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Denmark Passes New Film Agreement for 2015-18

Denmark recently signed a new four agreement for the film sector. Ib Bondebjerg reports.

All political parties in Denmark have agreed that Danish film shall continue making good narratives of quality. But Danish film is economically under pressure… [We] therefore give DKK 70 million extra over the next 4 years. At the same time, we send a clear messsage to the film sector: you have to develop new business models to meet the digital challenge. Ib Bondebjerg reports on the new Film agreement in Denmark.

Ministry for Culture, Marianne Jelved

Politicians in Denmark passed a new four year plan for Danish film on November 6, 2014. However, the debate surrounding this agreement has not only highlighted huge problems in the film sector. It has also revealed differences on how to tackle the crisis caused by declining DVD-sales and the rise of new digital services like Netflix and HBO-Nordic, with some commentators demanding that internet-providers contribute to film and television production.

DFI_building-300x300

The Danish Film Institute has welcomed Denmark’s new agreement for film.

The present agreement spells out quite clearly that the Danish government and parliament want the film sector to negotiate new business models for the digital age. In the meantime, DKK 30 million will be provided as a kind of temporary support in the period until a new model has been developed. The extra money will gradually be scaled down to DKK 15 million in 2015, before being phased out altogether by 2018.

CEO of the Danish Film Instititute (DFI), Henrik Bo Nielsen, welcomes the agreement and the pressure to find new business models for the digital future. The CEO of Danish Film producers, Klaus Hansen, is also positive, as are the association of Danish Film Directors, who have been very critical towards what they see as conservatism in the Danish distribution and cinema sector. Chairman of the Danish Film Directors, Christina Rosendal, argues for a more daring and creative approach to find new ways in the digital media culture.

However, the most skeptical comments to the new agreement  comes from the chairman of the Association of Danish Cinemas, Klaus Hansen, who seems concerned that new strategies will harm the cinema sector.

The scene is therefore set for intense and difficult negotiations. Sector leaders and politicians will meet in early-2015  to make a status of progress and developments, and by the end of 2016 an analysis of new suggested business models must be finished. To satisfy the film sector, new initiatives will be taken to counter such activities as illegal downloading and piracy.

While the digital challenge looms rather large in the agreement, there are other policy goals as well. Most important is the allocation of special funds (of between DKK 3-6 million) for low-budget films . This aims to strengthen talent development and new aesthetic forms in line with the New Danish Screen support system. The strengthening of funding for digital games and cross-media production forms also point in the same direction.

Another policy agenda concerns the further development of the regional funds for film making: Film Funen and the West Danish Film Fund. This agenda is connected with initiatives aimed at stronger support for regional Film Workshops and regional spreading of the activities in DFI’s Cinematheque. Some in the right-wing Danish Folk Party and Venstre (the biggest liberal party) have suggested closing these activities down, but such ideas are on hold for now.

melancholia

The new Danish film agreement could mean fewer Danish films aimed at an international audience, such as Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2013).

The Danish Folk Party has been particularly critical of the internationalisation of Danish film, and have argued instead for more ‘truly Danish films’. They have also expressed skepticism toward what they see as the Copenhagen elite dominance in Danish film and television. Some impact of this can be seen in the increase for regional film funding, and by the fact that the agreement talks about ‘an analysis of social and geographical patterns’ in film production.

Surprisingly, the new agreement introduces quantitative measures for Danish and international film. 82-104 Danish film are expected to be made over the next four years, while only eight films can be aimed at an international audience. On top of that, the agreement allows for 20-36 Danish co-productions with a foreign major producer. In a time of growing international success for Danish directors and for a growing European collaboration, this insistence on ‘Danishness’ seems a little backward looking.

The new agreement means that the cooperation between the Danish Film Institute and the two Danish publish service broadcaster will continue. The latter must also contribute to Danish film production. But there are some important changes. First of all, the Danish Film Institute gets a stronger role in deciding what the television money is used for. Secondly, the new low-budget film scheme actually opens up for the production of films that can be shown directly on broadcast TV or online services. This signals a first opening towards a future where the cinema window will not be a window for all films.

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