Sara Norberg • Executive director, Helsinki International Film Festival
by Birgit Heidsiek
- Cineuropa chatted to Sara Norberg, executive director of the Helsinki International Film Festival, to find out more about this year's edition of the Finnish Film Affair industry event
Today, the third edition of the Finnish Film Affair (FFA) kicks off, having established itself as the big international industry event during the Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF). The main approach of this annual showcase for feature filmsis to boost the exposure and sales of Finnish movies. “After three successful years, there seems to be a growing demand from the local as well as the international industry,” says Sara Norberg, executive director of the HIFF.
Cineuropa: What are the major improvements that have been made since this industry event was launched three years ago?
Sara Norberg: Steady growth, and more international interest and attendance every year. We also have more films and projects in the line-up, plus the Work in Progress Award launched this year. This year, we have also added a matchmaking element, ensuring more meetings between local professionals and international participants. The FFA has put more of a focus on local talents through initiatives like the Project Development Clinic. There is also more collaboration with different organisations, like this year's partnership with the American growth programme organised by the Finnish Film Foundation, Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation) and Favex.
In which way does the Helsinki International Film Festival benefit from the Finnish Film Affair and vice versa?
As a non-competitive, audience-based festival, the HIFF hasn’t been that well established among the international industry. With 190 feature films in the programme, we already collaborate very closely with all major sales companies and distributors, but the Finnish Film Affair has helped us to attract more producers and talents to attend and meet the local industry. I would say that with the FFA sidebar, the HIFF has become an industry platform in the eyes of the local distributors, and there are also local distribution sales made at the festival annually.
With movies such as Iron Sky [+see also:
interview: Tero Kaukomaa
interview: Timo Vuorensola
interview: Timo Vuorensola
film profile], Concrete Night [+see also:
film profile], Big Game [+see also:
film profile] and The Fencer [+see also:
interview: Ivo Felt
film profile], Finnish films are being recognised much more internationally. To what extent can the Finnish Film Affair as a talent pool and networking event give films a boost?
We invite more than 80 international industry guests – most of them buyers and programmers – to come and meet local industry and provide coaching and pitching opportunities for films at different stages of development and production. We have two B2B online film libraries, multiple networking events, matchmaking and the major international trade press reporting from the event. So yes, the FFA has plenty to offer to Finnish films and talents! All of the other Finnish film organisations benefit, too, as the FFA can serve them as a platform for their international aims. Films like Iron Sky, Concrete Night, Big Game and The Fencer have put Finland on the map, and there is much more interest in Finland internationally than there was, say, five years ago. The FFA is definitely not the reason for this, but I would say that with the FFA, the whole Finnish film industry has profited from this growing interest. The Finnish film industry has now taken off, and there is a strong energy and ambition among the producers and filmmakers.
At this year's event, a work in progress will be awarded the new Best Pitch Award. Is there a need for stronger development support?
The award – sponsored by the Finnish Film Foundation – is intended to be used for international marketing, not development. The main motivation is to highlight the project that has shown the most international potential according to the members of the international jury.
Ever since it began, the Finnish Film Affair has been growing naturally. What are your future goals for this event?
For it to become a major Nordic industry event alongside more established markets such as the Nordic Film Market and New Nordic Films.