Vinca Wiedemann • Head of New Danish Screen
"Directors should have something at stake"
by Annika Pham
The Danish Film Institute’s new low-budget funding scheme, New Danish Screen (NDS), has had an exceptional success rate, with each one of its feature films selected at major film festivals: A Soap [+see also:
interview: Lars Bredo Rahbek
interview: Pernille Fischer Christensen
film profile], a two-time winner in Berlin 2006; Princess [+see also:
film profile] (released in France on October 4), selected at this year’s Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes; and Offscreen [+see also:
film profile], shown in the Venice Days sidebar. Vinca Wiedemann, the DFI’s artistic director and head of NDS, explains to Cineuropa the principles behind the new scheme.
Cineuropa: What was the main idea behind New Danish Screen?
Vinca Wiedemann: The key idea is that Danish films are experiencing quite a lot of success both domestically and internationally, and at a time of success you want to look forward. We found it important politically to create something for the new generation as well as for the more experienced filmmakers who feel cornered or always feel they are making the same kind of film and want to try new things.
Annette K. Olesen, for instance, wants to make a film with another female television director. So they’ve chosen to make a 30mm film as an experiment and to get more spontaneity. The film 54 centimetres explores what can happen when people get too close to each other. With Offscreen, Christoffer Boe wanted to direct something totally different and very risky, a project that would not have been accepted by the DFI’s more conventional production fund.
What are your selection criteria and the funds at your disposal?
NDS is supported by the DFI and Danish broadcasters DR-TV and TV2/Danemark. The maximum amount per feature film is around €600,000. We have €14m for four years but, again, we’re quite anarchistic in the sense that there is no specific number of films we have to back. It all depends on the applications we receive. Our money is risk capital so there is no recovery for us. We support non-fiction and feature films, shorts and feature-length projects. There is no demand for cinema distribution.
This is a low budget scheme built on the Danish tradition that having a small amount of money doesn’t prevent you from making a good film, as long as the artistic quality is there. Films, however, have to have a strong personal mark and the director should have something at stake. I’m the one selecting the projects and my philosophy is that if you have something at stake and are talented, then the film will hit a nerve. This is what matters, not if the images are beautiful.
Projects also have to have the audience in mind. We see film as storytelling, and storytelling without an audience is ridiculous. Furthermore, we want professionals, not amateurs, and we encourage filmmakers to work with a scriptwriter and producer from the very beginning. They can get private money as well but don’t have to. NDS is totally un-bureaucratic so projects can be made quite quickly.
Could NDS be applied to other European countries?
Of course, you can get inspired by a scheme from another country, but you have to be aware of the specific film tradition in that country and, very importantly, you have to get the support from the whole industry. In Denmark, at the beginning, the industry was divided but Zentropa (the biggest production company) backed us immediately and many people started to see the potential in it, including filmmakers. What is essential is to challenge people, and if people are challenged, then talent will blossom.
What other NDS feature films are going to be released in 2006-2007?
We have Anders Rønnow Klarlund’s How to Get Rid of Others coming out in the fall. It was produced by Louise Vesth for Zentropa Entertainment. Then Anders Morgenthaler’s next film Ekko, also produced by Zentropa, will be released in the spring.
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