Film incentives could flop

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A new report commissioned by the Ministry of Culture (Kulturdepartementet) has investigated whether Norway could stimulate the local film industry and boost tourism by offering incentive schemes for foreign filmmakers. While such schemes have been successful in other countries, report author Oslo Economics found there was no guarantee incentives would be as effective in Norway where production costs were already very high.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Company Nordic

Norwegian and Sami culture had a starring role in Disney’s Frozen (released under the name Frost in Norway), which opened last December. Visit Norway entered an agreement with Disney to include the film’s Norwegian inspiration in all the press materials. Now the Ministry of Culture is investigating introducing an incentives scheme to attract more foreign filmmakers to Norway. PHOTO: Walt Disney Company Nordic

About 40 countries worldwide offer filmmaker incentives. The report focused on schemes in Iceland, Ireland, the UK, France and New Zealand, which use methods including tax rebates for investors and direct subsidies to producers. Some countries only offer the incentives to foreign filmmakers, while others treat foreign and local producers alike.

Incentive schemes generally attract between five and 10 foreign productions a year, according to the industry. However, Oslo Economics warned that it may not be the most effective policy tool in Norway. Many of the countries Norway would be competing with to attract film projects have comparatively lower production costs to start with, and offer incentives on top of that. Even if Norway matches other countries’ schemes, its high costs mean it may still not be competitive. The cost of the scheme would likely increase over time, as countries compete to win projects.

The report said incentives probably would strengthen local industries connected to film production and reverse the trend of Norwegian producers making films abroad, if the scheme was also open to citizens. If Norway was to introduce a scheme, Oslo Economics recommended it follow the Icelandic model, where a production gets a rebate of 20 percent on its eligible expenses. The report said this scheme was simple, transparent and easy to put in place, and already has approval by the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority (ESA).

Starring Norway
Filming in Norwegian settings could also provide a boost for the travel industry. Tourism authority Visit Norway partnered with Disney over its latest animated film Frozen, where the film’s Norwegian inspiration was mentioned in all of the marketing materials.

Kristin Krohn Devold, the director of tourism at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon, NHO) said attracting more big films was vital. “This is one of the most important measures for Norwegian tourism,” she told newspaper Dagsavisen when the Oslo Economics study was first announced in January. “Let’s hope this becomes not just a study, but also practical measures.”

Culture minister Thorhild Widvey officially received the report on Tuesday. The ministry also commissioned a survey on the developments, economy and revenue streams of the Norwegian film industry, due in August.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate