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Too Many Doing Too Little: On Contemporary European Film Production Cultures

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Keywords
  • Production Cultures
  • European Film
  • Performing Arts
  • Cultural Sciences
  • Arts And Architecture
Disciplines
  • Design
  • Economics
  • Philosophy

Abstract

Too Many Doing Too Little On Contemporary European Film Production Cultures In a majority of Western European countries, the two concurrent, post-World War II tendencies of increasing economic difficulties for the national film industries and the developing recognition of film as a significant contemporary art form were imperative for the introduction of film support. With Hollywood dominating screens, the aim of the subsidies, as well as other protectionist measures, has been to support producers so that a domestic, alternative supply to the US fare will continuously be available. Frequently, some kind of aesthetically discriminating mechanism has also been in place with the intent to influence the output towards types of films that were particularly revered nationally and/or critically. Hence, art cinema in the vein of Ingmar Bergman, as well as other sorts of non-mainstream forms, appears to have been favored by the support agencies in Sweden, to take just one country. Nevertheless, conceived as systems of support for national industries, and despite an escalating number of films being made, it appears that the introduction and eventual establishment of film support is closely correlated with an increasingly fragmented and weak production environment in Europe. According to a recent report, whatever existed in the form of, for instance, vertically integrated companies have almost all but disappeared. Moreover, success stories within the production sector are few and very far between. What characterize the field are, instead, innumerable very small production firms. The large majority of these, in turn, are marked by their low level of capitalization and, therefore, their restricted access to the benefits and credits of the financial market. They are also understaffed as well as lacking in resources and general know-how. Most of them, accordingly, succeed in making just one feature film per decade and sometimes only a single work during their entire life span. Similarly, most individual screenwriters, directors and producers tend to work extremely sporadically while film worker’s earnings have generally remained low. In this paper, industrial and infrastructural developments within the audiovisual industry in Scandinavia – seen as a synecdoche of Europe – from the introduction of film support in the 1960s and onwards, will be traced and analyzed. Among them are the consequences of the administrational principle that support is and always has been awarded to individual films rather than, say, a slate of works or to a particular producer or company. Bibliography Bondebjerg, I., Novrup Redvall, E., Hedling, O. et al. (2011), A Small Region in a Global World. Patterns in Scandinavian Film and TV Culture, (Copenhagen: European ThinkTank on Film and Film Policy). Hedling, O, (forthcoming), ‘Making Films in Scandinavia: On Work and Production Infrastructure in the Contemporary Regional Sector’, in Dawson, A. & Holmes, S. (eds.) Working in the Global Film Industries: Systems, Space, Patronage, and Creativity, (London: Bloomsbury) Mayer, V., Banks, M & Caldwell, J (2009) Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries, (London: Routledge). Olof Hedling is an associate professor in film studies at Lund University, Sweden. For some years he has worked on the phenomena of European film policy, regional film funds and regional film and television production. Of late he has co-edited the collection Regional Aesthetics: Locating Swedish Media (Stockholm: Royal Library, 2010) and co-guest edited a Film International special issue on the subject of Making Movies in Europe: Production, Industry, Policy (2010). Most recently his article ‘Looking for Robin 2.0: Notes on a Completed PhD-project a Decade Later’ was printed in Cineaction 84 (2011).

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