Alongside the growth of Iceland’s miracle economy, the country’s film industry grew stronger. During its epoch, almost a dozen Icelandic films were premiered each year, a giant leap from the two or three we had come to expect. One of the main reasons for this step forward was that many independent producers, ones that had profited from the rapidly growing economy, financed the projects. In earlier times Icelandic directors, and producers as well, had relied almost completely on state funding, distributed by the Icelandic Film Centre, something that obviously stunted the industry’s growth and amount of films it was able to produce.
It looks like we might be headed back for those times. The formerly prosperous independent benefactors of Icelandic films have ceased wheeling barrels of money to their glass-chrome palaces. Rumour has it that some of the country’s leading production companies are going broke. Even if any of them have the stability to actually produce a feature film, their outlook for scoring a short-term loan to finance the production is little to none. Are we looking at an untimely end to the “Icelandic film summer”?
Laufey Guðjónsdóttir, manager of the Icelandic Film Centre, says no. “Of course we are looking at difficult times in terms of private funding, which will diminish substantially, but we aren’t pessimistic at all”. Regulations approved last year specified that state contributions to the Centre would increase significantly, but it is uncertain whether those changes will stand. And if the worst speculations materialise, the current funding will even be decreased. “They’re putting together some relief program up at the Ministry, but I haven’t heard anything and we are just hoping for the best right now.” Laufey continues, but she is optimistic that those in power understand the significance of Iceland film production. The centre has made half-promises for funding to several productions for next year and if things turn out as they should, the current economic situation shouldn’t affect them at all. But if the results of the cutbacks interfere, Laufey says,, the projects would be in real jeopardy, although they’ll likely proceed come hell or high water.
But it remains to be seen if the international filmindustry has interest in doing business with Icelanders anymore. Iceland’s picturesque landscapes has attracted many foreign film crews to Iceland and international blockbusters, such as The Flags of Our Fathers and Batman Begins, were partially shot in Iceland. It’s not only the landscape that is an attraction, but also the 14% tax reimbursement, which the producers get from the government of Iceland when the production has been finalised.
The academy award nominee Ridley Scott has for some time been planning to make a movie about the momentous meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev which was held in Iceland in ‘86, but a strenuous debate has been ongoing between the government and Scott’s production company whether this would be possible. In any case, it will surely be a boost to the Icelandic economy to get a foreign project of this proportion to the country. The favourable exchange rate of the Icelandic Króna has made film production in Iceland much more feasible for foreign companies and Laufey expects this area of the business to grow a lot. “I think the government will always be pleased because the foreign currency arrives to the country before the refund is made” Laufey elaborates when she is asked whether the state could be sceptical about the 14% reimbursement growing astronomically if foreigners would flock to the country with extensive productions.
From this, we could derive that foreign movie production in Iceland could increase a lot whilst Icelandic production could return to its old primitive state. It could even be wise for Icelandic filmmakers to take their business abroad. Should this becomes reality, and the only movies filmed in Iceland are foreign, while Icelanders go ashore, it would be fairly accurate to say that there is no such thing as an Icelandic film anymore?