It’s right there in her name: Noemi Ferrer Schwenk is multi-European. With years of experience in the European production and distribution environments, on top of her German-Spanish ancestry, what more could you ask for in terms of international expertise?
Ferrer Schwenk is now putting this expertise to good use in her job as International Producer at the Danish Film Institute, a position she assumed last September.
"I knew quite a bit about the Danish production environment before I came to Denmark in 2009. But I was still deeply surprised when I first started working in the business. Man, I thought, there’s this huge desire to get involved internationally. In the DFI’s newly established international office we will now be able to meet that need and create a professional framework for cross-border partnerships," she says.
An important systematizing is to gather all the knowledge in a single place, Ferrer Schwenk says, referring to the office’s ambition to be a one-stop call for Danish producers looking for information about international conditions.
"That could be financing, EU funding, international training or anything else. I work closely with the Danish MEDIA Desk, so when producers write applications to MEDIA, they can now consult with my colleague Ene Katrine Rasmussen at MEDIA and come to me to get help to improve their projects' odds of passing muster with the EU-programme. We can provide a kind of reality check: Is the project realistic, does it hold up, are there other options?"
The international office not only makes its knowhow available, it also actively and assertively applies it.
"We keep track of international courses, co-production markets and training to hone skills in the industry. Because we see the big picture, we can provide very targeted support. There was an example recently where a co-production market in Lithuania held a Japanese forum for Japanese producers looking to meet Scandinavian producers. With a little research, we found a Danish producer who had a Japanese project in the pipeline. The producer went to Lithuania and had an amazing exchange."
Knowhow wins the day
Asked about the reasons for the heightened international outlook in Denmark over the last five to six years, Ferrer Schwenk points to filmmakers’ fatigue with the tried and true.
"A lot of directors and screenwriters are looking for new ideas, new partnerships and new places to tell stories about. They want to challenge themselves," she says. "I sense a creative drive. More people are leaving the country to get a fresh approach to filmmaking.
"As the ambitions grow, so do the budgets. Accordingly, it’s getting harder to get films financed," Ferrer Schwenk says. The fact that local sources of financing are increasingly drying up doesn’t help either. "There’s a long-standing tradition of financing projects locally in Denmark, and if additional financing was lacking, it could be obtained in the Nordic countries. That model is no longer sufficient."
Here, Ferrer Schwenk points to knowhow as a major asset. To find locations, funds and the network to make a film somewhere other than Denmark, you need all the knowhow you can get, she says.
"We already have an internationally oriented industry in documentaries and animation. In terms of features, we have a few, big players. But it’s not enough that only a few companies have gathered knowhow about working internationally. That has to become a part of the industry’s overall knowhow. We should help the young generation get out there. This is where the Danish Film Institute’s international office comes in: we can professionalize the international search, systematize and target it."
Interest is also flowing in the other direction, Ferrer Schwenk says. She gets a lot of inquiries from international producers about the conditions of co-producing under the auspices of the DFI’s subsidy system.
"I’m especially seeing an interest in working with Danish screenwriters," she says. Moreover, she points to Nicolas Winding Refn, Susanne Bier and Lars von Trier, as well as drama series like "The Killing" and "Borgen", both broadcasted on BBC, as terrific showcases for Danish producers.
"In the coming year, we’ll see a lot of films that were made with Danish money but are set elsewhere and reflect an opening up toward the world. Nikolaj Arcel’s Berlin contender "A Royal Affair" tells a story that’s set in Denmark in the 1770s but is actually a German-Danish story and was shot on location in the Czech Republic. We are a long way from Dogme here. Ole Christian Madsen’s Oscar-shortlisted "Superclásico" was filmed in Argentina, and Bier’s new romantic comedy stars Pierce Brosnan and was shot in large part in Italy. Nicolas Winding Refn recently started filming "Only God Forgives" in Thailand. Bille August has wrapped "Marie Krøyer", a period piece from the 1880s. The stories have clearly changed," she says.
"I sense the desire to get out there, to say, Yes, let’s do something together. In the good old Viking spirit, but without the raping and pillaging, 2012-style," Ferrer Schwenk jests. "Everyone – Swedes, Danes and Norwegians – going out and conquering the world, in the good way.
"It’s a revelation to see so much going on in the Scandinavian nations and the great focus, culturally and cinematically, on Scandinavia. We have a huge strength as a cultural region, and we have to capitalise on our natural synergies," Ferrer Schwenk says.
Read more about the film initiatives during the Danish EU Presidency 2012: