Danish films participate in more than 400 festivals every year. But if the DFI was actually meeting the demand that’s out there, that number would be even higher.
"Once the film is launched, lots of other festivals will discover it and contact us. That’s what happened when "Love Is in the Air" was selected for Berlin this year."
"We work according to two principles," Andersen-Møller says. "There are a handful of A-festivals we simply have to be at, preferably with films in competition. We have a massive presence there. In Berlin and Cannes, for instance, we have a stand in partnership with Scandinavian Films. In addition, thanks to the good reputation of Danish films, there is a long line of festivals that would like to see us. We are very pleased about that and we make every effort to attend. Festivals are an important platform and meeting place, in terms of both broad cultural dissemination and the more commercial dimension."
The DFI’s festival team strives to create ideal conditions for the players in the industry. The DFI does not handle actual sales but supports distributors and sales agents in their work.
"We stage Danish films internationally and we have a good overall view with respect to disseminating Danish cinema culture. So, apart from creating a good framework for the commercial activities, we can expand Danish festival participation and put it into perspective. Having a strong film in competition at an important festival is, of course, a criterion of success for us. It creates attention and can act as a spearhead, for example in promoting new talent or making retrospective series available," Andersen-Møller says.
Laughter in Toronto and tears in Rome
The Danish Film Institute’s regular festival team consists of Lizette Gram Mygind and Christian Juhl Lemche, festival consultants for feature films, Anne Marie Kürstein, consultant for shorts and documentaries, and Pernille Munk Skydsgaard, head of Marketing & Festival Distribution.
Whether you’re dealing with features or documentaries, Kürstein says, it’s a question of finding the right match of film and festival. Kürstein notes the recent breakthroughs of Danish documentaries, also in terms of their sales potential.
"It has been exciting to work with films like "Enemies of Happiness", "Burma VJ" and "Armadillo" that treat important political themes with great artistic power," she says. "These films have enjoyed enormous dissemination and influence around the world, which was triggered by their launch at a festival."
When it comes to feature films, the festival efforts start with planning a strategy in close cooperation with the producer and the sales agent, Lizette Gram Mygind says.
"We watch the film together and decide what festival will be a good platform for the film’s international launch. In the process, we might look at whether a certain market for the film is untapped. If that’s the case, giving a potential local distributor the opportunity to evaluate the film’s playability in front of a local audience can be very beneficial. Once the film is launched, lots of other festivals will discover it and contact us. That’s what happened when "Love Is in the Air" was selected for Berlin this year."
With years of experience, first as head of marketing for a sales agent and now handling festivals for the DFI, Gram Mygind knows the job sometimes takes ice water in your veins.
"We sometimes have to remain patient and tell a producer or director, 'I don’t think what this festival is offering us is what's best for the film. I think the film can do better, let’s wait and see.' And of course, it’s hugely satisfying when we come out on top."
Gram Mygind sees some negative and some positive trends on the global festival circuit. An unfortunate trend is the major A-festivals increasingly demanding that the films they pick have their world premiere at their festival.
"By insisting so strongly on having world premieres and not just international premieres, festivals are missing out on some really good films. For producers, it can be a financial challenge when they have to keep a film on the shelf because they can’t give it a national premiere before its world premiere at a festival."
Then again, Gram Mygind sees a positive trend in festivals taking on the role of distributing small films on VOD. "The theatrical market is becoming increasingly polarised, and small films all too easily drown. The Tribeca Film Festival is a good example of a festival having established a distribution arm that enables more Danish films to reach a North-American audience."
At the end of the day, films meeting audiences is what makes it all worthwhile, the festival manager says. "When big crowds at festivals warmly receive the films you helped get out. It might be a packed theatre in Toronto roaring with laughter at a screening of Ole Christian Madsen’s "Superclásico". Or a cinema in Rome full of teenagers, plus the moderator, the director and me, all bawling our eyes out at Kaspar Munck’s "Hold Me Tight".Then it all comes together," Gram Mygind says before heading off to Berlin.
Read more about the film initiatives during the Danish EU Presidency 2012: