The knowledge and experience of Estonian production companies in working with international film crews and the presence of a wide range of skills, relatively low filming costs, high-tech goods and services are some of the positive aspects that should boost Estonian-Nordic cooperation in the fields of the film industry and TV production. Add in good Russian language skills and knowledge of the Russian film landscape and the reasons for closer contact in the Nordic-Baltic region become obvious.

These are just some of the thoughts aired by the Nordic and Estonian film and TV production experts who took part in the Nordic Look 2013 seminar "New beginnings – production and promotion of films and drama series in Estonia" in Tallinn and a study trip to Ida-Viru County on 7 & 8 June. The seminar on 7 June at the Tallinn University Baltic Film and Media College in Tallinn was aimed at Nordic film and drama series production companies, Estonian film production companies and support service companies. Success stories from Nordic and Estonian film production were introduced, as well as discussions on cooperation opportunities between film and series production in the region. Around 60 participants attended the seminar.

Besides its own possibilities Estonia can be seen as a gateway for Nordic film crews to other markets, such as Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union. A further possibility is to use the advantages of shooting films in Estonia when Nordic countries co-produce films with production companies from Asia.

In addition, in 2013 the first regional Estonian film fund – Viru Filmifond – was established in the eastern Estonian region of Virumaa with the objective of encouraging international crews to shoot their films there.
Kai Nordberg and Camilla O'Connor from the Finnish company Making Movies OY shared their filming experiences in Estonia. The film industry as such needs a lot of resources and when filming in a country as small as Estonia one should bear in mind the potentially limited resources of equipment and skilled workers. On the other hand, Nordberg and O'Connor acknowledged the efforts of the Tallinn University Baltic Film and Media School in educating future film professionals and the flexibility of the local crew. Despite the fact that filming isn't necessarily more budget-friendly in Estonia, Nordberg and O'Connor are planning to shoot a new film in the country early next year.

Nordic success stories

In recent years, Iceland has gained increased attention in the global film industry and attracted several internationally acclaimed film directors. Icelandic law and regulations support international film crews in shooting films in Iceland by making it possible for them to apply for the reimbursement of their film and TV production costs in Iceland. The aim is to build up a film industry in Iceland by promoting the history and nature of the country, as well as to encourage stronger links between Icelandic filmmakers and the international film community, explained Ari Kristinsson, project coordinator at the Icelandic Film Centre.

The production and planning of TV series were presented by Norwegian producers as well as work behind the scenes on the popular series Lilyhammer, Taxi, Øyenvitne and Mammon.

Tone Rønning, the NRK producer behind the internationally successful Lilyhammer, said that she expected the series to become a hit at home in Norway (and maybe in Sweden as well, since the Swedes like to laugh at Norwegians) but that international attention is considered more of a bonus. The series has been sold to about 180 countries worldwide. Behind such a triumph is the excellent cast, film crew and last but not least scriptwriter. According to the Norwegian producers the team of scriptwriters behind the successful series varies a lot, from professional writers to graphic designers.

Gunnar Carlsson, CEO at Anagram Film AB, presented the Swedish-Danish co-production of the TV series The Bridge, which was the first joint creative and financed production between the two countries. The TV series was furthermore co-founded by Norwegian and German public service broadcasters. Co-productions may therefore be a practical solution to secure funding for high-quality productions, although it may involve difficulties with language differences and working practices.

Female characters

The fact that Nordic TV series are so popular is also underlined by the fact that the formats are widely copied around the world. The rather autistic female cop character from the Danish The Killing and Swedish-Danish The Bridge are just some examples according to Carlsson. Although The Killing unleashed a so-called snowball effect and draw attention to other Nordic TV series, for example on BBC4, the series are designed for a rather elite audience, said Carlsson.

Denmark is recognised worldwide for its films, not just its successful TV series. Domestic films are very much loved, especially family comedies, said Peter Schepelern, Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen. The way was paved for the success of the Danish film and TV industry decades ago when the Danish authorities decided to sink bigger resources into the audio-visual industry, explained Schepelern. The state supports the industry, despite the huge risks it presents. Like Carlsson, Schepelern pointed out the outstanding female characters as one of the success factors of Danish films.

The seminar ended with a study trip to Ida-Viru County. The attendees were introduced to possible shooting locations in the region, including the Kohtla Mining Park, the city of Sillamäe with its authentic Stalinist architecture and the Ontika limestone coast. The trip enabled the participants to network and discuss experiences and ideas, as well as brainstorm on potential film projects.

Nordic Film Days

During the Nordic Film Days, lasting from 3-9 June, the Rooftop Cinema and Kino Sõprus in Tallinn screened films and documentaries (such as Palme, Sugar Man and Armadillo) from all five Nordic countries. Some of the films were introduced by experts and followed by a discussion in which the audiences could ask questions.

One of the most popular movies was the Norwegian documentary Liv & Ingmar, introduced by Jan Erik Holst from the Norwegian Film Institute. The screening of the Finnish film Red Forest Hotel, which tells the story of a cameraman's attempts to make a film about China's efforts to prevent climate change, led to a long discussion between the audience and the film's director, Mika Koskinen.

The creative industry series Nordic Look was organised for the third year in a row – this year from 3-9 June in Tallinn and with a focus on the film industry. The Nordic Look 2013 was organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers' Office in Estonia and in association with the Nordic embassies in Estonia, the Black Nights Film Festival, the Estonian Film Institute Foundation and other partners. The event was supported by the Estonian Film Industry Cluster and the European Union Fund for Regional Development.