Niamh Heery talks about the Nordisc Panorama Programme

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Niamh Heery recieved a bursary award to attend the Nordisc Panorama programme in September. Read about Niamh’s experience on the programme.

“I was funded by Screen Training Ireland’s international bursary scheme to attend Nordisc Panorama from 19-22 September. Screen Talent Europe is a network of film workshops, media centres and related institutions working to develop emerging talents in the film, TV, games and wider media industry. The Galway Film Centre and Filmbase are members of this network and selected me to be one of the 14 European delegates to be sent to the Nordisc Panorama.

Nordisc Panorama consists of two separate events, happening at the same time in Malmo, Sweden. The NP Festival is the largest in Scandinavia and premieres hundreds of Nordic and International documentaries. The NP Forum is an industry event which runs for five days and consists of training, workshops, networking events and pitching sessions.

For the Screen Talent Europe participants, a special schedule was set out for us which was intended to give us opportunities to learn from industry professionals, network amongst each other and also get access to the forum pitching sessions where feature length documentary producers and directors present their projects in front of commissioners from such large institutions as the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish Film Institutes, the main Scandinavian broadcasters, BBC, PBS and more.

The trip began across the famous bridge between Sweden and Denmark with a tour of the Danish Film Institute followed by a session on development and production with Prami Larsen, the manager of the Danish Film Workshop (DFW). Here we saw firsthand how the Film Workshop model, (one that most Scandinavian countries have adopted) works. The workshop is a one-stop shop for filmmakers where they can get training, support and funding for their films. It also has a direct line to the Danish Film Institute in the same building. Filmmakers submit detailed proposals on a quarterly basis and are then invited to use the workshop offices, edit suites, screening rooms and common areas as their production space for the duration of their film. It has fostered an incubator type atmosphere, where filmmakers can interact and share work, thus increasing the quality of the output. Interestingly, the DFW policy is to stay out of the editorial process, believing that the filmmakers should always have the creative control. The DFW has had numerous premieres at Berlin’s Bienniale and Cannes over the last number of years.

The following days were spent in Malmo with my fellow delegates. We started our Nordisc Panorama experience in the offices of documentary production company Auto Images, where we gave presentations to each other about our documentary work and then were delivered a case study of one of Auto Images most successful recent documentaries, Every Face Has a Name. The main researcher Sebastian Claesson, explained how much work went into finding the people who appeared in a piece of archive footage from the 1940s. While producer Ann Lundburg talked about the co-production elements of the documentary and how the international co-production model works within Sweden. This was particularly interesting for me as I did not know that it only takes one element of production to be taken on by a Swedish production company (sound mix, editing, etc.) to make a project from abroad eligible for accessing any of the main TV and Film Funds in Sweden.

The pitching sessions that I mentioned already were extremely eye opening. I have never seen so many of the ‘big players’ together in one room, dissecting a project, discussing what audience it would be suitable for, and talking numbers openly in a room filled with their peers. Budgets of well over half a million Euro were funded after the producers and directors showed trailers, pitched for their project and answered commissioning editors questions. It really opened up the often confusing animal that international co-production is. It showed me how many agencies it takes to get on board with a project for it to be funded and also gave insight into the fact that Scandinavian agencies have no problem at all funding international, English speaking documentaries. Given Ireland’s current financial state it was great to see that there is still access to money for good projects.

We saw two films at the festival and were given invaluable time with their directors. First was The Look of Silence, by Joshua Oppenheimer, the follow up film to his award winning The Act of Killing, about the massacres in 1965 in Indonesia. As a documentary filmmaker it was such a privilege to get to hear from Oppenheimer about his technical approach, legal and safety issues around the film, and other production related things that a normal press interviews don’t cover. His dedication to the subject was very inspirational.
The second film we saw was Blood Sisters, a premiere of Swedish director Malin Anderson. Totally different in approach it followed two sisters as they made their way through life in Malmo after a history of abuse in Azerbaijan. Malin Andersson came to the offices of Film i Skane, the film funding body of Malmo’s region, taking time to discuss her film and speak to us individually about our own work. The film was a co-production with the Irish Film Board and cinematographer was Kate McCullough, I talked with Malin about how the Irish interest came about. Malin is a very strong advocate of women working in film and we had an enlightening discussion about being women filmmakers and where my career is at right now. There was a very supportive environment and I could tell that all the participants benefitted from the session.

All in all, what I took away from my time in Nordisc Panorama is that the Nordic film industry is one that is very open to screening, funding and promoting work from other countries. I came away with many new contacts and a refreshed way of looking at the whole documentary process from a production perspective as well as new creative ways of looking at what a documentary can be. At this point in my career I feel it was the perfect time to take a leap inside the world of feature length documentary and see first hand how ideas are turned from concept to production through a very inclusive yet selective process. To have access to such high calibre talent, in a laid back setting really helped. I would definitely recommend any emerging directors or producers to look into attending it, especially with a programme that is curated specifically for people at this career level, such as Screen Talent Europe created.”

Screen Training Ireland take applications for the Bursary Award Scheme before the last Friday of each month.