Country Focus: Iceland
Industry fears 34% film budget cut
by Annika Pham
21/10/2009 - The Icelandic Film Producers Association is fighting off the government’s proposal to cut the 2010 film budget by 34%, a measure that would destroy a third of the filmmaking force in Iceland.
When in early October the Icelandic government announced its intention to cut the 2010 film budget by ISK 2m (€1.07m) – from the current ISK 5.9m (€3.16m) to ISK 3.9m (€2.09) – the industry welcomed the news with disbelief and shock. Why should cinema, the most lucrative cultural activity for the Icelandic economy, pay the biggest price for the country’s deep financial crisis while the other arts would incur cuts of a maximum 5%?
For Iceland’s most high profile producer/filmmaker, Baltasar Kormákur, such a measure would be disastrous for the local film industry, and would put a third of the industry’s workforce out of work.
Ari Kristinsson, filmmaker and head of the Icelandic Producers Association agrees. “The unemployment benefits and loss from direct taxes from these workers would be more than ISK 2m. So this budget will not help get the Icelandic economy back on track. It will only deepen the depression,” he said.
On October 6, both men met with the country’s Minister of Culture Katrín Jakobsdóttir and pleaded for a revised film budget. The outcome of the meeting was positive as the minister spoke of an “obvious mistake” and advised them to present their case before a National Budget Committee so that the film budget would be taken to a second Parliamentary discussion in November.
Kristinsson’s response to the follow-up measure: “Yes, we are rather optimistic because every time we present our case, people seem to be surprised by the size of the industry and do not really know that the fund is also supporting popular TV dramas.”
Nevertheless, he feels the situation for Icelandic cinema remains very critical. “There are still a lot of unclear holes on the income side of the budget, so no one knows what the future will bring for the Icelandic nation,” he added.