What is talent development, and why is it important for the national and international film culture?

What will Danish film look like in ten or twenty years? There will certainly be films in Denmark, Danish film artists, films about Denmark, and films in Danish. But will we use the concept “Danish Film” with the same certainty that we do now? A great deal of space is devoted by the Danish media to Danish Film and its well-being: Can its success continue? Has it fallen behind? Has it taken on a TV series-like similarity? And what about the talents: Will they give Danish Film new life, artificial respiration, euthanasia or will they overtake everybody?

There was a time when Danish film people felt that Denmark’s true worth could be measured in its films, and it’s understandable that we would like to feel that experience again. There has been this notion that after Dogme 95 there will either be a new wave of the same dimensions, or else all is lost.

We who are working with new generations of filmmakers, we must be careful not to confound what we are good at with what we can imagine.Jakob Kirstein Høgel

Fortunately, this is a false dichotomy. The truth lies somewhere else. There are many ripples, many waves, and many more undercurrents in Danish film. There is an incredible amount of gifted and talented filmmakers and artists in Denmark – also in the younger generations. Over 200 semi-professional short films come out every year. There are some things we’re good at. There’s our way of relating to the world which is often rooted in a certain earnestness. There’s our way of taking our characters seriously, and there’s our way of telling stories that revolve around painful turning points that rarely lapse into casual fantasy. We believe in stories, and we believe that there are stories that seem more natural than others. There’s our way of working, always in a team, with a respect for everyone’s creativity. We use the latest technology, but that’s not what limits or challenges us, because we think that people, not technology, should decide.

These are some common strengths in the best Danish films. We should acknowledge what we are good at, because that is also close to what we want to do. What we think is good. But we who are working with new generations of filmmakers, we must be careful not to confound what we are good at with what we can imagine. In Heidegger’s words, the possible ranks higher than the actual. And from that comes a duty to keep a lookout for those who are doing something new or who are doing the same but in new ways.

Our experience in New Danish Screen (NDS) is that the talents who make personal films that clearly show what they can do also get the opportunity to make more films, even if their debut is not an audience success. The audience will come later, as they make more films.

More Waves

We have a group of young men in the form of Michael Noer, Tobias Lindholm, Anders August, Martin Zandvliet and Mads Matthiesen, who are in many respects a wave with a common starting point and collaborating together in different ways without the need to make a show of it. They have worked in new formats, including web documentaries and YouTube hits, but have gained recognition with their feature films, including NDS supported films like R and Applause.

The national support systems are increasingly challenged by talents who don’t care about national borders. It is a gift that the film environment around Øresund is so stimulating that many foreigners have a desire to make films here. Runar Runarsson, Samanou Acheche Sahlstrøm, Carlos Oliveira, Jeremy Weller, Emma Balcazar, Milad Alami and Daniel Borgman are among the directors who have been supported by NDS. Yet another type of wave.

It is the talent’s direction and energy that are vital because they are the film’s future.Jakob Kirstein Høgel

There are films that experiment with the borders between documentary and fiction, and this phenomenon has a name – “hybrid film” – even though the films themselves are very different. Ever since NDS got the chance to support documentary films in 2007, we decided to treat all films the same way during the entire development phase and not require projects to answer as to whether they were documentaries or fiction. Since there was also a strong desire among applicants to work on the borders between the two, a number of films were made which film historians will have to figure out how to classify. Christoffer Boe, Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Mikala Krogh, Mads Brügger, Ulrik Wivel, Fenar Ahmed, Jacob Boeskov, Christoffer Dreyer, Birgitte Stærmose, Ulrik Crone, Bente Milton and Mikkel Stolt – all have, with the support of NDS, created films in very different ways that play with the audience’s experience of authenticity.

NDS’s ability to support projects outside the traditional categories has released a creative wave of films that didn’t fit in and therefore had difficulty finding their way in the system’s classification boxes.

Challenged and hard at work

New Danish Screen supports talents and what they would like to do. It is the talent’s direction and energy that are vital because they are the film’s future. When NDS receives an application, the most important question to answer is: “Why have you decided to apply with this particular project? Does it have a challenge that you have not faced before? ”

NDS supports teams that push the boundaries of what they’re capable of, and it can be in any direction. As a director once said, “I’ve tried quirky, and it’s easy enough; the difficult part for me is to make a really well-told film.” The scheme has been exceedingly privileged to not have to reach a certain “target” with certain types of films or specific lengths. Applicants are challenged and put in hard work, but not by having to fit into a specific box.

The other major exploration of new territory for NDS in recent years has been along the borders between film and video games. The country’s first support scheme for video games was created in 2007 and placed within NDS. Besides the support that came for a long line of distinctive games, like Limbo, it also became clear that among both film and games people there is an interest in experimenting with narrative forms, interaction, and platforms.

To develop ideas and teams

Unlike films, where team formations occur naturally by themselves, we have seen that there are major cultural differences between film and games people when it comes to making creative trans-media collaborations work. To remedy this, in 2009 we started the annual Pixel Jam, a four-day course focusing on idea development and team formations across film, television, games and music. The two interactive projects which have been completed with NDS support so far, Cloud Chamber by Christian Fonnesbech and 48hr Games by Suvi Helminen, were created by teams that had been to Pixel Jam. There is no doubt that this field is in a rapid artistic development and has great business potential.

There are many other waves and currents apparent to us at New Danish Screen which are based on something completely different than Danish cinema’s past successes and which cannot be seen in the cinema or on TV channels, but that will certainly be felt by the audience on multiple screens in the future.

New Danish Screen’s role is and has always been to push forward the best talents by developing what they have to offer. The diversity of genres, methods, and narrative styles has only increased in the scheme’s lifetime.

Talents are not going to stop, so why not support them?