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FkN Newsletter

November 2010

FkN News

And the OSCAR® Goes To…     
Nordisk Panorama - 5 Cities Film Festival has been accepted as a qualifying festival in the ACADEMY AWARDS® short film category!
This great news means that a Nordic short film has the chance to receive the most prestigious film award - the OSCAR®.
Short films that receive the Best Nordic Short Film award may be eligible to enter the short film competition for the concurrent season of the ACADEMY AWARDS® provided of course that the films meet all the requirements of the ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES for that season.
Ultimately, a Nordic filmmaker awarded the main prize at Nordisk Panorama may end up at the podium on Oscar Night to receive the famous golden statuette designed by Cedric Gibbons!
A thrilling thought indeed, and quite an accomplishment for the organizers of Nordisk Panorama, Filmkontakt Nord who have been actively promoting the Nordisk Panorama internationally.

“This is a wonderful acknowledgement of the quality films presented at Nordisk Panorama - 5 Cities Film Festival and it highlights the fine reputation the festival now has internationally”, says Karin Johansson-Mex, managing director of Filmkontakt Nord.

Nordisk Panorama - 5 Cities Film Festival has existed since 1990 and has grown from a film festival to a full scale industry event and meeting place for the professional Nordic short film and documentary community. In addition to the festival programme that offers the best from the current Nordic short film and documentary scene, Nordisk Panorama - 5 Cities Film Festival features two major parallel industry events: Nordisk Forum for Co-financing of Documentaries and Nordisk Panorama Market. Furthermore Nordisk Panorama offers various seminars, master classes, side programmes, parties, open forums and network opportunities for professionals and audiences.
Nordisk Panorama - 5 Cities Film Festival is organised annually by Filmkontakt Nord and a local partner in each of the five Nordic countries. The festival travels from one Nordic country to the next – the 2011 edition of Nordisk Panorama will be held in Århus.

Will we see a Nordic filmmaker at the 83rd ACADEMY AWARDS® in 2011?

Information about the short film rules of the ACADEMY can be found here.

New Nordic and International Initiatives

Downsizing in Store for YLE     
For a year now, the level of activity in the Department of Co-productions at the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), has been ticking over, and all new commitments from independent producers have been set on hold.
The reason for this situation is that the Finnish public service broadcaster is placed in a sort of economic limbo after the Minister of Communications Suvi Linde’s decision to postpone the preparation of a public broadcasting bill for YLE till after the elections in 2011. The government did approve of a 6% rise in the television license fee to an annual license fee of € 244,90, but a funding model and a budget has still to be approved.
“There hasn’t been a complete stop in commissions, but we have to consider every project very carefully”, says Head of the Documentary Department at YLE, Erkki Astala.
“The possibilities for new commitments are very restricted. At the same time, there is a restructuring of YLE taking place and in terms of management this will mean huge changes, less departments and commissioning editors”, says Astala further.
He is not able to be more specific about which departments and which directors of departments will be concerned, but cut backs will be made.
“The independent sector will be affected and is already affected by the situation. The YLE management however, acknowledges that YLE has a role to play and an obligation to make sure that the creative film community is able to exist and develop. We’re not giving up the support of the Finnish film industry”, Astala assures.

The new organisational structure of YLE will consist of a broadcasting unit, three content units and a production unit. In the press release announcing the restructures, it is said, that the aim of the changes is to clarify YLE’s organisational structure, establish greater flexibility, and to bring different parts of the organisation together into larger units. The new structure is to enter into force at the beginning of 2011.
The restructuring will entail changes in the channel and slot profiles in the months to come, says Astala, but it is too early to say exactly how. The number of commissions and co-productions will be lower.
“In terms of the quality and creativity of the projects, we commit, there will be no changes”, he says.
“The investments of YLE in international projects have always been small prebuys, yet significant for the producers, because YLE has a good reputation. It is a sort of quality label to have YLE on board”, says Erkki Astala.
Within the documentary film sector, YLE does enjoy a reputation of being a flagship. Erkki Astala confirms that YLE has still the ambition of playing a role as a supporter of creative documentaries.
“But the ship may be a bit smaller, it will more likely be a small boat with a small flag”.

Seen in a larger perspective, the kind of restructuring and cut backs YLE is seeing are also happening on other public service broadcasters due to the intensified competition with new content and service providers.
“Public service television broadcasters are having problems every where. The financial framework of broadcasters are getting tighter and tighter everywhere. So far there are two possible strategies to react to the increasing competition: One is to turn more commercial and the other is to develop a sharper public service profile. At YLE we have chosen the second strategy, and I think that’s the only sustainable strategy for the future”.
Erkki Astala also sees a need for a closer collaboration between
public service broadcasters and producers to face the challenges.
 “I am pretty confident about the future. The kind of collaboration we’ve had with the independent producers will continue. There is a place for the films they do and an audience. It’s not only about the figures, if there’s an audience and people are committed to this kind of programming, it is of great value for a
public service station”.

