Publicity and media

The Norwegian Film School in review


1. Letter from Vinca Wiedemann - Principal of The Danish Film School


To whom it may concern


I have been involved with the Norwegian Film School since its start in 1992, when in my capacity as the Head of the Education Department at the Danish Film School I gave advice about the establishment of the Norwegian school's first curriculum.


The Norwegian Film School is established in the classic European film school tradition, which is generally characterised by a high-quality education.


In recent years the Film School has seen further development under Dean Thomas Stænderup, and the school today stands as one of the best in Europe.


Not least, it is the school's commitment to praxis-oriented education, the numerous exercises in advanced storytelling principles, and the close, praxis-based co-operation between specialised disciplines, that make the Norwegian Film School unique, able to turn its graduates into highly qualified film professionals who are sought-after in the film industry.


Thus the Norwegian Film School is a central factor in today's situation: Norwegian cinema is in the middle of a professionalisation and revitalisation.


To me it is indisputable that the Norwegian Film School today provides an education at the highest level.


I am of course at your disposal to answer any questions.


Vinca Wiedemann




2. Letter from Pavel Jech - Dean of FAMU 



3. Strengthen the film school

Article by Erlend Loe - Styrk filmskolen 



The film industry still has some way to go when it comes to professionalisation. A good place to start is upgrading the film school.


IN LIGHT OF the storm during the last few weeks about the apparently unsuccessfulPax,it seems that the support system, the producers and the filmmakers are all in considerable need of professionalisation.

A Film Commissioner's job is difficult, the director's is hopeless, the producers' nose for the team they gather is 100% decisive if the project is to have any chance at all to succeed. To an accidental passer-by it seems mysterious, actually borderline bizarre, that the producers at a point, before the shooting started, considered pulling the plug on the project, but then the Film Institute allegedly said that the directives did not allow it. What really happened is difficult to know, but anyway it does not seem that many of the involved parties today are proud about ending up spending more than NOK 30 million on a film that neither the Film Commissioner, nor the producers, nor possibly the director had the necessary rock-solid faith in.


Mistakes.Everyone, including women, is allowed to make mistakes. But it is more charming if mistakes of this type are made before the big money enter the pot – for example at school. Through nearly 14 years now, the Norwegian Film School has helped usher in a noticeable increase in the professional level of our film industry. These days, potential members of the eighth class are in the process of applying for the school. Well over two hundred newly educated film workers and filmmakers have emerged into the industry since the beginning. Today they hold artistic and professional positions in an ever-increasing number of Norwegian films. They write, produce, shoot, edit, design sound, they makeUpperdog, they makeKoselig med peis, they produceMax ManusandThe Troll Hunter,they make best short film of the decade,Totally True Love, they makeThe Man Who Loved Yngveand numerous other successful productions, and most important of all, at the film school they have matured together, developed a common language and an understanding of what the highly diverse film profession is about.


Visions.Two things were not ideal when the film school began. First it was the location, but in this case the political powers seem so much in agreement that it's no use to keep on raising the issue: I don't even have the strength to repeat the arguments for why it would have been so much better to have the school in our capital city. The other thing was that the job, purely in political terms, was not done fully but, unfortunately, only in parts and pieces – totally at odds with Ibsen's rule of thumb. For these thirteen years the Norwegian Film School has been part of Lillehammer University College. This is dragging the school down. It is imperative that an institution teaching professional disciplines at the highest national level is allowed to govern itself, planning visions and strategies without having its wings clipped by a rigid system. And the school must – it cannot do this today – be able to offer Master's Degrees, and not least, further training on a high level for an ever-increasing number of film professionals. The political authorities will discuss this tomorrow. I'll make Spike Lee's words mine: “Do the right thing.”




4. A film education at the highest level?

 Article by John M. Jacobsen - Filmutdannelse på høyeste nivå?


MASTER'S DEGREE IN FILM: In 1991 Stortinget (the Norwegian Parliament) decided, after many years of pressure from the film industry, that Norway was to get a public film education “at the highest level”. Many film people made an effort to make this happen. We saw the need for a professionalisation of the industry so that Norwegian cinema would get the chance to make its mark both in Norway and abroad in the future.


AND WE HAVE seen – in the years after the decision – that the Norwegian Film School does make a difference with its three-year Bachelor's Degree programme. The school helps revitalise Norwegian cinema through the recruitment of professional film workers in all departments.


IT HAS been a powerful focus on the new directors, on “new voices”. But the truth is that the importance of our own film education is equally built on teaching the other disciplines: producers, cinematographers, screenwriters, production designers, editors and sound designers. Having educated approximately 240 capable professionals, the Norwegian Film School has had an important impact first in restoring Norwegian cinema and then taking our films out into the international market.


