Young Scandinavian filmmakers face the future in the Finnish film affair

Young Scandinavian filmmakers face the future in the Finnish film affair

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The Scandinavian screen industry is experiencing a flurry of recent success, from Joachim Trier’s double Oscar nominee “The Worst Person in the World” (Norway) and Juho Kuosmanen’s Cannes award winner “Compartment No. 6” (Finland), to Apple TV’s hit Norwegian crime drama “Exit”.

But Scandinavians have a way of tackling diversity and inclusion and can do more to support emerging talents – including a more conscious approach to how on-set practices can create an unhealthy work environment.

These were the main conclusions of a panel discussion on September 21 in the Finnish Film Affair, the industry branch of the Helsinki International Film Festival – Love & Anarchy. The event, moderated by Finnish TV presenter Andrea Reuter, brought together three emerging film professionals from Scandinavian countries to discuss the hopes and challenges for the region’s next generation of filmmakers.

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The event was a collaboration with Nordisk Film & TV Fond, which supports and promotes high-quality film and TV productions in the five Nordic regions, and which this year has redoubled its efforts to support filmmakers in their twenties. The panellists included producer and delegate from Nordic Film Lab 2022 Agnes Parkrud from Sweden’s B-Reel Films, director Arman Zafari from Finnish Aalto University and screenwriter Lotte Laitinen from Aurora Studios in Helsinki.

Still early in their careers, the three described the barriers to getting a foot in the door in the Scandinavian fencing industries, especially against gatekeepers who are often resistant to change, especially when it comes to providing opportunities for new voices.

“[Filmmakers] are at their bravest when they are young. They can challenge the circumstances and create something new,” says Zafari. “But if you have a mindset that you have to be a certain age to make a feature film, that you have to be a certain age to make a TV show — well, history hasn’t proven this . Welles made Citizen Kane when he was 25.

“If you want the changes, and if you want to be risky, and you want to be brave,” he added, “you need to have more young filmmakers in the field.”

Another challenge, Parkrud said, is a persistent perception among older cohorts in the industry that her generation is “lazy,” something she attributes to differing perceptions of what constitutes a safe and healthy work environment. “I think that’s a problem. You’re not lazy because you don’t want to work 16 hours a day,” she said.

Diversity and representation of race, class and gender are also something “we all struggle with in Scandinavia,” Reuter acknowledged, “especially among the older generation of filmmakers.”

However, that tide is beginning to turn. “Representation is getting better, and that’s a good thing,” Parkrud said. Nevertheless, she insisted that more should be done, arguing that, for example, the Swedish film industry should move beyond its traditional production centers in Stockholm and Gothenburg and work harder to present different ‘class perspectives’.

If there’s one benefit to young filmmakers in the Nordic countries, it’s that a range of funds and support mechanisms exist across the region, including the Danish New Danish Screen initiative, which provides development, production and promotion support for low- budget productions; the Norwegian Film Institute’s Neo grant scheme for debuting directors of feature films and TV series; and Moving Sweden, which provides development, pre-production and production support to early-career filmmakers.

Earlier on Wednesday, as Variety previously reported, Finland also launched its first audiovisual development program for young filmmakers, the Kehittämö — Talent Development Lab, an initiative of the Scandinavian country’s Promotion Center for Audiovisual Culture (AVEK) and the Finnish Cultural Foundation, which will provide financial support to aspiring creators and guidance from international experts.

Speaking at Wednesday’s event, Nordisk Film & TV Fond CEO Liselott Forsman said her organization is committed to creating more opportunities for young filmmakers struggling to find a place — and a voice — in Scandinavian industries.

It’s a rallying cry that has resonated with filmmakers like Laitinen, who recalled a question on her film school application about why she wanted to be a part of the film industry.

“Film is a great way to get to know people we don’t know in real life, but also to get to know ourselves,” she said. “For me, what I want to do in the future would be something where people can see themselves – or create bridges between worlds and people get to know each other better, or empower people by seeing someone like [them].

“Of course I would do my stories from a girl’s and a queer’s perspective,” she added. “So maybe that also speaks to people who are girls and queers.”

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