by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- With 15 Norwegian features – including several local blockbusters – to his credit, Norwegian distributor-turned-producer Kjetil Omberg shares the audience’s view
A film buff since his childhood, Norwegian producer Kjetil Omberg worked in distribution for 15 years; after starting out with the Norwegian Federation of Film Societies, he was head of publicity at Sandrew Metronome Norway for five years, and in 2007 he set up a new company, Euforia Film, with a focus on local productions, also releasing for Scanbox.
Then he went into production, and today he is managing director of two Norwegian production outfits, Norsk Superfilm and Tappeluft Pictures. He has so far been involved in 15 feature projects, including Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola’s horror comedies Dead Snow [+see also:
film profile] (2009) and Dead Snow: Red vs Dead [+see also:
film profile] (2014).
Omberg also signed Vegar Hoel’s Kill Buljo 2 (2013), Nini Bull Robsahm’s Amnesia [+see also:
film profile] (2014) and a 7 x 30-minute drama series for television, Norwegian pubcaster NRK’s Hellfjord (2012), about an Oslo policeman with a Pakistani background who is displaced to a small hamlet in Northern Norway’s Finnmarken. Wirkola directed the first episode.
Currently, he is in post-production with Norwegian director Ole Endresen’s third comedy, following Curling King [+see also:
film profile] (2011) and The Hunt for Berlusconi (2014): The Wendy Effect, starring Linn Skåber and scheduled for a 11 September release. He is also developing a new international action-adventure for Wirkola, The Saga about Olaf Sledgehammer.
Cineuropa: What is happening in Norway? More films than ever, more people in the cinemas, more festivals. Has Norway reinvented cinema?
Kjetil Omberg: I think we have grown more mature, more confident. Norway has always been the little brother in Scandinavia, but with the Norwegian Film School, we grew much stronger. I do not think we have reinvented anything, but simply become bigger, better and bolder. The big question now is how we take responsibility for this new position.
Did you always want to work with film?
I started out in the film societies, when I was 14 years old - a very curious, somewhat nerdish boy. The interest came from my mother; we used to watch old black-and-white movies, and I loved it.
You spent 15 years in distribution. Do you have any good stories from this period?
The best was probably the night we organised a pre-screening of Norwegian director Morten Tyldum’s Buddy (2003). It was outdoors - a big risk in Norway, where the weather is a gamble every day. However, it was a perfect summer's evening, and 5,000 people came – an instant hit.
Releasing Swedish director Lukas Moodysson’s Fucking Åmål (Show Me Love) (1998) to more people – relatively speaking – than in Sweden was a great feeling. Otherwise, I don’t think I can calculate on the dot which film will be a hit, but as long as I listen to my gut feelings, I am usually able to steer away from disasters.
Then why, as a successful distributor, did you decide to go into production?
It was more of an accident than a plan. Being a smaller distributor, many filmmakers came to us with small productions; they needed help to finish their film. Gradually, we were becoming producers, which I found gratifying - working longer on a project gave me great joy.
Was it a coincidence that you started with local genre pictures, or were they always close to your heart?
Genre films have always been close to my heart. I have loved these films since I was a kid, and especially comedies. The really important thing for me is that the projects I work with will communicate to others, will reach the audience I want to reach; otherwise, I will try to make it connect. I want to be enthusiastic about a project when I am presented with it, and I want the enthusiasm to last until the release. My angle has always been the audience’s view – my films should give the best possible experience to the people in the theatre.
You have produced several films outside the public funding system – why did you do that?
I have produced all my films without public funding, not by choice - I would love some soft money - but there is little room in today’s system, unless it is an art film or a very big-budget production. My films are usually low-budget with a fairly high commercial appeal, falling between the two extremes.
Many would probably like to produce the films that we produce, but we are the only companies taking that risk. The system could be better for us, but I am happy with it as it is, because it works, at least for the moment.
Which of your productions do you consider your best achievement so far, and why?
Commercially speaking, the Dead Snow movies, because they reached such huge audiences all over the world. It never ceases to surprise me. Otherwise, I think our greatest achievement is the TV series Hellfjord; logistically, it was hell, with a new director for each episode, but it turned out great!
What do you think you are particularly good at when producing – and what certainly not?
I am useless on a set - it is totally out of my comfort zone. But I think I am fairly good at seeing the potential in each project, and setting up a pre- and post-production schedule to get the best out of it. If I do it right, the director has complete power during the shoot, and I have complete faith in him or her. This has worked on all the projects, almost...
What do you hope to get out of your Producers On the Move experience at Cannes?
I hope to meet partners for my future projects.