Finnish Foundation Supports Shorts 
A new support scheme has been launched by the Finnish Film Foundation, FFF, to support the production of short films that could be used as ‘calling cards’ for upcoming professionals. The new Calling-card scheme has been made possible with extra funding and € 1.5 million from the Finnish Government.
The Calling-card support is primarily aimed at short films, but feature length projects may be considered on certain terms, i.e. if the filmmaker is less than 30/35 years old.
At least 30% of the support from is earmarked salaries to people under the age of 30 years old.
Up to now, € 175.000 has been allocated as development and production support and € 25.000 has been allocated to scriptwriting grants.
The remaining funds of over € 1 million to production support and  € 175.000 for script development will be allocated by the end of September 2011.
For more info on the new support scheme click here.

Greater Accessibility to documentaries in New Danish Film Agreement
With a budget of DKK 2.1 billion to Danish cinema over the next four years, the new Film Agreement was adopted by the Danish parliament on 27 October.
The economic framework remains the same except for a slight increase of funds.
One of the key points in the new film agreement 2011-2014 concerns documentaries. The Danish Film Institute, DFi will work towards a greater accessibility of documentary films and will support the documentary sector with a minimum DKK 165 million for development and production of documentary films for a broader and younger audience.
The film sector’s demand for more flexibility in the Danish Film Institute’s support system was met, thus making it possible for DFI to support new initiatives of digitisation and new measures in line with the market trends. A new market-oriented system will replace the 60-/40 support system and subsidies will be split between the existing film commissioning subsidy system and the new market-system.
Read more about the film agreement here.

”ARTE Norden” Closer to Launch 
The idea of introducing a joint Nordic TV channel on the model of the French-German culture channel ARTE received wide support at the Nordic Council’s session in Reykjavik earlier this month. Nordic Council’s Culture and Education Committee plans to launch an arts and culture channel in about 3-4 years designed to air cultural programmes that do not fit slots on the Nordic public service broadcasters. The ambition is to ensure a broader offer of Nordic quality programmes as an alternative to American programmes. The new channel will cooperate with the Nordic public service channels and the French-German ARTE. Ideally ARTE Norden will broadcast programmes from these TV-channels but it will also produce new programmes. A group of experts has proposed that the main office of the new Nordic ARTE channel be placed in Strasbourg where the ARTE Group is based. Local editorial centres and production centres will then be placed in each of the Nordic capitals.
The costs of running a joint channel in the Nordic region would amount to around DKK 220 million per year. Half of the budget would be government funding from the Nordic countries and the Nordic public service broadcasters would contribute with DKK 60 million annually. The rest will come from sponsors and funds.
The plans are that the Nordic channel will broadcast every evening from 7 pm to 1 am, and it is expected that 5% of the Nordic viewers would watch the channel.
Finland’s member of the Culture and Education Committee stressed the need for further investigation to take the Finnish and the Icelandic television environments and television production conditions into consideration.
Read more about ARTE Norden here (in Danish only).

Scandinavian VoD Service Kicking Off   
Scandinavian cinephiles and owners of a Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) will be able to watch auteur films from the online cinema service MUBI. Films can be watched in the original language with English subtitles for a monthly subscription fee or one-off payments of less than € 5 per feature film and € 1,5 for shorts films.
In addition to the streaming service, users can also discuss and review films through MUBI’s social network.
MUBI was founded in 2007 and is backed by Celluloid Dreams, Martin Scorsese’s The World Cinema Foundation and the MEDIA Programme a.o. MUBI’s local distribution partners are Angel Films (Denmark), Atlantic Films (Sweden), and other distribution companies.
The European VoD market is still much smaller than theatrical, TV or DVD markets but is growing fast. According to KEA European Affairs, the revenues from VoD went from € 27 million in 2003 to € 544 million in 2008 and is expected to peak around € 2.2 billion by 2013.

STHLM Festival Shorts on Demand  
For the second time, selected titles at the Stockholm International Film Festival that takes place from 17-28 November will be available on Telia’s on-demand service. Last year, the chain of Swedish cinemas, Svenska Bio, protested against the on-demand service of showing ten films that did not have Swedish distribution. But this year a solution has been found and the ten films in question, (that do not have Swedish theatrical distribution), will first be shown in cinemas and on the Telia on-demand service afterwards. A new feature makes it the possibility to rent a short-film package of the 10 films nominated to the “1 Km Film” Award.

New Film Fund in Nordland 
A new NOK 10 million film fund has been established in the county of Nordland in Norway. Following the success of the Norwegian drama series Himmelblå  that was shot in the county of Helgeland and the positive effects the production had on local businesses and travel activities in the region, it is hoped that the new film body in Nordland will attract film productions to the region.