NOW IT IS 2012. Film and related media have gained an increasing importance as a cultural factor in modern society. But we don't have a film education at the highest level any more. In the European countries with which we compare ourselves, they have long ago established a Master's Degree programme and a specialisation within the film education. And for a good reason: the technological development in cinema has been very rapid over the last few years and this is extraordinarily challenging. International competition is tough. In Europe we can't compete with American movies on budgets, but we can try to be smarter and more capable.


THE NORWEGIAN Film School is still providing new talents, but we see an acute need that the school will get the chance to keep up with international developments, where the film education, like other types of education, can offer a Master's Degree programme – simply because demands are greater today than in 1991. A Master's Degree programme means two years of additional education and experience for the most promising talents – for those who in the future are going to give us important experiences and interpretations of our world on the big screen and in other media.


HAVING LONG REALISED this, the Norwegian Film School has together with the industry worked out a proposal for a Master education with precisely that purpose, to educate film professionals that not only are mastering a craft, but can help renew the industry and provide the expertise and innovation that can satisfy current developments. The Film School Master's Programme is approved and recommended by the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, but the school can't start the programme because it is impossible to fund within the automatic financial support system for higher education in Norway. It was precisely for this reason that it wasn't before 1991 that we got a film school in Norway and then only through a special parliamentary decision.


WE HEREBY WARN the authorities that the Film School will lose its position as an important provider of necessary talent and expertise for the further development of Norwegian cinema. Principles must not block modernisation of the film education. Please remember that the Norwegian Parliament already has decided that Norway shall have a film eduction “at the highest level”. We don't have that today.




WARNING: We warn the authorities that the Film School will lose its position as an important provider of necessary talent and expertise for the further development of Norwegian cinema, the authors of this article write. Here are graduates from 2006: Anne Sewitsky, Katja Eyde Jacobsen, Andreas J. Riiser and Gaute Hesthagen.


In the European countries with which we compare ourselves, they have long ago established a Master's Degree programme




5. Where are the film school going?

Article by Kjetil Lismoen - Hvor er filmskolen på vei?


Success. The Norwegian Film School may have become a victim of its own success. 


The Norwegian Film School became an early success. It took surprisingly little time from the first class graduated until several of them debuted with feature films and helped revitalise Norwegian cinema. Directors like Sara Johnsen (Kissed by Winter) and Erik Richter Strand (Sons) allied themselves with screenwriters and producers they studied with at the school. The list of promising first-time filmmakers is long: Stian Kristiansen (The Man Who Loved Yngve), Roar Uthaug (Cold Prey), Hisham Zaman (Winterland), Anne Sewitsky (Happy, Happy) and so on. You won't find a film school in the world that can measure up to these results. Furthermore, you won't find a film nation that at that point in time was in greater need of a thorough upgrading, both professionally as an industry and in the form of new voices. They have been decisive for the restoration of Norwegian cinema.



Since that time the Film School has become more like most of the other film schools: new classes graduate only to disappear into the industry in rather anonymous fashion, and the number who make their first feature film has become far smaller. This has led to a debate about whether the school still has the ability to catch the talents and develop them. In this way the Film School has become a victim of its own success: now it is expected that a new Sara Johnsen shall emerge from each class, and the graduation films are judged as artistically independent productions. But like Martin Scorsese once said: graduation films are at the outset ”fuckups”, merely attempts at a film without any clear sender. When one is asking for more artistic guts in the graduation films from Lillehammer, one is directly addressing the question of what a film school shall be.


Tough going

The current management thinks that the students must learn to walk before they can run, in Dean Thomas Stenderup's words. As a central bureaucrat during the Danish golden age, he was fetched to the Film School in 2008, an institution that had trouble with internal struggles and weak leadership. He is not the first Dane who has been called in to straighten out Norwegian cinema just to find that it's rather difficult.


Like Erik Poppe recently wrote in the newspaper Aftenposten, the Film School lacks resources to modernise the education the way other European film schools have done it, with Bachelor's and Master's programmes. Neither has it the same formal status as other Norwegian arts educations. At the same time the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research insists that the Film School has to make do with the existing framework. To the film school this must look like aCatch 22situation: it is criticised in public film debates for being unable to give students the proper opportunities to develop, for not providing us with tomorrow's filmmakers, at the same time as it is denied the help for a necessary modernisation. The Norwegian film director Arne Skouen once claimed that it was typical Norwegian to establish a film school in the left-behind housing of a sports event. After several years of complaints about the location, that debate is now dead. But one question remains: where is the Film School going?




6. How important are film schools for international success?

Article published in Rushprint - Hvor viktig er filmskolene for internasjonal suksess?



A great many of the Norwegian filmmakers who are currently successful abroad, including Joachim Trier, studied film outside Norway. How decisive is international education for international orientation and success?

By Marte Stapnes 8 May 2015


Joachim Trier studied film at National Film School in London. Eskil Vogt graduated as a director from the national French film school La fémis. Tommy Wirkola attended film school in Australia while Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg and Bent Hamer all studied at the film school in Stockholm.


