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“Our work leads to a stronger film industry in Europe”

Industry Report: European Film Commissions

Mikael Svensson • Head of the Oresund Film Commission, Southern Sweden


- We chatted to Mikael Svensson, head of the Oresund Film Commission, Southern Sweden, to find out more about the status of cinema within the EU’s cultural agenda

Mikael Svensson  • Head of the Oresund Film Commission, Southern Sweden
© Joakim Strand

Cineuropa talked to Mikael Svensson, head of the Oresund Film Commission, Southern Sweden, to discover more about how cinema is positioned within the European Union’s cultural agenda and the growing prestige of Scandinavian TV drama on the international scene.

Cineuropa: In your opinion, is cinema being paid adequate attention in terms of the EU’s cultural agenda, or could further measures be taken?
Mikael Svensson: Further action is always needed in order to develop European cinema and give it the opportunity to grow. Stronger support for distributing European films outside Europe is also important. As a film commissioner within Europe, it is always an advantage when the “clients” are familiar with European cinema and TV drama, as well as the high production quality and wide range of talent we can offer.

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I would also welcome more flexibility regarding the development of regional and national talent. Educational schemes should be custom-made to meet the needs of the specific region more quickly. Enhancing the cultural differences within Europe and treating the countries and regions as different markets are conditions for pre-sales and thus the financing of the European film industry.

I see myself as a professional who works more with economic development than with culture. By attracting a film production to an area, we create an inflow of capital to our regions, jobs are created, companies are hired, and the investment will end up in the local film industry.

A film commissioner could also function as a matchmaker for co-productions by putting producers from various countries together. Producers from nations without co-production treaties can work together as producers even if there are different conditions and funding regulations. In fact, we recently arranged a successful panel at SXSW to inspire independent American producers to find more co-producers in Europe.

How does EUFCN position itself in relation to the Creative Europe framework?
There is currently a film commissioner involved in practically every production that is shot in Europe today. We are often the first point of contact for a production company when they are scouting for locations or searching for co-producers and/or financing. Even though we concentrate more on the inward investment sector, our work leads to a stronger film industry in Europe.

A film commissioner should understand all stages of a film’s production. Therefore, I think there is a strong need for an educational programme for film commissioners, and I hope we can start negotiating such a programme with Creative Europe.

It’s important to reach producers and other decision makers in the industry about the competences we offer, and we have started to cooperate with EAVE, whereby they teach us the art of filmmaking while we inform them about the service that we can provide and convince them that a film commission is the natural choice for first contact when a project is being developed.

EUFCN has several regional commissions among its members; is your approach heading towards enhancing local identities over a European brand?
I think that every city, region and country is fighting to strengthen its identity. The identity and financing opportunities are among the most important USPs when working to attract productions. The role of EUFCN is to welcome that but still create an environment in which we can all feel European and where we need each other in many ways. We can put producers together, and we can recommend each other if there are things that one commission can't offer that another might. We meet, discuss and learn from each other, and we are now working on establishing close cooperation with many European organisations.

We promote shooting in Europe to other markets outside the continent, and it is important to see EUFCN as the gateway to filming here. EUFCN should ensure that all film commissions are using best practice when handling a production, and Europe is still a small market where information travels quickly. Therefore, it is important to have EUFCN as a supportive entity so that we can talk about problems, opportunities and areas of development like set safety and green filmmaking. We are dreaming of an education programme, but right now, the only financing we have is the membership fees, which are not enough to cover that.

Truls Kontny (read the interview) talked about the emerging position of the Scandinavian region on the international scene. Would you agree on that?
He is right. There is momentum now, especially regarding Scandinavian TV drama. It is making a mark around the world, inspiring other creators of TV drama, and remakes are being produced in many markets, which is an advantage for us. I can also see that our region has organically become some sort of “crime region”, as series like Wallander, The Bridge, The Killing and Borgen have been travelling the globe. Now is the time to get tax incentives in place.

One of the network’s goals is promoting sustainable filming. Do you provide any incentives to foster environmental awareness in productions? And in your experience, what countries have been at the forefront of this shift? 
Green filmmaking is a hot topic. It will definitely become more of a marketing tool when selling your region as a film-friendly place. Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands seem to be at the forefront of this work, but in a couple of years, I am sure we will see many more initiatives all around Europe, and hopefully we can create a European standard regarding green filmmaking. This is also something that could be created through cooperation between our EUFCN members. 

Right now, most of the work on this is being handled by Cine Regio, and we hope we can work more closely with them on this and other topics that can improve filmmaking in Europe.

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