Anna Croneman just became the 15th CEO of the Swedish Film Institute. She’s arguably the first one from the film industry in 42 years. Undoubtedly, we can expect a sharpened vision from the HQ of the SFI.

“Just to let you know before we start: I have not quite formed and/or formulated myself yet, in this role. And I don’t want to, until I’ve acquainted myself and gotten a grip on certain things.”

Once again, the Swedish Film Institute, SFI, has appointed a brand new CEO. That being said, Anna Croneman is nothing less than a vastly seasoned player on the Swedish film arena, bringing in experience and expertise via her tenures as film producer, production company head, and not least as head of the drama department at the Swedish public broadcaster SVT for the last seven years. It’s early May, and she is freshly installing herself in her new, yet familiar, domains, the mythical and architecturally brutalist Filmhuset building, the HQ of the SFI. And even before the first question, she delivers her first answer, as per above.

And, yes, there are certainly a few things to get a grip on, before anything else.

“For one thing, there’s a government inquiry being conducted on the national film policy, to be presented on June 11th, which will possibly get me in sync with forthcoming laws of the land. I’ve also yet to sit down at the table with the other representatives of the various sectors of our industry to have a look at the current state of that land. In short: I won’t talk about a strategy quite yet, because it’s just a tad too early at this point. I will have to get there as I move along, at least at this moment in time. It’s a different role that I’m stepping into. I need to investigate and find out where that role begins and ends.”

Let’s, then, do a brief CV. Anna Croneman’s career started right after high school, when she was working as a film production assistant. In 1993-95, she attended the Dramatic Institute producer programme, counting the budding director Lukas Moodysson among her fellow alumni; the two also created student exercises together. Her first credit as feature producer, the Lisa Ohlin-directed Waiting for the Tenor (Veranda för en tenor), appeared in 1998; the same year she started a five-year stint at Svensk Filmindustri, SF. In 2002, she attended the Media Plus Programme at the Film Business School. She has held board member positions with the Swedish Film & TV Producers Association (2005-12), the Stockholm University of the Arts (2011-14) and the Swedish Film Institute (as Vice Chairman 2012-14). Other producer credits include Kjell-Åke Andersson’s Berlin 2001-screened Family Secrets (Familjehemligheter) and a successful political miniseries drama trilogy of Hanne-Vibeke Holst adaptations, all directed by Kathrine Windfeld and all produced via Croneman’s own company Bob Film, which also shares co-credits on international productions by the likes of Michael Winterbottom, Radu Muntean and Maria Sødahl. In 2015 she co-founded Avanti Film, which was behind films by Pernilla August and Pernille Fischer Christensen. A gradual move towards the series format came to full fruition when she was appointed Drama Head at SVT in 2016 and until very recently, a position that gained her great acclaim due to her innovative choices and initiatives.

“It was a position I loved, as I did the opportunity to be involved with the content and how it was shaped. The Nordic Noir genre was starting to wear off, and new areas opened up for exploration, a situation I found very challenging, but also attractive. The first series I commissioned was Caliphate (Kalifat), a prime example of the ‘finding a news story and taking things deeper and further’ genre, which resonated real well with the audience.”

In early 2022, at a time when the CEO position at the SFI was also vacant, Anna Croneman was approached, but politely declined to be part of the recruiting process, still immersed in her television venture. Then came early 2024, and the offer was repeated.

“I tried to look into the crystal ball… and I sensed a newborn desire for the concentrated feature film form, whether on the big screen or the home screen. There are some great talents who have been working for television that should and would like to return to the classical feature format. This is also a time where the television industry is reshaping again, becoming more streamlined and mainstream. I sensed a pendulum swinging back again. This was when I decided to capture that momentum. And here I am.”

Her agenda is filling up, quite literally by the hour, these days and in the weeks to come.

