Iceland’s Grímar Jónsson starts pre-production on Grímur Hákonarson’s new film while travelling to Venice with Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson.
The boutique arthouse shop Netop Films has had an impressive track record since the launch in 2015 of its first film Rams by Grímur Hákonarson, which ended up winning 30 international awards and was sold to more than 40 territories.
Since then, the company has established strong ties with partners such as Denmark’s Profile Pictures and New Europe Film Sales, both involved in the company’s following films Under the Tree by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson (Either Way), due to compete at Venice’s Orizzonti, and Hákonarson’s new Icelandic feature project The County.
“The success of Rams was a huge learning curve for me and many others and we all try to benefit from that,’ notes Netop Films’ managing director Grímar Jónsson, who nonetheless remains focused on his motto: “One project at a time, and always remember that content is king.”
In 2015, while travelling the world with Rams, Jónsson met Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson and started discussing a possible collaboration. “I really loved his first feature Either Way and I was looking for my next project and director. Under the Tree had been under development for some time when I entered, but there was an artistic conflict between Haddi [Sigurðsson] and storywriter Huldar Breiðfjörð. My first task was to solve that conflict and get the project moving forward.“ Under the Tree tells the story of Atli (Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson), father of 4 year-old Anna, accused of adultery by his ex-fiancée and forced to move in with his parents. While fighting for custody, he is sucked into a dispute between his parents and their neighbours regarding an old tree. “What intrigued me especially was that the script and its structure was quite unconventional and had challenges: content-wise”, notes Jónsson. “There are two main stories, the neighbour conflict because of the big beautiful tree and a young man's struggle and fight with his ex to see his daughter. Both stories are very typical in Iceland, and everyone can relate to them. They are also universal stories as everyone has a neighbour story and most people have somehow experienced or been close to custody cases, and know how that can bring out the worst in people.“
“On a financing and packaging standpoint, I teamed up with Profile Pictures again and Klaudia [Smieja] and Beata [Rzeznieczek] from Madants in Poland. I got to know them through Jan Naszewski [New Europe Film Sales CEO]. Later on, Germany’s One Two Films came in, along with ZDF / ARTE. We also received support from the Icelandic Film Centre, the Danish Film Institute, the Polish Film Institute, Eurimages and Nordisk Film and TV Fond.” New Europe Film Sales just closed a deal with China (Hualo), in top of previously announced deals with Bac Films (France) and Scanbox (Scandinavia). Sena will release it domestically on September 6.
Iceland, Australia, South Korea
Jónsson will then focus on Hákonarson’s new film as writer/director The County. It’s the story of Inga, forced to stand on her own two feet after losing her husband in a car accident. “The script is in a really good place and we’re aiming for a February/March 2018 shoot,” says the producer. The €2.7m project backed by the Icelandic Film Centre is co-produced by Profile Pictures and France’s Haut et Court. “I met them in Cannes 2016 and I love their upfront-to-the-point style of working, and their reputation on the market is one of the best.“ New Europe Film Sales has started pitching the film to distributors.
Meanwhile Rams continues its remarkable journey, with an English language version in development in Australia, co-produced by the UK’s West End Films and Australia’s WBMC, and a South-Korean take, produced by Yong Film (Old Boy). “I didn’t know anything about sheep culture in South Korea, but I’ve now found out that they even have sheep cafés in Seoul,” says Jónsson. “For Yong Film, the most important however was the brother relationship as family ties are very strong in Korea. But I must admit, I’m very excited to see those farmer-characters speaking Korean and battling forest fires on the other side of this planet!”