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Industry / Market - Finland/Denmark/Norway/Sweden/Iceland

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

The Nordisk Film and TV Fond asks, “What future awaits Nordic features?”

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The debate covered several key topics, including content, production volumes, and flexible funding models and distribution windows

The Nordisk Film and TV Fond asks, “What future awaits Nordic features?”
The participants in the panel (© Nordisk Film & TV Fond)

On Friday 21 January, the Nordisk Film & TV Fond organised a panel titled “The Future of Nordic Feature Film at a Crossroads”, moderated by Thomas Gammeltoft, of True Content Entertainment. The debate covered several key topics, including content, production volumes, and flexible funding models and distribution windows.

Speaking about public funding, Claus Ladegaard, head of the Danish Film Institute, urged professionals to support films that are challenging and culturally impactful, while he also encouraged being open to exploring new models, highlighting the importance of both arthouse and mainstream high-grossing productions.

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On the topic of content strategies, Alexander Bastin, of NENT Group, touched upon the giant’s rapid transformation from a Nordic into a global streaming player, and its ambition to be appealing to international audiences but to remain relevant locally: “If you’re not pursuing the ‘localness’, you’re missing loads of opportunities. [...] We need to tell the best local stories. I don’t think aiming at generic, equalised content – the same for all territories – is the right thing to do.”

Later, in a video message, director Ruben Östlund questioned the audience (and himself as part of it) and whether we should really trust its taste. He compared the audience’s behaviour to his experience as a holidaymaker indulging in free food while staying at an all-inclusive resort. Initially, the food all tasted the same and he blamed it on the buffet’s excesses, but later on, he started enjoying it and getting used to it, despite its tastelessness. He then explained that the market is led by about five players, and even though he expected liberalisation to bring a greater variety of content, it actually ended up “narrowing our taste”.

In his contribution, Tim King, of SF Studios, disagreed with Östlund. He maintained that the current offering is very broad, and that local features generally suffer because of the enormous competition from global, high-grossing blockbusters – Spiderman and James Bond flicks, for instance – with a few local exceptions, such as Another Round [+see also:
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and Margrete – Queen of the North [+see also:
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. “We need to challenge those films, regardless of where the streamers are,” he said.

Creative Europe – MEDIA’s Head of Unit, Lucía Recalde, highlighted that when we speak about European content, we should normally refer to high-quality pieces that are “locally grounded” but which possess “the potential to reach out to as many Europeans as possible. [...] Their native market is not national, but the European market at large,” she concluded.

On the topic of production volumes, all of the speakers agreed that the public sector-based model is presently saturated. Next, Film i Väst’s head of strategy, Tomas Eskilsson, cited an upcoming study titled “Public Finance at the Crossroads”, commissioned by the body. He maintained that most of the interviewees pushed for more selective funding practices from public backers and stressed the need to invest in fewer projects with higher potential. According to Louise Vesth, of Zentropa, this concept also applies to the arthouse sector, where smaller stories intercepting smaller niches can put the real value of auteur cinema at risk. Eskilsson later added that faster decision-making from public backers can also be a helpful tool when it comes to facing the growing competition from global streamers.

On the topic of flexibility, Bastin explained his group’s priority to secure an exclusive first window for its original productions, while also admitting its wish to co-exist with exhibitors. He added that audiences would end up shaping more flexible viewing models, as they will be the ones to specifically determine when and where to watch titles.

In the last part of the panel, Gammeltoft invited each panellist to share his or her views on the future of Nordic features. Among others, Ladegaard and King expressed their confidence about the region’s film lovers going back to the cinemas, as already demonstrated by the local box office’s resilience. Fredrik Luihn, of NRK, pushed for the necessity for regulators to help pubcasters that are facing multiple challenges in an ever-transforming market, and Bastin touched upon Viaplay’s growing slate, adding that demand would continue to grow, allowing producers to access new opportunities and enabling consumers to have a wider impact on modes of consumption.

You can access a full recording of the event here.

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