I believe we have to inspire other nations in Europe, push boundaries, and be bold.
Svend Abrahamsen who was CEO at Nordisk Film & TV Fond between 2000-2007 recalls founding the Nordic Council Film prize, Nordic Talents and urges Nordic industry to nurture talent. ---
The primary purpose of Nordisk Film & TV Fond is to stimulate cross border collaborations in the Nordic region and to promote Nordic talent and works. How did the Nordic cooperation evolve under your time as CEO, and what schemes did you initiate to contribute to this goal?
Svend Abrahamsen: The Fund was young when I took over. A lot of effort had been put into co-financing but I wanted to introduce new measures to stimulate genuine co-productions.
One of the first things I did was to invite 6-10 Nordic heavyweight producers for a 24h meeting and did the same with writers and directors. The idea was to get people to know each other, to understand their approaches, their differences but also what they shared. It was very effective. At the same time, we initiated two yearly meetings for film and TV commissioners – one in Göteborg and one in Haugesund - with the same purpose.
Secondly, I launched the Nordic Council Film Prize. At the time I worked closely with Åsa Kleveland, then head of the Swedish Film Institute, a Norwegian executive who was very well connected, also in the political arena. Initially we met resistance from various parts but did a test in Helsinki in 2002 as a one-off event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nordic Council.
I wanted the prize to mirror the collaboration between people in the industry, so we set specific rules so that the prize would be shared between the director, the writer and the producer of the winning film. Ironically that year, Aki Kaurismäki won the prize for A Man Without the Past and he was writer, director and producer of the film! The 2002 event was a success, but it took another three years for the prize to become permanent. Today it is the most prestigious film award in the Nordic region.
Thirdly, we launched Nordic Talents in 2001 together with the National Film School of Denmark. I felt the next generation of talent who were just emerging in their home territory, were totally unknown across the borders. The commissioners from the various film institutes didn’t know the young graduating talents, and hardly knew each other. We decided to create an event where young talents would be rewarded and where the jury would be film commissioners from the different institutes. That would help everyone get to know each other. We also set up the producers’ pitch to help them connect with the young talent.
The event has evolved over the years, with different industry people sitting on the jury, but it has turned into an astounding success, envied by many outside the Nordic region. I personally attend Nordic talents every year. I love it! It allows anyone to check the creative trends and scout new talent.
The collaboration with the Danish Film School went very well from the beginning. Other countries tried to have it as a touring event, but I fought to keep it in Copenhagen. I felt it was the right place, and the National Film School of Denmark was the perfect partner.
Finally we launched Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s information newsletter in 2002. My initial idea was exactly what it is today: to inform the Nordic industry and the international community of what was going on in the region, the projects that were financed, distributed locally and internationally and the talents to watch. The way it works now is in the same spirit. I read it every week.
Can you cite a handful of films, documentaries and/or TV dramas that had a major impact on a Nordic and international level when you were CEO?
SA: It’s hard to cite only a few names. My policy was to support fewer films with more money. The film Let the Right One In by Tomas Alfredson was an interesting case though. I immediately loved the script. The producers had a hard time to finance it, but thanks to our support they were able to raise the rest of the financing.
This is why I believe Nordisk Film & TV Fond should continue to support those who dare. Let the Right One In became a cult movie and went on to inspire a lot of people.
Do you have a special wish for the Nordic film & TV community as we enter a new decade?
SA: My wish is for the Fund to help and nurture the next generation. For a while Nordisk Film & TV Fond was not daring enough. I believe we have to inspire other nations in Europe, push boundaries, and be bold.