Gísli Snær: Framtakssemin okkur í blóð borin

Cineuropa ræddi á dögunum við Gísla Snæ Erlingsson forstöðumann Kvikmyndamiðstöðvar Íslands um íslenskar kvikmyndir, stöðu og horfur.

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Named in February 2023 for five years as the head of the Icelandic Film Centre, Gísli Snær Erlingsson is pursuing a very eclectic career: a graduate from La Fémis, he has also worked as a director (making the film Ikíngut) and director of the London Film School. We met up during the Industry Days of the 20th Reykjavik International Film Festival.

Cineuropa: What is the recipe for the Icelandic “miracle”, with rarely more than five films produced each year yet a great number of well-known filmmakers?

Gísli Snær Erlingsson: It no doubt comes down to an innate enterprising spirit. When the government decided in the 1980s to create a production fund and fiscal incentives, it quickly became evident that to make a film, additional investors had to be found outside Iceland. Little by little, the projects set up with many different countries influenced the people in Iceland, who understood that to promote and pre-sell a film aiming to find international distribution, it was important to focus on festivals. This was never an explicit strategy from the government, but rather the product of a reflection seeking to figure out how to obtain maximal exposure without spending too much money. Because besides shining a spotlight on certain films, festivals all want to discover new talents. It is thanks to this culture of festivals that Icelandic cinema grew, also because here, we have a passion for stories, especially those that concern the human condition. We are fully aware that a good story in Iceland is a good story everywhere, because human experience connects us all.

The current generation of filmmakers (Hlynur Pálmason, Rúnar Rúnarsson, Benedikt Erlingsson, Grímur Hákonarson, Baltasar Kormákur, Dagur Kári, etc.) is particularly brilliant. Does the future of Icelandic cinema look good?

Absolutely, because it is the product of an ecosystem. The support fund has made it possible to produce films that have attracted attention and made the number of shoots explode. Iceland has always been a setting beloved by Hollywood productions but in the past, they had to bring everything with them, while today, they only need to bring over the key roles because there is local know-how. We became an industry, people in Iceland have accumulated experience and perfected their craft on different types of projects. It’s a virtuous circle for all the Icelandic professionals whose abilities are enhanced when they work on their own projects. They’ve also acquired a very fine understanding of the ecosystem in Iceland, but also in Europe, which is essential in order to make informed decisions about where to spend your energy, where to find the best partners, which festivals to aim for, etc. We have a wonderful generation of filmmakers, but it is already impacting younger people, notably through image education and film schools where the new generation has no inhibitions and is already developing its own point of view.

What is the level of support granted by the Icelandic Film Centre?

It can range between 25% and 40% of a film’s budget. And each investment from the Icelandic government is tripled by the financing of other countries. We are of course very close to our cousins in the Nordic countries because we share many of the same topics of interest: politics, the environment, etc. Filmmakers, producers, institutions: we form a network in this geographic area where information about Icelandic projects in the making circulates very well, which of course stimulates co-productions.

How do you balance the need to develop local production and the need to attract international shoots?

It is of course dangerous to depend on one source entirely, but it is difficult to regulate an interest that generates jobs and financing. As I have said previously, this also allows us to grow as an industry. Most of the foreign productions who come here are indeed attracted to our landscapes, but they also come because we are perfectly equipped and experienced. It’s a delicate balance, but it establishes itself naturally. In fact, we’ve received a record number of Icelandic projects seeking support this year, which is a very good sign and says a lot about the quality of the selection.

What is the Icelandic position regarding streaming platforms?

Like all European countries, we are carefully weighing up the eventual level of regulation because we do not want to hinder the development of the industry. But streaming platforms must contribute to the local industry in the spirit of cultural diversity that has shown great results in Europe and which must be closely protected. Official Icelandic bodies are working on the question and we now have the Danish example as a potential source of inspiration. The decision isn’t in the hands of the Film Centre, even if we contribute to the reflection. Because it is important to examine the entirety of the equation without taking an emotional decision. And since Iceland is a very small country, we also waited to see what positions other European nations were taking on the subject.

Klapptré er sjálfstæður miðill sem birtir fréttir, viðhorf, gagnrýni og tölulegar upplýsingar um íslenska kvikmynda- og sjónvarpsbransann. Ritstjóri er Ásgrímur Sverrisson.