“First of all, I’m getting acquainted with the staff and co-workers here in the building. I’m meeting with the Swedish film industry, and I’m going to sketch out and gradually define what is going to be the vision to be followed in Swedish film in the time to come, a strategic labour through which I also want and need to get the other public support institutions to work along with me. I hope to create a collaboration that is large in scope, where we may not always be in agreement on each small common denominator, but where we share an understanding of some of the challenges that we face, and of which strategy is the best one in order to go forward. Time and time again, in panels and debates, we fail to find a mutual perspective. Things have been polarised, to say the least, and I’d like to see an end to this. I want people to come to our house, to talk and communicate and discuss, I want things to turn good and even fun. I feel optimistic. I’ve already been called naïve, and that’s fine with me. You need to be an optimist in this job. Swedish film needs a good dose of self-confidence right now, and the audience needs to gain and regain confidence in Swedish films.”

She also looks forward to deepening the contacts between the Nordic countries.

“That’s another thing on my immediate agenda – meeting and getting to know my respective colleagues at the other Nordic film institutes. I have long experience in working across our shared borders, especially in television, where I brought especially Danish and Norwegian collaborators on board on several projects. Which, in the process, provided us with this great, creative pool of talented people. There are certainly differences between us in the various countries, language- and otherwise, but also similarities, and on an international level we are regarded as a common market. I’m really looking forward to and envisioning a great collaboration across our borders. We already collaborate of course, but not nearly enough. An observation I’ve made is that when we start talking about common Nordic projects, people tend to put their focus on period pieces. Personally, I wish that creative people would want to work with more contemporary stories.”

”Historically, the Swedish audience has had a strong confidence in Danish content, and has lately admired the Norwegian output. Regarding Finland and Iceland, there is of course the language difference, but they too have great talents. Potentially, the whole Nordic region could be watching, because we have now broken those walls with television.”

Consequently, she applauds the expanded use of the “Nordics” brand.

“I welcome the moniker ‘Nordics” in places like Cannes, replacing ‘Scandinavian’ and including the full region also in name. I look forward to interacting. The Danish Film Institute, too, has a brand new CEO, a great person at that. We face similar challenges, but at times our approaches differ, approaches that can be really stimulating and fun to discuss and take for a spin around the block.”

Anna Croneman is the 15th CEO of the SFI. According to some, she’s the first to come from the film industry since 1982, when writer-director (at times also actor) Jörn Donner left. Donner is sometimes on her mind, and even more so Harry Schein, the highly film literate and equally enterprising founder and first CEO when the SFI was launched in 1963.

“I re-read his memoirs and also re-watched the film about him, Citizen Schein, very recently. Sure, the 1960s and 70s were different times, but I get reminded that you need to take a lot of space in order to get things done, and you need to speak with a louder voice, from this house, for the sake of our film and our cinema, and to be bold enough to do it. Not so much talk about what art can do for society, I’ll leave that to the artists, but I want to enable those artists to work and perform and deliver, the way things should be in a functioning democracy. My belief is that these things should be spoken about, loudly and clearly.”

Nether does she shun the sometimes outspoken ways of her at times controversial predecessor.

“What was especially ingenious was the construction of the support system, ‘Filmavtalet’, where the government stood for one part, but where the industry then paid back a percentage of the ticket proceeds. Through this process, film came to be seen as an art form and a cultural force, and not solely a mass medium. And all parties contributed. Back then, this took place when television captured market shares from the cinema theatre. Today, we face a different but also related dilemma, with global streaming services versus a national cinema scene. Unfortunately no ingenious solution seems to be within reach. Of the Nordic countries, Sweden has the lowest market share right now. I really believe there is potential, but we certainly need more financing in order to succeed. And in this process, I’m right now sharpening the vision, for Swedish film and its raison d'être in the scheme of things.”

Already quite sharpened are her thoughts on the not always diplomatic demeanours of aforementioned CEOs Donner and especially Schein, and the fair share of controversy such actions in themselves can cause when applied.

“I’ve been called straight-to-the-point a number of times through the years, and I think I’ll try to keep it that way. And those who have asked for a political CEO have bet on the wrong horse this time. I have no intention, at the ripe age of 56, to start behaving differently. If and when I identify a proverbial spade, I shall continue to refer to it by that very name – nothing more, or less.”