The Film Centre has beefed up its staff and started implementing changes to comply with the government’s ten-year plan to strengthen the local film and TV industry.

A year and a half after Iceland’s Ministry of Culture announced its first comprehensive film policy paper ‘Film Policy Until 2030-an Art form at a Crossroads’, the Icelandic Film Centre (IFC) is putting in motion the government’s priority measures around its four main objectives which are:

  • Create a rich film culture,
  • Strengthen the nation’s identity and language through film education,
  • Strengthen the industry’s competitiveness,
  • Strengthen Iceland’s international film branding.

To provide the means to its ambitions, the government has upped the IFC’s overall budget by 39.8% between 2020-21 to €11.0 million (ISK1.5 billion) and the approved state budget for the IFC in 2022 remains at the higher end at €10.8 million (ISK1. 67 billion).

Similarly, total funding for local film and TV projects has benefitted from a sharp 39% increase between 2020-21, from €7.6 million (ISK1.42 billion) to €10.5 million (1.45 billion), a level kept at €10.3 million (ISK 1.39 billion) for 2022.

Within that total budget, funding for TV drama between 2020-21 has spiked dramatically - up 130% to €2.9 million (ISK400 million) in 2021, with feature films & series, as well as documentaries, rising 16% and 35% respectively to €5.7 million (ISK770 million) for films & shorts and €1.9 million (ISK255 million) for documentaries.

In 2022, funding across all genres is stable, with €5.6 million (ISK755 million) for feature films & shorts, €2.9 million (ISK392 million) for TV series and €1.8 million (ISK250 million) for documentaries.

“The increased budget for TV series [between 2020-21] reflects the boom and higher demand in TV drama, boosted by the streamers", underscored Laufey Guðjónsdóttir, IFC director.

A proposed new TV Investment Fund - set to invest in up to 3 TV series a year, for the time being, and up to 10-12 series in the years to come- will soon be formalised by the IFC, in charge of its administration. “While we’re in the process of setting up this new TV Fund, we continue to support TV drama projects with more funding, both in development and as top up financing,” added Guðjónsdóttir.

To strengthen the Film Centre’s own manpower and facilitate the increased volume of applications, four new people with a strong production and screenwriting background, have been hired as film consultants: Baldvin Kári Sveinbjörnsson, Eva Maria Daniels, Helga Brekkan - all three are part-time consultants - and full-time employee Ottó Geir Borg. The latter is a screenwriter and has worked on as script consultant on Icelandic films for two decades and served recently as head of Development for Zik Zak Filmworks.

The new film consultants are working closely with Guðjónsdóttir and Head of Production Sigurrós Hilmarsdóttir.

Also recently appointed is Davíð Kjartan Gestsson, in charge of digital development and social media.

Meanwhile Steven Meyers who has worked over eight years as film consultant at the IFC, has now moved to Iceland University of the Arts to head its new Film Department.

“The Icelandic Film School has been running for many years, but not at university level. Now the setting up of this film department [at the University of the Arts], added for the first time, is a major step and within the Film Policy’s other objective which is to foster higher film education and film literacy,” noted Guðjónsdóttir.

Within its film literacy mandate, the IFC has initiated training workshops in cooperation with local companies and organisations - notably in documentary production and screenwriting, and hosted last November a major industry conference on film literacy and children. “The conference was a major success, and highlighted the need to improve storytelling for kids, especially in live action,” said Guðjónsdóttir who stressed the need to boost investment and artistic ambitions within kids and youth.

Besides film literacy, access to film content will be further reinforced, via the IFC, which is in the process of setting up a new streaming service, dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Icelandic film heritage.

According to Guðjónsdóttir, other priority areas for the Icelandic Film Centre are the following:

  • Film data and statistics, both on a national level and internationally, with key figures on export revenue, gender etc.
  • Sustainability, with a new collaboration with GREEN FILM - rating system and certification also used by nearly 20 film bodies including Vision Denmark and ANICA in Italy,
  • Promotion and marketing of Iceland as a filming environment, with a closer collaboration with Business Iceland’s Film in Iceland initiative.
  • Formalised collaboration with local film associations to improve the work environment.

Meanwhile, the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive setting the new rules of engagement with global streamers is yet to be processed.

Films and series coming up
Looking at the exciting Icelandic content for 2022, Guðjónsdóttir underlined the thrilling start of the year, with Vesturport and RÚV’s hit series Blackport, winner of the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize for Best Nordic TV Drama Screenplay, and record Icelandic presence at the Berlinale with three selected films (Beautiful Beings, Nest, Against the Ice) and Black Sands at Berlinale Series.

Upcoming Icelandic films include Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir‘s A Letter from Helga (Vintage Pictures/Zik Zak Filmworks), Elsa María Jakobsdóttir’s Wild Game (Zik Zak), Elfar Aðalsteinn’s Summer Light and Then Comes the Night (Berserk Films), Hilmar Oddsson’s Driving Mum (Ursus Parvus), Óskar Þór Axelsson’s Operation Napoleon (Sagafilm/Splendid Films), Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir’s children’s film 12 Hours to Destruction (The Icelandic Film Company) and the comedy The Very Last Fishing Trip by co-writers/directors Örn Marinó Arnarson and Þorkell Harðarson (Nýjar hendur ehf).

TV dramas lined up include RÚV’s drama by Eva Sigurðardóttir Fractures and Síminn’s My Wedding (follow up to My Funeral), both produced by Glassriver.

Documentaries to look forward include Margrét Jónasdóttir and Jakob Halldórsson’s Battle for Iceland (Sagafilm), Clara Lemaire Anspach and Karna Sigurdardóttir’s My Solveig (Zik Zak), Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir’s Band (Compass Films), Sævar Gudmundsson and Kreshnik Jonuzi’s Motherland (Purkur Productions/Top Neck Films), and Gústav Geir Bollason’s Mannvirki (Go to Sheep) among others.