How to Co-produce with Denmark

By Wendy Mitchell

"There are more and more Danish filmmakers venturing out there and figuring out how to finance films internationally," reports the DFI's International Producer Noemi Ferrer Schwenk.

International work is becoming more attractive both creatively and financially in Denmark, says Ferrer Schwenk, a veteran of Zentropa, the Irish Film Board, Eurimages and Germany’s Prokino, who joined the Danish Film Institute in September 2011.

Her job was created after a study done in 2010. “It identified that Danish films have a huge international potential but, probably given the amount of changes currently in the financing landscape of films like minimum guarantees no longer being available for smaller films, VOD revenues not replacing DVD yet, TV having a different remit right now, there would be a need for people to find some money outside of Denmark or even Scandinavia,” Ferrer Schwenk notes.

Italy, Argentina, South Africa …
That financial shift comes at a time when creative impulses are expanding abroad as well. She explains:

“There is a creative drive of directors and writers in Denmark who were bored with kitchen sink drama. They had explored all of Danish society and politics, so they began working on scripts set somewhere completely different.”

That includes Susanne Bier’s Italy-set Love Is All You Need, Tobias Lindholm’s Somali pirate story A Hijacking, Ole Christian Madsen’s Superclasico set in Argentina, and Kristian Levring’s Western The Salvation currently shooting in South Africa.

“They have to go out and find funds from somewhere else because they are shooting somewhere else,” she says of the modern era of Danish filmmakers. “Producers are being pushed outside. They feel that they want to tell different stories, and they know that they will have to learn more about international co-production.”

The Right Direction
As part of her multi-faceted job, Ferrer Schwenk gives Danish producers the tools they need to work successfully internationally, such as organising seminars and talks from potential foreign partners. She also guides them to the right international events – for instance, getting Danish producers involved earlier this year with Rotterdam’s CineMart, the Berlinale Co-Production Market and the producers’ workshop EAVE.

They had explored all of Danish society and politics, so they began working on scripts set somewhere completely different.Noemi Ferrer Schwenk

Her position encompasses supervising funding of minority co-productions, working with Eurimages and the MEDIA Desk, and consulting about international opportunities with Danish producers.

“I can lead them in the right direction about other funds, or put them in touch with people who could be good co-producers,” she says.

There is a long tradition of the Nordic countries co-producing with each other, which continues to be healthy.

“We’re trying to not lose the ties to the north but at the same time enabling people to work outside of Scandinavia and to be curious enough to possibly work with completely different parts of the world.”

First Co-production with Israel
Change is already tangible, as more non-Nordic minority co-productions are being put forward for DFI Funding. Recent awards include two projects with Poland – Pawel Pawlikowski’s Sister of Mercy and Anna Kazejak’s The Word, plus there is a first co-production with Israel being backed. She says Denmark working with Israel is “a real breakthrough.”

Other recent co-productions include British director Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman (Cannes competition), Irish animator Tom Moore’s The Song of the Sea, and Boris Rodriguez’s Eddie The Sleepwalking Cannibal with Canada.

The DFI’s backing for minority co-productions is now steady at 1.6 million Euros per year through 2014 (supporting 6 to 9 films per year). Some projects have gotten backing of up to 335,000 Euros per project. “In the future if a project is very interesting we could be able to go a little higher than that,” she adds.

Even with that pot of funding, co-producing with Denmark doesn’t make sense financially for many productions, partly because there is no tax incentive as is found in many other countries or US states.

One new initiative that could make Denmark more attractive to foreign producers will be the launch later this year of the Copenhagen Film Fund, which was confirmed in January and is expected to be operational this summer.

“With the possibility of getting additional money from Copenhagen Film Fund, it makes more sense for foreign producers to invest,” she notes.

The Fund, which is completely separate from the DFI, is likely to have a budget of 4.7 million Euros over three years, to support 10-15 projects.

From the top:

Sally Potters Ginger & Rosa is co-produced by Jonas Allen and Peter Bose for Danish Miso Film. Photo: Nicola Dove

DFI’s international producer Noemi Ferrer Schwenk. Photo: Thomas Tolstrup

FAQ: How to co-produce with Denmark

What kind of funding is available in Denmark for co-productions, and how do I find a Danish co-producer? Here are a few straight answers.

Q: What kind of funding is available in denmark for co-productions?
A: The Danish Film Institute (DFI) has minor-coproduction schemes for feature fiction and animation films with three deadlines a year, and for short and documentary films with two deadlines a year. DFI may support 6-9 minor co-productions in feature films and 4-6 minors in short and documentary films a year.

Q: What are the requirements for applying for funding?
A: If you have a project you would like to co-produce with Denmark, the first step is to find a Danish co-producer. The Danish co-producer can then apply to the DFI. Also, there must be Danish creative or technical participation in the production plus a distribution deal for theatrical distribution in Denmark or broadcast on national Danish television.

Q: How do I find a danish co-producer?
A: These are good places to start:

Our online trade directory DFI-Bogen contains contact info on people, companies and institutions in the Danish film industry. You can find the directory in an English version:

Also, check our annual Facts & Figures brochure to see which minor co-productions were supported in previous years and which producers have been active internationally:

In the case of documentary films, try Filmkontakt Nord who promote international networking in documentary and short filmmaking. The office can give you an idea as to whom it might be interesting to contact:

Finally, MEDIA Desk Denmark offers general guidance about the Danish film, TV and game industry. The MEDIA Desk has a large Danish and international network and can mediate contacts to co-production partners:

Q: How will the project be evaluated?
A: The project evaluation is based on the following aspects: artistic qualities, the creative and financial collaboration between the Danish and international producer, including previous collaborations and future plans, the Danish share of the creative and technical collaboration, and the distribution potential.

Q: Which amounts are we talking about?

A: Features are typically subsidized with grants of up to 335,000 euros. The overall budget for minor features is 1.6 million euros per year. The DFI is able to allocate funding up to a maximum of 60% of  the Danish spend. For shorts and documentaries, there are no fixed budgets.

Q: What about regional film funds – how do they work?
A: There are three regional funds in Denmark:

The West Danish Film Fund in Denmark’s second largest city of Aarhus supports and invests in co-productions that have a Danish artistic or technical participation with a connection to the region. A recent example of a minor co-production is the Irish-Danish Song of the Sea (in production), co-produced with the Danish company Nørlum.

FilmFyn invests in national and international film and TV productions that provide business and exposure to South Funen. A recent minor co-production is Swedish-Norwegian-Danish-German-Dutch Simon and the Oaks, co-produced by Asta Film.

Finally, Copenhagen Film Fund, launched on 25 January, is expected to be up and running by summer. The fund will mainly be supporting major co-productions, TV series and, in exceptional cases, documentaries.

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