Risky, Brave and Ready for Change: Young Nordic Filmmakers Face the Future at Finnish Film Affair
The Nordic screen industries are riding a tide of recent success, from Joachim Trier’s dual Oscar-nominated “The Worst Person in the World” (Norway), and Juho Kuosmanen’s Cannes prize winner “Compartment No. 6” (Finland), to Apple TV’s hit Norwegian crime drama “Exit.”
But the Nordics have a ways to go on diversity and inclusion and can do more to support emerging talents — including taking a more mindful approach toward how on-set practices can create an unhealthy work environment.
Those were the key takeaways of a panel discussion on Sept. 21 at the Finnish Film Affair, the industry arm of the Helsinki International Film Festival — Love & Anarchy. Moderated by Finnish TV presenter Andrea Reuter, the event brought together three up-and-coming film professionals from Nordic countries to discuss the hopes and challenges for the next generation of filmmakers from the region.
The event was a collaboration with Nordisk Film & TV Fond, which supports and promotes high-end film and TV productions across the five Nordic territories, and which has this year aimed to redouble its efforts to support filmmakers in their twenties. Panelists included producer and Nordic Film Lab 2022 delegate Agnes Parkrud, of Sweden’s B-Reel Films, director Arman Zafari from Finland’s Aalto University, and screenwriter Lotte Laitinen of Helsinki-based Aurora Studios.
Still at the start of their careers, the three described the barriers to getting their foot in the door in the Nordic screen industries, particularly in the face of gatekeepers who are often resistant to change — especially when it comes to offering opportunities to new voices.
“[Filmmakers] are at their bravest when they’re young. They can challenge the conditions and make something new,” said Zafari. “But if you go with a certain way of thinking that you have to be a certain age to make a feature, 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, “then you have to have more young filmmakers in the field.”
Another challenge, said Parkrud, is a lingering perception among older industry cohorts that her generation is “lazy,” something she attributes to different 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 in a day,” she said.
Diversity and representation across race, class and gender are also something “we all struggle with in the Nordics,” acknowledged Reuter, “definitely in the older generation of filmmakers.”
That tide, however, is beginning to turn. “Representation is becoming better, and that’s a good thing,” said Parkrud. Nevertheless, she insisted, more needs to be done, arguing that the Swedish film industry, for example, has to move beyond its traditional production centers in Stockholm and Göteborg and work harder to present different “class perspectives.”
If there’s an upside for young filmmakers in the Nordic countries, it’s that a range of funds and support mechanisms exist across the region, including Denmark’s New Danish Screen initiative, which offers development, production and promotional support for low-budget productions; the Norwegian Film Institute’s Neo grant scheme for debuting feature-film and TV series directors; and Moving Sweden, which offers development, pre-production and production support for filmmakers at the start of their careers.
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 Nordic country’s Promotion Center for Audiovisual Culture (AVEK) and the Finnish Cultural Foundation, which will provide aspiring creators with financial support and mentoring from international experts.
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 the Nordic industries.
It’s a rallying cry that resonates with filmmakers like Laitinen, who recalled a question on her film school application about why she wanted to become a part of the movie business.
“Film is a great way to get to know people that we don’t know in real life, but to get to see ourselves as well,” she said. “For me, what I want to do in the future would be something that people can see themselves in — or create bridges between worlds and make people to know each other better, or empower people by seeing someone like [them].
“I would do my stories, of course, from a girl and queer perspective,” she added. “So maybe that speaks to people who are girls and queers as well.”
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