To celebrate the 20th edition of Nordic Talents, nordicfilmandtvnews.com’s Annika Pham has spoken to a group of NT alumni about their pitching experience and asked for their advice to emerging talents in the film and TV industry.
Producer, CEO Good Company Films, Denmark

A graduate from the National Film School of Denmark, Stinna Lassen attended Nordic Talents in 2011 and was handed out a Special Mention, together with director Milad Alami for their project The Evacuation of Åbyn. The same year she founded the company Windeløv/Lassen with former Lars von Trier producer Vibeke Windeløv.

Today Lassen is CEO of Good Company Films. Her production credit includes the series The Team, Wisting, When the Dust Settles (Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize nominee 2020), Milad Alami’s breakthrough film The Charmer among others. She is currently working on a new major TV drama for DR and... on maternity leave!

What did it mean for you to attend Nordic Talents and win a Special Mention?

SL: I remember being very nervous before pitching at Nordic Talents, so I was immensely proud to win the Special Mention together with Milad. To present a project and to be awarded by a professional industry jury really gave me a boost of self-confidence. The prize gave Milad and I the opportunity to work on a project together right after film school, and although that particularly project was never realized, we continued to develop our collaboration, and today we have made several short films, a feature film and a TV series together.

What advice would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

SL: Work hard, be humble, and believe in yourself. I have found that little in the business is down to luck, so if you keep working hard to develop your skills and improve your talent, the industry will recognise you and your work.

Writer/director, Denmark

Iranian-born Milad Alami grew up in Sweden and lives in Denmark. In 2011 he graduated from The Danish National Film School. The same year he shared with producer Stinna Lassen, a Special Mention Prize at Nordic Talents for the project The Evacuation of Åbyn. He won multiple awards for his short films Intet kan røre mig, Mini, Void and Mommy. His first feature, the psycho-thriller The Charmer (2017) won 12 awards. He was episodic director of DR’s hit series Follow the Money 3 and concept director of the multi-plot drama When the Dust Settles. He is preparing the Swedish psycho thriller film The Opponent.

What did it mean for you to attend Nordic Talents and to win the Special Mention?

MA: It was a great experience to meet all the other participants and get a first glimpse of the professional Industry waiting for us outside of the safe walls of the film school. On a personal note it was encouraging to win an award. I’ve met some of my close collaborators during Nordic Talents.

What advice or tip would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

MA: I would recommend them to learn to work on different projects simultaneously, and focus on the stories that are important for them, rather than trying to please the industry.

Writer/director, Norway

Liv Karin Dahlstrøm graduated from Lillehammer’s Norwegian Film School in 2012 with the short film Jackie. Her feature project Jarle India Unni earned her a Special Mention Prize at Nordic Talents. She rapidly established her name in TV series, working on the short formats Games (Prix Jeunesse 2014), Mysteriet på sommerbåten, Hva Hvis and Helium. Her short film Women & Cava about women and friendship turned into a festival hit and won Best Short at the Seattle International Film Festival. A TV drama version will premiere on NRK early 2021.

What did it mean for you to win the Nordic Talents Special Mention on a professional and personal standpoint?

LKD: It was a good recognition for me before I entered the industry. I'm interested in telling stories about the typical feelings that arise in everyday life’s relationships. I was pleased that the jury and attendees at Nordic Talents liked the idea for my project pitched Jarle India Unni as it was close to what I wanted to continue to write and create.

What advice would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

LKD: It has been important to me to protect my initial joy of telling stories. The good thing about going to film school is that many of my colleagues are also my friends - so even if you have to work very hard, there is less conflict and more fun when crew members are friends and colleagues. There are definitely many different good ways to enter the industry. Be humble and clear, and never kick down the ladder.

Writer/director, Iceland

Icelandic-born Hlynur Pálmason graduated from the National Film School of Denmark in 2013. He won a Special Mention at Nordic Talents -with producer Julie Waltersdorph- for the pitch of his feature debut Winter Brothers. The sibling rivalry drama world premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival, where it won four awards. It triumphed at the 2018 Danish Robert film awards, picking up eight statuettes including Best Film. His second feature A White, White Day premiered at the Critics’ Week in Cannes, and received a similar critical and international festival attention. Both films were nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize. Pálmason is working on an Icelandic period film and pursuing his parallel activity as a visual artist.

What did it mean for you to win the Nordic Talents Special Mention on a professional and personal standpoint?

LP: It’s always a good feeling when there is a platform that takes your work seriously. When you are fresh out of school you somehow need exposure and a place to screen your work and have a dialogue. Nordic Talent is good for this place of dialogue. Winning an award is a surplus and we used it for the development and preparation for Winter Brothers.

What advice or tip would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

LP: I would advise them to make personal films, to find something you're passionate about and dig deep. Also, I would recommend them to create a daily life that is interesting and stimulating for them.

Writer/director, Finland

Juho Kuosmanen graduated from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design & Architecture in 2014. His graduation film Painting Sellers earned him the first prize at Cannes’ Cinéfondation in May 2010, before screening at Nordic Talents. In 2016, he was back in Cannes with his feature debut The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäkiwhich won the Un Certain Regard Prize. The heart-warming black & white biopic went on to collect a Best New Director Award in Chicago and eight national Jussi awards, including Best Film. His sophomore feature Compartment Number 6 is set to premiere in 2021. Kuosmanen is also active as a theatre and opera director.

