Sweden — with its midnight sun, northern lights and areas with certainty of snow — is attracting filmmakers from all around the world. Besides an exotic environment, Sweden has other advantages as a shooting location. But some argue for further incentives if we are to continue successfully attracting international productions.
No time spent waiting for snow. Photo: Henrik Trygg/Image Bank Sweden
Science fiction film Babylon AD, Lars von Trier’s critically acclaimed Dancer in the Dark, Anton Corbijn’s forthcoming film The American — Sweden has considerable experience of hosting the shooting of foreign (and Swedish) feature films.
Berit Tilly is a film commissioner with the Swedish Lapland Film Commission, where one of her jobs is to attract major film companies to the Norrbotten region of northern Sweden.
“We have a totally unique environment,” she says. “We also have lots of snow, and in particular a close understanding of snow.”
It’s a successful concept. Although set in the Stockholm suburb of Bromma, 90 percent of the internationally successful Swedish movie Let the Right One In was shot in the northern city of Luleå.
Financial incentives the next step?
In many countries, governments are increasingly offering discounts, tax relief and other incentives in a bid to attract foreign filmmakers. One reason is that a growing number of regions have come to realize that films are a powerful marketing tool because they encourage what is known as ‘film tourism.’
Think how much Lord of the Rings has meant to New Zealand, or what a boost Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona has given Barcelona as a place to visit. Here, the Spanish state saw a golden opportunity and financed about ten per cent of the budget. Sweden, too, is attracting film tourists — most recently to Stockholm in the case of visitors interested in the Millennium movies — but incentives similar to those found abroad are lacking.
Mikael Blomkvist's apartment from the Millenium films attracted its own share of tourists. Photo: Fredric Reglain/Image Bank Sweden
“We’re working with one of the largest industries in Sweden, and this must be taken seriously,” says Per Hjärpsgård of the Mid Nordic Film Commission, which markets the regions of Jämtland and Härjedalen.
“There are strong reasons for film teams to come here,” he adds. “Our proximity to major towns makes us accessible, while we’re still close to unspoiled wilderness. We can guarantee snow for five months, we have fantastic studio facilities and we’re close to international airports.”
The Swedish film brand
Tomas Eskilsson of Film i Väst, a company that invests SEK 65-70 million in features films every year, does not however see the need for any general measures to attract foreign film production to Sweden. Instead, he advocates increasing the amount of production funding for international co-productions led by non-Swedish producers.
“The advantage of such a model is that potentially it enables Swedish producers to strengthen their international networks and to eventually increase the amount of international financing in their projects,” he says.
“Swedish movies that are international hits open people’s eyes to Sweden as a film country. It’s these movies and internationally successful non-Swedish movies made here that build up the Swedish film brand and promote Sweden as a ‘film country’.”
In the absence of tax relief, Sweden’s production centers are currently discussing the possibility of marketing their own package discounts for things like local air travel, hotel accommodation, technical equipment and the like.
Reputable efficiency and skills
Besides exotic environments, there are other factors that enhance Sweden’s reputation as a good country for film production. Swedish film workers, for instance, are in great demand in the international arena. And film companies that choose to locate their productions in Sweden don’t have to contend with wearying bureaucracy and uncertainty, whether they’re shooting in Roy Andersson’s independent Studio 24 in central Stockholm or in a snow-clad landscape in Lapland.
Roy Andersson on the set in his Studio 24. Photo: Sören Andersson/Scanpix
Ingrid Rudefors, of the Stockholm Film Commission, says: “Everything seems very efficient and straightforward in Sweden — we have experienced teams used to working with foreign teams, in part thanks to major US and German commercials having been shot here, and as a result of which there are no more language barriers.”
Rudefors also emphasizes the advantage of Sweden’s ‘small’ cities. “It’s easy to keep in close touch with the decision-makers concerned when shooting in our cities since our cities are small,” she says.
Tomas Eskilsson also emphasizes the importance of regional efforts: “Regional support is often absolutely decisive when companies decide where to locate. Regional film investment programs are one of our strengths. It’s these initiatives above all else that have led to so many non-Swedish films being made here.”
Berit Tilly of the Lapland Film Commission sees the balance between nature and good infrastructure, including internet connection, as a definite competitive advantage for Sweden.
“Sweden is known for its skilful film workers — we’re incredibly conscientious and reliable,” she says. “We have no economic turmoil, no terrorists and we speak very good English. Also, we have incredibly good infrastructure and internet in even in the tiniest village. I doubt there’s any other country where you can be in the mountains and have good access to the net.”
Aleksander Kovacevic is a freelance journalist based in Stockholm. He works for the Swedish public service broadcaster SVT as well as a dozen glossy magazines.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
Translation: Stephen Croall
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