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Henrik Bo Nielsen • CEO Danish Film Institute

It’s good to talk about what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed

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Henrik Bo Nielsen  • CEO Danish Film Institute

In January, the Danish Film Institute (DFI) presented the Danish government with the proposal “Set Film Free”, a document intended to establish the framework for the new Film Policy Agreement for 2011-14. DFI CEO Henrik Bo Nielsen outlined some of the text’s key points to Cineuropa.

Cineuropa: Danish films are doing well internationally and at festivals, but at home their market share plummeted in 2009. Why this contrast?
Henrik Bo Nielsen: The 17% market share and 2.4 million admissions for Danish films in 2009 was something we were not used to having in Denmark and that reflected a problem both artistically and for audiences. Still, we have filmmakers that make great films and with seven films that were selected at the Berlinale and one win at the Oscars (The New Tenants, Best Short Film-Live Action), we’re doing better than most countries. This is why it’s good to talk about what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed while we’re still doing well. What I’m concerned about is creating the right framework so that Danish films can keep going on doing well.

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What are the main problems within the sector?
At the moment we have basically three problems in Danish film: overly tight regulation of the film institute, far too much influence from broadcasters and not enough money in each single film. This was not just our analysis, but a common ground and understanding of the main challenges that we share with most of the industry. In January, we presented the DFI our take on how to meet those challenges. This spring, there will be the new Media Agreement that will regulate the television influence in film. Then after the summer holidays, there will be the full Film Agreement.

On the issue of the under-financing of individual films, what are your proposals for improving the situation?
Danish films have been hit by two factors: the drop in public funding for each project and structural changes all over Europe, such as a drop in revenues from DVD sales, pay TV and piracy issues. There are different ways to go about trying to improve the situation, such as getting more public funding – though this is unlikely in the current economic climate – or making cheaper films. Over the last couple of years, we’ve actually seen the average budget for films go down slightly from above DKK 20m to under DKK20m.

If you combine the issue of over-regulation with TV influence and the financial situation, they all point in the same direction. There is less room for ideas and free development of films and, in the end, projects tend to look alike!

Which may be one of the reasons why audiences are turning their backs on Danish films….
For producers, the big issue is what sort of risk they can take and still have a realistic chance of financing their project. For us, it’s a question of re-creating an environment where ideas flow freely for a little longer before they get into a stricter frame. We are telling the industry: “Spend more time and money in development. We will do the same and try to find a way to finance films better so there is a little surplus.”

Could you detail your idea behind the creation of a new DFI International co-financing and co-production department?
Several young producers want to go the international route, but don’t know how to go about doing it. We at the DFI feel that the quality of advice we currently give producers on international matters is not high enough. With a new International Co-financing/Co-production Department, we would pool our knowledge in a more structured way so that we could advise producers properly. We need to strengthen coordination throughout the life of a film so that applicants can walk through one door with their project.

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