Í dag er síðasti starfsdagur Laufeyjar Guðjónsdóttur sem forstöðumanns Kvikmyndamiðstöðvar Íslands, en hún hefur stýrt KMÍ frá 2003. Laufey ræddi við Nordic Film and TV News um reynslu sína.
Á vef Nordic Film and TV News segir:
Guðjónsdóttir first joined the Icelandic Film Centre in 2003 from her earlier job as head of acquisition for the Icelandic pubcaster RÚV.
She has an overall 30-year experience across film, media, promotion, managing and film & TV financing and has been involved in various cultural activities all through her career.
Her successor who will be appointed for a five-year term, will be announced imminently by Iceland’s Ministry of Culture and Trade.
You’ve been 20 years at the head of the Icelandic Film Centre. What are your memories from your early days?
Laufey Guðjónsdóttir: Yes I was indeed trusted to build it up in 2003, when the Icelandic Film Centre replaced the existing Icelandic Film Fund. At the beginning it was a very simple organisation, with one deadline a year, without a fully-fledged structure. I was given the task to set up a new institution and we looked very much towards the Nordic countries as a model.
I’ve been fortunate to work with great colleagues over the years. When we started, we were very few, and when I hired people I told them: are you ready to explore what your job will be about as this is virgin territory! Of course we knew what it was about, but not how it would concretely take shape. It was a step by step process.
It was therefore important for you to get the government’s support and make politicians understand the dual role of film and TV drama on a cultural and economic standpoint …
LG: Absolutely. I was fortunate to get the trust from politicians. Setting up such a central funding body meant getting politicians and the local industry together, and creating a constant dialogue. We needed to put everything in place, such as the standard contracts for support. I remember at the beginning, when our lawyer started laughing. He said ‘I have never met a client who keeps thinking of the customer, rather than your own business!’ – we had to establish the ground for a fair support system for our local industry, and we received very useful advise from other Nordic countries.
We got the trust from politicians, but we still had to fight for a contract that would help the industry set the foundation for a sustainable business, with a four-year plan for support, not based on year by year funding. We obtained this in 2006, and since then, it’s been a rolling system of renewal, until the major Film Policy Paper 2020-2030 launched two years ago.
It also took time for the industry, to trust the system. There is a mix of transparency, discretion that needs to be accepted by all.
It is a small industry, and there must have been stiff competition both for access to funding and international recognition. But do you feel the industry rapidly developed a sense of community and solidarity?
LG: Yes in the early days, it was more of a fight, with people competing for money for the best project. But indeed, a big part of the success of Icelandic films and series is this strong sense of solidarity which has been a real benefit for the entire industry.
We have for instance helped the association of film directors and writers organise workshops. It’s a very democratic set up. This peer support is absolutely crucial in our small industry.
The Policy Paper was a major step in creating a sustainable industry…
LG: Absolutely. It was a historical step. With the way the industry is being transformed, under the digital age paradigm shift, it is essential to have a stable public body and support to defend our cultural values, language, talents, innovation and creativity as a whole.
You have of course also seen the emergence of drama series that has created a new springboard for writing, acting, directing talents…
LG. When we set up the first support system for TV fiction, in the beginning, we didn’t have many applications-let’s say not many quality ones. But it has been spiralling in the right direction, and many new talents have been able to take advantage of this development in the industry.
Another important aspect that you’ve tried to improve is gender equality and diversity. Do you feel you have made significant progress in this area?
LG: It has improved, and we’ve tried to incentivise more women to come forward and submit their projects. We do have more female directors, and recently, actors have turned to directing and/or writing such as Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir and Anita Briem. But we have to do much better; we’re not there yet.
What have been the biggest challenges for you during those two decades at the IFC?
LG: We‘ve had the financial crisis that has impacted our industry in the late 2000. It took a while to recover from the major financial cuts to our budget. Then the digital transformation has been challenging, like everywhere else in the world, but also rewarding, as we are technically advanced here. Still, it’s an on-going process, but the biggest threshold is probably behind us now.
More specifically about the IFC, saying no to projects and people is always hard. We always try to explain why and be as open and honest about it. Then, even though filmmakers make wonders with limited resources, money remains an issue. But we have been lucky until now to have a consensus regarding the main funding structure across film, documentary, TV fiction.
Iceland has one of the highest annual cinema-going habits per capita in the world. Is this still going strongly after Covid and are you satisfied with local films’ success on home turf?
LG: Covid has slightly impacted this trend. It’s hard to discuss market share in Iceland as there are so few local films made each year and US movies overwhelmingly dominated national screens. Still, we’ve had a very good start of the year, with two Icelandic films at the Top 10 last weekend -Operation Napoleon by Óskar Thór Axelsson and Wild Game by Elsa Maria Jakobsdóttir – another new female director. Bío Paradís has been picking up nicely as well.
In the early 1980s, up to one third of the nation would watch films in cinemas. Now, it’s different for sure, maybe 5-10% of Icelanders do, but we have a totally different screening landscape with content available on different platforms. We will actually combine our film data across all platforms, including TV and VOD, because in the end, it’s about how many Icelanders watch Icelandic films-whatever the platform.
What are the main issues in the industry that your successor will have to address?
LG: Gender and diversity are still major issues. We have to formalise social and environmental sustainability, improve training and film literacy.
What are the latest news on the TV Investment Fund, part of the new Film Policy Paper?
LG:The Ministry together with the industry and IFC have worked on law and regulation for the new TV investment Fund. The financing and setup for the new TV Investment Fund still needs to be agreed, so most probably it won’t happen before 2024.
Have you been satisfied with the support you’ve had on a Nordic level?
LG: Absolutely. Our Nordic family and collaboration through Nordisk Film & TV Fond and Scandinavian Film is super important and valuable. Although we are different nations, our similarities are stronger than our differences. When I first set up the IFC, I looked at what Denmark was doing and I got amazing support from Henning Camre and his team. And now Claus Ladegaard and his team have been very generous on sharing their experience on film literacy.
On a personal level, are there celebrations of films or talents that you remember with fondness?
LG: There are so many moments…it’s hard to choose. It has been going upwards year after year. I’ve been so lucky to work next to so many amazing talents. It took some time for Iceland to win at the Nordic Council Film Prize and that came in 2014 with Of Horses and Men. Another landmark recognition was the Icelandic Film Week at the Lincoln Centre in New York in 2012. Last year alone, we’ve had a fantastic presence at the Berlinale, Cannes, Tallinn and documentaries are growing as well. On the TV side, we had Blackport, Black Sands last year, that did really well worldwide.
What’s next for you?
LG: I’ll first take a break for a few months. I’d love to work as consultant on art projects. But we’ll see!