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INDUSTRY / MARKET Nordic countries

Nordic film bodies publish first responses to the COVID-19 outbreak


- The most prominent Nordic film organisations have announced a series of provisions to limit the economic damage caused by the global spread of the coronavirus

Nordic film bodies publish first responses to the COVID-19 outbreak
An SF Bio cinema in Sweden

The Nordic film industry is taking its first steps to limit the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last week, Finnish, Norwegian and Danish cinemas have been shut down, while limitations on public gatherings in Iceland and Sweden have forced them to either close or adapt to ensure viewers’ safety and provide enough “social distancing”. In addition, current projects in production have ground to a halt, and the financial stability of many outfits (especially SMEs) is at serious risk.

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The national governments and the film agencies have both announced their first measures. The Swedish Film Institute, the country’s main audiovisual agency, has confirmed the implementation of four important provisions. In detail, these are the relaxation of repayment obligations for sums spent on planned events or projects not realised owing to the pandemic, after submission of costs incurred; the possibility to request additional support for projects that received marketing backing and whose release was cancelled or postponed; faster payments of subsidies to smaller exhibitors; and the extension of deadlines for cancelled projects, campaigns and events.

Meanwhile, the Danish Film Institute expressed concerns about the body’s current budget, which may put the future of the local industry as well as new and current productions in jeopardy. Nonetheless, the agency has confirmed its first main commitments. In particular, bursaries of less than 150,000 Danish crowns (€20,000) will only be granted in the next 14 days, and these will be solely for script-development purposes. The institute will also consider the approval of small marketing grants for films released on digital platforms, owing to cinema closures. In terms of cancelled events and film launches, current guidelines will be applied, but costs already incurred will not be reclaimed. Finally, the organisation expressed its will to support the completion of cancelled and postponed productions as best it can.

Next, the Finnish Film Foundation will guarantee flexibility in terms of the timetables for support use and reporting, inviting recipients to notify it of changes in a timely manner. The body is currently discussing further measures with Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. Also, the Icelandic Film Centre’s CEO, Laufey Guðjónsdóttir, is willing to adopt extra provisions to increase flexibility, but specific actions will be announced after due consideration. At the moment, the agency is operating with irregular opening hours, and all of its employees are working from home.

The Oslo-based Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s CEO, Liselott Forsman, intends to act firmly, too. Speaking about its initial decisions, she explained on the institution’s official website: “On a daily basis, we will be flexible where possible. Supported cultural events that are now cancelled will keep their support on the basis of final budget reports. Films whose Nordic theatrical distribution the fund has financed will not lose their support, even if the distribution changes to online only. Production shares will not be reclaimed if the distribution changes fall within our application guidelines. In all cases, the fund needs to be updated on eventual changes.” In the meantime, Forsman added that the agency welcomes new distribution applications for more digital distribution.

Finally, the Norwegian Film Institute confirmed its decision not to claim back sums spent on planning events, productions or projects that cannot be completed owing to the virus outbreak. Moreover, on 18 March, the Ministry of Culture approved a 300 million Norwegian crown (€23.8 million) compensation scheme to alleviate the cultural industries’ losses caused by plummeting ticket sales, participation fees and other related expenses. Further measures are being considered and will be announced as soon as possible.

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