While governments in the Nordic region are offering rescue packages to support employment and small to mid-sized business hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Film Institutes are looking at easing repayment rules and schedules. Nordisk Film & TV Fond will be flexible when there are changes in the distribution and is seeking Nordic solutions to the crisis.

The gradual temporary lockdown of public gatherings and spaces has had immediate effects on the local film & industries.

Cinemas in Norway, Denmark are closed since March 12 for two weeks and since Monday 16 in Finland, whereas banning of public gatherings of 100+ people in Iceland and 500+ people in Sweden have forced cinemas to either close or adapt, by asking people to leave 1-2 seats between each other.

Elsewhere, on-going productions have stalled - from the Norwegian WW2 drama Narvik, Danish crime thriller The Marco Effect, to Netflix’s Home for Christmas season 2, and the fragile ecosystem of freelancers working in the industry and small to medium sized companies is put at risk.

Across the Nordics, governments have rapidly implemented rescue packages to keep businesses afloat, such as compensations for self-employed and freelancers, zero interest bank loans to small/mid-size businesses, partial coverage of costs for sick leave and temporary redundancies.

“The government in Sweden is doing a lot to help small and mid-size businesses through this crisis,” Peter Fornstam, head of Svenska Bio and Chairman of the Swedish Exhibitors' Association told nordicfilmandtvnews.com.

Lars Werge, Chairman of the Danish cinema association expressed a similar satisfaction with the Danish government’s coronavirus crisis response this week. He said that “the safety net under more than 160 Danish cinemas has been improved”, thanks to a new aid package which includes support for up to 80 percent of fixed costs (such as rent, electricity) for companies that have experienced a drop in turnover of more than 40 percent.

On Wednesday Norway’s Ministry of Culture also offered a lifeline package to cultural industries worth NOK 300 million (approx.€24m). The scheme is intended to compensate for loss of income from ticket sales and participation fees, as well as additional expenses associated with events cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus.

National film Institutes have also come up with their own support measures:

The Norwegian Film Institute (NFI) said it will not claim back sums spent on planning events, productions or projects that cannot be completed due to the virus.

In a message to the industry published on Monday, CEO Kjersti Mo said that “work is underway to see what is possible to contribute within the NFI existing schemes to meet the unforeseen problems and extra costs incurred, as far as there is room and opportunity.”

The Swedish Film Institute’s Head of Film Funding Kristina Colliander outlined the following measures: 

  • the relaxation of repayment obligations of sums spent on planned events or projects not completed due to the virus, against submission of costs incurred
  • films that received marketing support for a release cancelled or postponed due to the virus can be re-submitted for support
  • speeding up of subsidy payments to smaller exhibitors (‘biotian’)
  • deadlines to projects, campaigns or events postponed will be extended.

Colliander added that the SFI is in dialogue with industry representatives to have a daily update on the situation, to then envisage further support schemes.

The Danish Film Institute’s CEO Claus Ladegaard announced the following adjustments regarding film support: 

  • Grants of less than DKK 150,000 will only be granted in the next 14 days and only for script development. However the DFI will also consider small marketing support for films released on digital platforms, due to cinema closures. 
  • Regarding cancellations of events or film launch, the DFI will follow the existing support guidelines, but won’t reclaim sums already incurred. 
  • Regarding productions cancelled or postponed, the DFI said it will “try to solve the problems and make sure the films can be finalised within the current arrangements and frameworks. 

The institute warned however that stretching the DFI’s current budget might put at risk not only new films but also “the entire industry and production volumes in the longer term.”

The Finnish Film Foundation said it will be flexible with the timetables for support use and reporting, as long as changes are “disclosed in a timely manner”, and advised funding recipients to keep them up to date.

Yesterday Thursday, the Foundation also joined forces with the local trade bodies for Audio-visual Producers (APFI), Finnish Journalists ( Finlands Journalistförbund), Finnish Actors (Finlands Skådespelarförbund) and Theatre and Media Workers (TEME), calling for productions to be maintained, while asking for workers to pay extra care to health and safety measures.

Speaking to nordicfilmandtvnews.com, CEO Lasse Saarinen insisted he is having “on-going discussions with the Ministry of Education and Culture about possible ways to react to the financial losses faced by the film industry.”

The Icelandic Film Centre’s CEO Laufey Guðjónsdóttir said she is “prepared for extra flexibility towards the industry”, while evaluating the impact of coronavirus on shooting plans and the overall Icelandic film & TV industry.

CEO Liselott Forsman outlined the Fund’s own action plan:

“As a pan-Nordic institution, Nordisk Film & TV Fond intends to help out the industry on two levels. On a daily basis, we will be flexible where possible. Supported cultural events that now are 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."

"The Fund also welcomes new distribution applications for more digital distribution as our supports cover all platforms. 

"Being a top-up financier, our production shares cannot save a film or series in distress, let alone a company, but what we can and will do, is to help seek Nordic solutions on a general level.

"Nordisk Film & TV Fond enjoys the know-how of 22 diverse partners and privileged contacts with both professionals and decision-makers in five countries. To get a broader perspective on current and upcoming Nordic audio-visual challenges, in a situation where all industries suffer due to Covid-19, the Fund is now setting up a project to collect and analyse data. One aim is to share best solution models. Business is definitively not as usual, but parallel to predicting future scenarios, our daily work continues.

"Today, when reading Nordic stories and financing plans, we simultaneously prepare for dialogues on updated production circumstances. This week our office has changed from a physical existence in Oslo to a virtual one, but we are all reachable through mail or phone. Let’s keep collaborating on all levels and stay safe!”