"To Create a Film Movement": Janine Euvrard Interviews Fest Director Git Scheynius
Give me a little outlook on when, how and by whom the festival was created.
My husband founded the festival in 1990 with a couple of friends and I was amongst them. The festival is now fourteen years old. At the time, we were already in the film business. The special quality and conception that we wanted for the festival was clear to us right at the beginning: to create a platform in order to give the audience the possibility of seeing new films. We also wanted a platform for Swedish films. And we started out with a scholarship which is now the most important short film scholarship in the Scandinavian area, called One Kilometer Film, this allows us to produce one short film a year.
When you say you had a clear idea of what you wanted, by new films, do you mean young film directors?
Young in their minds. We were looking for new orientations in the cinematographic field – new in their form, new in their script, new in the way of telling a story. After a couple of years we decided that the competition should consist of first, second or third films. It was for us a way to stick to that concept.
Variety of Sections
How many sections are there, and did you immediately start off with all the present sections?
No. Now there are twelve different sections. The Asian section started in 1996, we were always very interested in Asian cinema. In 2000 we started the I section, the I stands for Independent and Internet. This internet section has half a million viewers. The Northern Lights section was created in order to promote Nordic films. As early as 1991, we decided we wanted more than just to be a festival. We wanted to work towards creating a film movement which would give the Nordic films a larger possibility of distribution. We started screening films every summer and the fist summer we already had an audience of 30.000 visitors, it filled the entire Royal Garden of Stockholm. We also edited a film magazine, Cinema, but for financial reasons it only lasted eight years. In 2000 we started a festival for young viewers which takes place in spring, We also entertain a film club. Every month we show new films at the cinema Scandia of which we own a part. All this makes the originality of the festival: our desire to create a film movement and not just to organize a festival once a year.
Festivals in Sweden
What is the difference between your festival and the Göteborg festival, is there any competition between the two festivals or do you sometimes collaborate?
We don’t collaborate. There are five festivals in Sweden and the good thing is that they are all very different. Stockholm has been very successful with its international platform. Göteborg focuses more on Nordic films, they have a very strong Nordic profile which is a good balance for the two of us.
Selection of Films
How do you select your films, do you travel a lot and how many people do you have on the selection committee?
Three people work on a daily basis with a program coordinator, five to six people work on the program committee. Of course we travel, we go to Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, Sundance. We have a spotlight every year, so if the spotlight is in Asia we go to different festivals in Asia. The festival is a non profit organisation, therefore we work with people we know in various countries who give us suggestions. We read a lot and more and more films are sent to us. This took time of course, but after ten years we are well known and professionals trust us. A couple of days before the deadline we received seven boxes filled with films and we had to take in extras for screening them. Our reputation and our aim is now very clear and respected amongst film makers.
How is the festival financed?
It’s a three-part operation. One part is the money from the tickets sale and the membership cards, the other part is sponsorship and advertisements and the third is support from the government, the Stockholm city and the council. At the start we only got 5 percent support from the local government and it has raised to what it is today, the third of the budget. That is a perfect match, that’s the way it should be.
With all those different sections, how many juries do you have and what are the prizes?
We have two juries. A festival jury which gives prizes to films in the competition section, it is a Bronze Horse which goes to the best film, it weights 7.3 kilograms, I think it’s the heaviest prize in the world! The Aluminum Horses go to the best actor or actress. There are seven prizes in all. Every year we have a Stockholm Lifetime Achievement Award. This year it’s given to David Lynch, and he received a Bronze Horse. There is no money involved except for the scholarship to young Swedish film makers which is the festival’s decision composed of a five people committee. Each year we have about one hundred and fifty suggestions from all over Sweden. We receive tapes and scenarios. We have already started to work. One of the committee members makes a pre-selection and we are left with about thirty scripts and tapes to decide on. – Then there is the FIPRESCI jury who gives a prize to one film in competition and one in the Northern Lights section
Cultural and Commercial Distribution
How many films shown at the festival are being screened commercially in cinemas?
That is a very interesting question, because that was very clearly one of our aims from the very start. We want the films to be spread, we want a large audience. This is why we opened the festival with “Kill Bill” (Quentin Tarantino). We believe we can’t have too small an artistic film if we really want a large audience, so we attract them with a bigger name. We want the films to be sold so we have a sales office linked with the press office who works in connection with film producers, directors, Swedish and Nordic distributors. Since 1990 between 10 and 15 films are being distributed every year, that is quite a good figure. We also started our own distribution company Edge Entertainment. We pick up films after the Festival is over, which we believe should have a distribution. This is how we distributed Gaspar Noé’s first film, “Seul contre tous”.
Who is your public? I personally noticed that for certain films in the evenings the cinema was packed. What public do you reach, what age, what kind? What are your ticket prices for young people?
Last year we had 80.000 visitors during the festival. The box office seems very good also this year, I think we might go up to 85.000. If you are under twenty one years old you can buy a card for 70 crowns, if you are older you buy it for 170 crowns. The festival tickets cost of course less than the ordinary tickets which are 85 to 90 Swedish crowns, while the festival ticket is 55 crowns. It’s a varied audience, young people, older people. You have to be fifteen years old to get in, the average spectator is twenty-eight. There as many men as women. The major part of the public is composed of film lovers who have a cinema culture. We found out last year that as much as 97 perccent have university diplomas, but we are trying to work on a mainstream public as well, this is very important for us.
© FIPRESCI 2003