Games & Docs at Sheffield 
Convergence was one of the key topics during Sheffield Doc/Fest 2010. While diving into the new realm of multi platform production, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover Lab joined forces to enhance our understanding of the multifarious possibilities that lie ahead. In doing so, Sheffield takes on the leading role in dealing with the future at hand.
At the seminar on Games and Documentaries, game designer Margaret Robertson
from Hide and Seek was in search for new ways to play. She pointed out that factual/documentary games can address either complex dynamic structures such as the game Sneeze, that deals with the ethical aspect of gene technology, or that games can address social interaction, behavioural change or the mere gathering of data. As an example of games that deal with behavioural change she mentioned Super Me by Something Else that tries to communicate models and methods to acquire true happiness. A game geared towards teenagers in need for a better understanding on how to tackle difficult issues in life.
Robertson pointed out the need to prioritise purpose as the first priority when developing a game, your audience as the second, the format as the third and finally, as the last aspect of the idea development, the technical platform.

Nick Cohen, multiplatform consultant from BBC Vision argued that the main obstacle for working with documentary content for games is the lack of fun and the fact that many of the projects have a tendency to become too serious and message driven. He presented the new online game released by BBC, Wallace and Gromit World of Inventions as a successful and fun model on how to make people interested in engineering.

Margaret Robertson replied that fun is the wrong word to use in this context, that we instead should look for games that challenge and inspire our brains in different forms, not only for their level of funniness but because they are intelligent, quirky, engaging and captivating. She instead argued that the reason why documentary games do not work is that they are not well executed as games but instead are trapped with a narrative structure that is hard to break free from.

Paul Bennon, director of Something Else explained that in order to obtain the best possible communication with the audience for the game Super Me they, instead of holding on to a narrative structure, where looking for a system logic that communicated the purpose of the game. In order to rise the level of engagement from the users they based the development of the game on different tension layers imbedded in this system. He emphasized that a clear understanding of the core audience for the project is fundamental to developing such a system.

New Digital Doc Service 
Prism is a new digital documentary service launched by the UK distributor Mercury Media and the digital content processing facility Re:Fine.
Prism will start in January 2011 and will work as a service providing a pay per view platform of quality documentaries to be delivered through iTunes, Blinkbox, LOVEFilm, Amazon VOD and
Mercury Media will be selecting the films sent in by the producers and Re:Fine will handle the technical solutions for the various channels. Producers and filmmakers will pay a fixed fee depending on the number of platforms they chose for their content and Mercury Media will charge a royalty against net proceeds.

Director’s Choice at YouTube 
Choosing a clip from the gigantic collection of videos on YouTube (24 hours of video is uploaded every… 60 seconds!) can be quite an overwhelming mission. To those who would like to receive recommendations of what to see, Swedish Independent Filmmakers, (Oberoande Filmares Förbund), proposes a daily selection of three favourites.
Every Monday a new clip is published and the choice of the day comes with a motivation. The clips recommended cover a wide range of genres from interviews about philosophy to film festival winners.
See more here.

A New Online NFB Titles  
The National Film Board of Canada, NFB, is exploring new digital partnerships, this time with and New Video.
The new partnerships with these streaming websites and online retailers will provide high-speed access to NFB films for viewers around the world. 30 new NFB films will be available on British VoD documentary portal and 10 NFB titles will stream on iTunes in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand thanks to the deal with New Video.

From Theatre to Cultural Channel 
From 1 April, the digital theme channel ZDFtheaterkanal changes to
ZDFkultur. The aim is to build a new channel concept that attracts younger audiences by combining pop culture and high culture. ZDFkultur will feature music, film, theatre, concerts, theme nights and Internet culture. The prime time programme that airs from 6 p.m. to midnight will be repeated throughout the day.
The 2011 budget of the ZDFkultur channel will be € 12.58 million which is a € 4 million increase of the ZDFtheaterkanal budget. Financing comes from a restructure of ZDF’s budget.

Towards a New Media Market for Docs 
Director at European television and media management academy, Paul Pauwels, within the documentary film industry also called “Mr. Europe”, has been moderating pitching sessions all over Europe, including the Forum in Amsterdam. At the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film he held a keynote speech on the state of the art of the documentary film industry.
Paul Pawels talked about the changes in the media market and the need for documentary filmmakers to adapt to new financing and distribution models. In a media environment where broadcasters are under pressure and losing ground to new digital content providers and services, Pawels stressed the need for documentary professionals to combine creativity with solid long term business plans in order to meet the challenges of the new market.
The speech can be read in full here.
Other interesting soundbites can be found at DOK Leipzigs website.

ARTE 20 Years  
The 20th anniversary of the German-French television channel ARTE is celebrated with a film festival on the ARTE TV-channel and an online competition (including a short film category) that will run from 22 November to 4 December 2010.
The festival TV-programme consists of new ARTE co-productions, feature length films as well as short films from the Court Circuit slot, some to air on television for the first time. All competition entries can also be viewed for seven days on the video platform ARTE+7  and the actual voting will be held online, where the viewers alone select the winner.
There will be two open chats with some of the directors who entered their films. The chats will take place on 27 November and 4 December at 20 p.m. and 21 p.m. each day.
See the full ARTE festival programme here.