What did it mean for you to pitch your project at Nordic Talents?

JK: I hated the idea of pitching, because I thought it’s marketing. And marketing an idea that is still in the process is terrible. But when I realised that pitching is actually a tool to crystallize your idea of the script, I started to like the idea of pitching. Pitching should be thought as a script tool, not marketing tool. Unfortunately, I realised this years later. My own pitch was catastrophic, but I met many nice people.

What advice would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

JK: I don’t have any advices so I will quote Milos Forman: "Tell the truth, and try not to be boring."

Writer/director, Denmark

Swedish-born Maria Bäck graduated from the National Film School of Denmark in 2013. The same year she won the Nordic Talents Pitch Prize for her documentary project I Remember When I Die. The film world premiered in competition at the CPH:DOX Festival 2015 and won an Honorary Mention in Göteborg for its brave artistic choices. Her latest work Psychosis in Stockholm - a heightened drama based on a personal recollection of an incident experienced when she was 14- was the opening film of the 2020 Göteborg Film Festival and nominated for Best Nordic Film. Bäck is developing a new documentary and a new fiction feature.

What did it mean for you to attend Nordic Talents and to win the top prize?

MB: Winning Nordic Talents in 2013 gave me a crucial push and helped me and my team to carry straight on into the work with I Remember When I Die, immediately after finishing film school. The recognition was of great importance, both emotionally and financially, and I will always be very grateful for that experience and for Nordic Talent as an event. It is a truly unique and generous gathering, with lots of opportunities regardless of whether you win a prize or not. It also proved to me that being brave, staying true to ourselves and our expression, is what matters the most when presenting an upcoming project. There are no right or wrongs really, but you need to dig deep and dare to put yourself out there, with your heart wide open, ready to shiver and shake.

What advice would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

MB: The industry is filled with vibrating thoughts, life changing images and good intentions. And at the same time, it is a very tricky and often unhealthy industry, with lots of focus in the wrong places! It is easy to get lost and forget what it is really about. We owe ourselves and each other to try to cut the bullshit! My only honest piece of advice is always to try and take responsibility for your own focus, and always be as true a version of yourself and your voice as absolutely possible. Nobody wants you to act or create like somebody else. And you can never measure your success in any reasonable way anyway. You just need to find your own meaning and lust in the process itself; and remember the privilege and pleasure of being able to express your visions and share it with the world. Mastering that kind of focus enables the magic to occur.

Writer/director, Iceland

Icelandic-born Thordur Pálsson graduated in 2018 from the National Film & Television School in Beaconsfield in the UK with the social drama Brothers, nominated for the Palm Spring Short Film Fest. The same year he won the Nordic Talents Pitch Prize for his dark feature project Stuck in Dundalk. He then created, co-wrote and co-directed the high-end crime series The Valhalla Murders (RÚV), first Icelandic series co-produced by Netflix. Pálsson is currently working on the period horror film The Damned, a UK/Icelandic/Norwegian co-production.

What did it mean for you to attend Nordic Talents and win the top prize?

TP: I know that I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't won The Nordic Talents. It helped me get noticed in the film industry and subsequently led to me making The Valhalla Murders. It changed my life.

What advice would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

TP: I recommend people to make as many short films as they can and write as many stories as they can. Preparation and perseverance equals opportunity.

Writer/director, Sweden

Göteborg-born Fanny Ovesen graduated from the Lillehammer Norwegian Film School in 2018 with the short film She-Pack which won the Norwegian Amanda-Best Short Film among others. She was handed out the Nordic Talents Pitch Prize in 2018 for her feature project Laura, a road movie, based on her own experiences in the European couch-surfing community. The project garnered the 1019 Swedish 'Anna prize' for its relevance to the UN Women’s Convention. Laura is in pre-production at Sweden’s leading production house B-Reel Films.

What did it mean for you to attend Nordic Talents and win an award?

FO: Nordic Talents was a real kick-off in my career. The opportunity to screen my graduation film and then pitch my feature film project Laura helped me get in contact with the producers with whom I’m working now. Along with a good festival round for my graduation film, the Nordic Talents Award gave me a lot of attention - which has opened many doors for me since. I created contacts all over Scandinavia through the event, with whom I’m still in touch. So, professionally, it was the best start I could have had, and I have already started to experience the positive consequences coming from good collaborators, financial support and faith in the project. Also, getting a significant amount of money to develop the project without having to panic over how to earn my living, gave the film a really great start and me a lot of space to explore it artistically. And on a personal standpoint, while coming out of school with a short film and an idea for a feature, I had no clue if my works and ideas would resonate with producers and decision-makers. Getting that confirmation was tremendously important to me.

What advice would you give emerging talents trying to get into the film & TV industry?

FO: What I found so beautiful at Nordic Talents was that the whole industry was actually there to look for our stories and perspectives. I think many of us, while studying, have the idea that we have to get out and compete with filmmakers a lot more experienced than us and this seems pretty impossible. But it’s easy to forget that our new voices can actually add something that the industry is missing. I really got this feeling during Nordic Talents - that there was a space for me somewhere out there among all the other talented people. I hope new graduates can enter the film business with a confidence that their voices and perspectives are important and do their best to fill that space. It makes it a lot easier, though, if you put some real time and effort into finding out what your contribution is. What point of view, or experience you have that is missing out there.