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HAUGESUND 2020 New Nordic Films

Gyda Velvin Myklebust • Programme director, New Nordic Films, Haugesund

“Under these circumstances, we could actually succeed”

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- We talked to New Nordic Films’ programme director, Gyda Velvin Myklebust, about last week’s announcement that the event would be going ahead as planned in August

Gyda Velvin Myklebust  • Programme director, New Nordic Films, Haugesund

A ray of encouraging Nordic light shone through last week as the Norwegian Film Festival in Haugesund announced its 2020 edition, taking place from 14-21 August, with the New Nordic Films market days starting on 18 August. Programme director Gyda Velvin Myklebust discussed the plan and the possible plan(s) B with us.

Cineuropa: Congratulations. Was this a difficult decision?
Gyda Velvin Myklebust:
When Norway closed down on 16 March, we were very uncertain. Then, when it looked like the virus had been curbed, hope seeped in. Little by little, the possibility of going ahead with the festival in August felt conceivable. Public arrangements today allow up to 50 people with an increase up to 200 in July and most likely up to 500 in August – under these circumstances, we could actually succeed. Norwegian cinemas started to reopen in May; from mid-June, most of them should be running again. At the time of the festival, we will have some knowledge of public screenings and the infection prevention measures that will be needed.

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The festival also hosts the national Amanda Awards, as well as the New Nordic Films industry days. Any alterations to the plans here?
The festival will certainly show signs of the current situation – we will screen a smaller number of films, and the arenas for our social gatherings will offer a one-metre space between the participants. As for the New Nordic Films market days, there will be a combination of physical events with presentations of films, works in progress and co-production projects, and a digital platform made available for those who, due to travel restrictions, will have to refrain from coming. We are currently creating some good digital solutions. Needless to say, we hope to physically welcome participants from both the Nordic countries and elsewhere. We will receive and forward all updates regarding travel rules. The next will be in mid-June, then again in mid-July.

What is your dialogue with the transport and health authorities like?
Very regular. We abide by every rule and recommendation. We are also open to swift and fast changes should another wave of infection occur in Europe or Norway in August. Right now, Sweden advises against all unnecessary travel until at least 15 July, but hopefully there will be new data before that. But nothing is certain. We are constantly monitoring the developments, and we have clear strategies for the changes that may occur. We are in regular contact with the transport authorities, who at this time have faith in the normalisation of traffic come August. All paying participants are guaranteed a full refund owing to COVID-19-related incidents, both when it comes to accreditation fees and hotel reservation costs.

If the worst comes to the worst, is there a plan B?
We’ve discussed all of it: the Amanda Awards scenario, the notion of just a local instead of an international festival, and even making New Nordic Films entirely digital. These solutions will remain in the back of our minds during the preparations. If push comes to shove, we will do a U-turn. We have the full support of everyone concerned: the local sponsors who’ve been with us for many years, and our local, national, Nordic and European funders. We are fully prepared to cope with a year with minimal revenue.

Of greater concern right now is how our industry has been hit. The production and distribution companies and the cinemas have been affected by the postponements of shoots and releases, lost funding, absent audiences… The number of films we will be able to screen this year, who will be able to afford to participate and whether our industry is back on track and good to go again in August – all of these aspects are of the utmost urgency right now. There’s certainly a whole new set of logistical problems to deal with.

One thing’s for certain: our industry needs to stand together and create strategies in order to come back stronger in a new post-COVID-19 reality. In this respect, meeting platforms such as ours may be even more important today than they have been for a long time.

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