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Laufey Guðjónsdóttir • Director of the Icelandic Film Centre

Iceland's appeal

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Laufey Guðjónsdóttir • Director of the Icelandic Film Centre

Laufey Guðjónsdóttir has been appointed as Director of the Icelandic Film Centre in March 2003, for a term of 5 years. Laufey has had extensive experience in television programming, and has also sat on a number of Film Fund selection committees, and worked in a number of film related jobs. She has been Head of Programme Acquisitions at the Icelandic National Television station.

Could you give us a general overview of the latest Icelandic film production?

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Three films which were all shot in Iceland are now ready and will have their world premiere at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. A Little Trip to Heaven is the first English-language film by writer-director-producer Baltasar Kormakur (101 Reykjavik), starring Forest Whitaker and Julia Stiles. The film is produced by L.A.based Joni Sighvatsson with Kormakur.

Beowulf And Grendel is the new film by the highly-respected Icelandic/Canadian director Sturla Gunnarsson who has been living and working in Canada for many years. This new take on the medieval tale of Beowulf, a hero who fights against a murderous troll was filmed in a classical way, without computer generated images. The film is an Icelandic/UK/Canadian co-production and the Icelandic producers are Fridrik Thor Fridriksson and Anna Maria Karsdottir from the Icelandic Film Corporation. It will have its world premiere at this year’s Toronto Film Festival as part of the festival’s Special presentations.

The third finished film is Eleven Men Out to be released in Iceland on September 1st. The football comedy co-produced with the UK and Finland is directed by Robert Douglas whose film credit include The Icelandic Dream (2000) and A Man Like Me (2002).

But there are many other Icelandic projects in the pipeline such as Dakur Kari’s new film A Good Heart following his Danish/Icelandic co-production Dark Horse [+see also:
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presented at Un Certain Regard in Cannes, and Fridrik Thor Fridriksson’s ambitious new project A Gathering of Foes based on a 13th century Icelandic saga.

Then last year the children animated TV series Lazy Town was made for Nickelodeon in the US who bought 40 episodes, and….Clint Eastwood is shooting on location in Iceland starting this month his new film Flags Of Our Fathers executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

Iceland is obviously very attractive as a shooting place for international productions because of the 12% refund on film and TV production costs incurred in the country. But what other advantages are there for foreign producers?

These tax incentives from the State Treasury are obviously very attractive for foreign producers, but we also offer a good infrastructure for shooting in Iceland and we are a transparent society with tax rebates very simple and fast to get. Everybody speaks excellent English as well and is quite accessible.

What is the annual production budget of the Iceland Film Centre?

Our production support for feature film is 2.2m€ per year. We have a new system of regulation now to give producers support all year round, whereas before, there was a round of applications. So local producers seem to be happy with the new system as they don’t have to be stressed with application deadlines.

Our main co-production partners are Germany, France, the other Nordic countries and the UK. We are also part of Eurimages, the MEDIA Programme and the Nordic Film & TV Fund.

What is the state of Iceland Film distribution domestically and internationally?

Iceland is a small market and theatrical distributors are also cinema owners that are very commercially oriented. But we’re lucky to have a very active cinema-going audience with an average 5.8 visits per person per year. Going to the movies is a very popular leisure activity for youngsters and it’s also a social gathering opportunity for audiences between 20-25 in spite of cinema tickets at 10€ each. We would however like to see more of them attending Icelandic films in cinemas.

But I’m very optimistic with the new methods of distribution offered by digital technology as the new generation of film-goers has adapted quickly to the new ways of accessing film material and format and it should make it easier for local and European films to be seen.

To support the local promotion of Icelandic films, we have the Icelandic International Film Festival which last April attracted more than 10% of the Icelandic population with 35,000 guests and since 2004 the Reykjavik International Film Festival that takes place late September-early October.

In terms of international distribution, although we are not a big production country, our films seem to be quite successful with international distribution and international festivals help us as well. Last year, films such as Niceland and Cold Light travelled to many festivals. We are also part of the Scandinavian Films umbrella and members of the MEDIA Programme’s European Film Promotion.

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