Critics' Week and sold well, including a US deal to Magnolia.

Taking time to ensure a good match was also important for Heather Millard, head of international productions & financing. at Iceland-based Compass Films.

She pitched Summerlight And Then Comes The Night, Elfar Adalsteins' second feature, during Les Arcs' co-production market in 2019 before also having meetings at EFM 2020. It was selected the 2020 Venice gap finance market and while it was "nice to be there in person" Millard didn't show anything to sales agents having only finished summer shoot with a winter shoot to go.

"We wanted to hold back until we had a rough cut we are comfortable sharing. It might be a small company it might be a big company but really finding a company that connects with the film is important," said Millard. Based on Jón Kalman Stefánsson's 2005 novel of the same name, Adalsteins wrote and directs an ensemble cast in enigmatic stories found in an Icelandic village.

"Of course we'd like an MG (minimum guarantee) but we are so far through the film, a deal depends on the company and treating the film the way we think it should be treated," she said. The project has attracted further sales interest after unveiling early footage at Les Arcs works in progress 2021, and the team is still weighing up sales company offers.

Described by moderator Wendy Mitchell as the “VOD whisperer,” Rights Stuff's Amsterdam-based founder and CEO Wendy Bernfeld said ironically the pandemic, hellish as it is, has had a positive uplift overall for the VOD and digital sector. "People who had never wanted to deal with the digital sector before or had avoided it, whether it be sales agents, festivals, distributors, producers, all of a sudden it became a necessary evil or a great opportunity whichever way you look at it," said Bernfeld.

A lot of players, even big ones, had to stop productions so VOD platforms bought more from wider sources dealing directly with indie producers and expanding in foreign language. The pandemic also led to innovation.

Digital platform deals depend on what the filmmaker wants. "If they're out for a big buck and if they even get through they can do a sale to a Netflix but they'll get very limited rights and very little opportunity to exploit and very little exposure," Bernfeld warned. “After a week your title drops among thousands in a big queue. But if that's your goal, it's not a bad one for money and marketing yourself as having a Netflix film.”

On the other hand, if there's a desire to position a film there's no better way than with either traditional middle men, sales agents who are experts in the field of multiple windows beyond just a big gun, but also the digital aggregators and the consultant or agents types. Bernfeld added, "Technically while 85% of the VOD platforms will receive something from a producer direct and don't require a middle man it often better to come to them through a trusted sales agent or digital aggregator."

Of course it is not all just about the global giants when it comes to digital streaming platforms. ”I would say beyond Netflix and Amazon types who are limited in their focus on feature films particularly from unknown players, if you went beyond them first stop is to the competitors in your own country," Bernfeld said.

Every local telecom or cable company has their own SVOD and are "they are often funding or buying originals at proper prices." The second stop would be to look to platforms that are not trying to compete with a Netflix but is niche market deep. “Think Shudder for horror or an arthouse purveyor like FilmIn in Spain. Those will pay proper money and often are non-exclusive allowing you to explore multi-opportunities at the same time," Bernfeld said.

Rikke Ennis, the founder and CEO of Copenhagen-based REinvent, which sells both series and films, said there is optimism at the European Film Market. "We are closing deals close to the deals we would have done last year and even the year before that."

Ennis noted selling a debut with a no name cast is much harder at the moment without the festival life of old. "In order to try and create the same hype and attention that we used to get at an online festival requires a lot of love and action on our (sales) side," Ennis said.

It is extremely important for the producers and sales executives to be aligned on the strategy and manage expectations in line with each other from the get go. It's all about trust, said New Europe Film Sales founder and CEO Jan Naszewski, based in Poland. He is often tuning into co-productions markets, work in progress events and workshop sessions to scout new talents. "At New Europe we will quite often work with first and second time filmmakers because we can bring value of being small and focused on a small number of films," said Naszewski. "I always say my address book is your address book. It's always about networks and developing relationships."

Naszewski noted that while the emergence of specialist digital platforms are a welcome addition in the fight for eyeballs for film, the money is not big enough to get the movies made.

Naszewski's Warsaw-based sales company handled world sales rights for Magnus von Horn's Sweat, which was a Cannes Label 2020 official selection. It portrays three days in the life of a fitness motivator and social media influencer, played by Magdalena Koleśnik and attracted buzz internationally and struck a US deal with VOD platform MUBI.

"It was fun to work with,” said Naszewski of the film's buzzy industry launch during the Cannes online Marche. “What we did worked, but there was no guarantee. I was on the phone for the producer for days debating whether or not we should go with the Cannes Label invitation. I think a lot of people accepting the Cannes Label invitation didn't know what to do with it. We just went for it. Teasers, trailers, fake training sessions with the main character."

Ennis said there are pre-buying deals at EFM based on teaser material or promo material. with buyers needing to see something visual. "It is extremely rare pre-buying from just a script, it would have to be a very big director name. For the US there is tendency to wait to see a completed film or the first few episodes of a tv series. But for competitive markets like Germany, Spain and even France, we are seeing pre-buys."

Naszewski noted that some of the large platforms are trying to cut out the sales companies and middle men and women and have direct relationships with producers and even talent (signing them up for exclusive content deals). "It is impossible for a producer to know everything and be everywhere. The stuff we know (as sales agents) is valuable and can bring you so much data and ideas."

Bernfeld said there are a few factors when it comes to deciding what sales and distribution strategy to aim for. She knows several first-time filmmakers who deliberately sold to Netflix at a big price to be able to leverage that Netflix status to finance their future films with other companies. "The other model is just to make sure you've explored the people that are not Netflix and determined what is the best strategy for your film," she added. "I think it's a really specific choice like dating: Do you want to marry a wealthy person and be locked away somewhere, do you want a passionate romance? It's a completely different match."

Practical tips from the panel included reminding everyone to deliver top quality original film stills for the marketing. "You have one time to make a good first impression so that film still is crucial. The visual is key to sales. Let the sales agent do what they do best," Ennis said.

Bernfeld suggested doing the buyers' legwork for them. "In the VOD sector, often they are not familiar with your work as a filmmaker. The key is to match make, tailor the cover letter and have an English subtitled trailer to send."

Jensen thought it is a good idea to plan for the eventuality of a film not being selected for the top-choice desired festival. "That's when the hard work starts," she said.

Millard thought producers should research sales company, look at their catalogues, check to see if they do similar types of films.

For Naszewski being honest from the outset is paramount. "I'd rather work with someone I like than not."

The webinar came during a busy online EFM that included many deals on upcoming titles from the Nordic region (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland).

Hot forthcoming sales titles during EFM included Norwegian filmmaker Erik Poppe's upcoming feature adaptation of Vilhelm Moberg's classic Swedish tale The Emigrants, epic period drama Margrete – Queen of the North directed by Charlotte Sieling, Omerta, a fresh Finnish action-thriller franchise directed by Antti J. Jokinen; and Bille August's The Pact about author Karen Blixen's complicated relationship with a younger writer.

Wendy Bernfeld, founder and CEO, Rights Stuff (Netherlands)
Rikke Ennis, founder and CEO, REinvent (Denmark)
Signe Leick Jensen, producer and co-founder, Toolbox Film (Denmark)
Heather Millard, Head of International Productions & Financing, Compass Films (Iceland)
Jan Naszewski, founder and CEO, New Europe Film Sales (Poland)