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Haugesund Film Festival 2021 – An energizing start to the autumn!

Posted on 09/09/2021 in

In the last week of August, the 49th Norwegian International Film Festival descended on the one-time herring-fishing town of Haugesund. I was delighted to be as one of a handful of Scandinavian literary agents invited to pitch books to producers at the fourth annual Books at Haugesund initiative.

What a beautiful shock it was, after more than a year and a half of Covid restrictions and isolation, to walk into that opening ceremony and see gathered there together – albeit one seat apart – directors, writers and producers from around the world, international colleagues from the film and publishing industry, and good old fashioned film-lovers who’d travelled from far and wide to be there and hear the nominations for the New Nordic Films Prize and watch the opening film – the humorous and touching Compartment No. 6, a Finnish-Russian-German-Estonian co-production directed by Johu Kuosmanen, which I urge you all to see.

Even though we’ve all by now gotten used to digital conferences and Zoom-meetings, more than anything else, the festival was a reminder of the benefits of meeting in person. As you strolled through the sun-dappled streets from screenings, seminars and lunches, you saw everywhere people taking meetings outside on restaurant terraces, on the patio of the Hotel Amanda, and on the deck of the passenger ship MS Sunnhordland (hired especially for the festival). What a different experience this is compared to seeing someone in a pixelated cube on the other side of a computer screen!

Like publishing, the film industry is a vast and complicated universe built, to an enormous degree, on relationships. Emails and Zoom-calls may go a long way, but they’re no substitute for the education you receive from meeting dozens of people from different parts of the industry at events like these, learning what they do and seeing ways you might be able to help or collaborate together. I know that I wasn’t the only participant at the festival who felt happy at the thought that we are moving towards a time when this will be possible for more people, more often.

The highlight of the festival for me was, of course, the Books at Haugesund event, where we, the literary agents, got to promote our authors and pitch their books to a variety of production companies. Here, too, it was my sense that you got a totally different feeling for which project might be right for a particular producer from sitting in the room with them, hearing them speak and feeling the mutual enthusiasm to find that project that is just spot-on for them. As an agent, this is the best part of the job – helping our authors’ work get out into the world, creating a buzz around it, and finding the right person to take it further.

Besides the books day, the festival’s jam-packed program of international film screenings, works in progress pitches, seminars on fascinating topics such as diversity in film and changes in the industry following MeToo and Covid were an incredible opportunity to get a glimpse into an industry that is constantly developing and changing. While it continues to be a hard time for cinemas, if the festival showed one thing it is that we are living through a time of incredible film production and that the cross-over terrain between books and films continues to be extremely fertile.

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