Erik Poppe studied at Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts, Morten Tyldum at School of Visual Arts in New York. Harald Zwart at the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam. Hans Petter Moland studied in Boston and Torill Kove at McGill University in Canada.


To a large degree, Norwegians with international success right now studied at foreign institutions. Since most of them started their educational track before the Norwegian Film School was established, you could argue they had not much of a choice. Still it is interesting to see education and recognition as a whole. Is foreign education a necessity to make waves abroad?


– It's totally natural that it's mature filmmakers who break into the large festivals, but these people belong to the generation before the Film School began, comments Thomas Stenderup, Dean and Professor at the Norwegian Film School.


– And it's actually incorrect that only filmmakers with foreign educations are having success. If we look to a big festival like Sundance, Anne Sewitsky has been there twice. Hallvar Witzø participated in Cannes last year, and Sara Johnsen has also been present at several interesting festivals with her films, Stenderup says about former students at the Film School.


– It's only a question of time. People who have graduated from Lillehammer have definitely started to make themselves felt, he thinks.


Dean Thomas Stenderup


Specialisation with a Master programme

The discussion about what to expect from the Film School arises at regular intervals. Previously  Stenderup has stated that expecting a film school to produce distinctive film artists in three years is unrealistic. There is currently an ongoing admission process to find students for the Film School's Master programmes. According to Stenderup this programme will allow students a deeper specialisation in their discipline.


– I don't want to reveal too much, but of those who have applied for the Master programme, there are people educated both in Lillehammer and abroad. The latter are people we haven't known about but now they have come back, Stenderup says.

– They have started making films a bit, and look upon this as an opportunity for further development and getting other experiences.

– This will create a network that will far exceed Norway's borders, he thinks.

– The admission process hasn't fully ended yet, but there will be both international students, some who have attended film school in Norway, and Norwegian students who have taken their Bachelor's Degree abroad. It's going to be very exciting to see how things will go when people with these diverse experiences shall meet in an environment of creative co-operation.


Goal-oriented ambitions

Producer Yngve Sæther thinks part of the explanation that filmmakers with educations abroad are having international success boils down to ambitions.


– These are directors who possibly to an even larger extent than other Norwegians have had foreign countries and Hollywood as a goal for what they do.


He also points out that filmmakers from the Norwegian Film School are looking outside our borders.


– Roar Uthaug, for example, who is now looking abroad, attended film school in Lillehammer. I don't think we should be too preoccupied about the recent examples of Norwegians' international success. I think everyone can find their path.


Yngve Sæther


– Some may have started at a very specialised film school and ended up in Hollywood, while others may have studied at a large, broader-oriented film school and achieved nothing, Sæther thinks.

– It's not only the education that is decisive, but also one's ambitions.


At several previous occasions, film director Unni Straume has been critical of the film school in Lillehammer. She has been wanting a school better at educating filmmakers with individual voices.


– I think it's a lot about the Norwegian Film School's lack of respect for a director's artistic integrity, and the separation between art and craftsmanship. The latter is important, but in art it's impossible to separate this from the expression itself. The management of the Film School has never been recruited from the directing discipline, neither has it had a clear artistic profile.


Unni Straume


– It's not easy to run a good school, but probably more than most educational institutions art schools are very dependent on individuals, when it comes to both teachers and students, she thinks.


– It's not enough with directives and professional knowledge. The employment of teachers and the admission of students become decisive for the direction the school will take. Who're going to “see” the talents and make sure they will receive the development that is needed to blossom?


Filmmakers against the current

Yngve Sæther looks at the Film School in Lillehammer as a bit of an all-round education.

– The distinctiveness you hopefully has as a film professional is something that you have to bring to the table yourself, he thinks.


– This is the same for all kinds of educations, I believe. You have to make sure yourself that you have distinction before you embark on a main education. Then that education has to allow yourself to follow your passion, regardless of whether you want to go in one or another direction.


Sæther thinks that film schools will always have a direction, a profile or teachers that for periods will work against people.


– But this may also be something that helps create distinction. When Lars von Trier attended the Danish Film School in Copenhagen he went against the current. I think few at the place envisioned him as Denmark's greatest export item in cinema. So meeting resistance can be good.


Harald Zwart


Straume, on the other hand, thinks that for talent to develop, the follow-up process must be individualised. She tells us that in her time as a teacher at the directing department at the Norwegian Film School from 2005 to 2008, her experience was that instead of adapting the education to the individual directing talents, it was they who had to adapt to the school.


– Therefore you risk losing distinctiveness and creative powers. A lot of originality can be lost here, she thinks.

– It's a limit to what you can cover during a three-year education, so prioritising becomes important, and I definitely believe that you should prioritise developing the individual talents' vision, energy and distinctiveness, rather than perfecting craft. The necessity of craftsmanship comes when you know what to express. As the ancient Romans said: Rem tene et verba sequntur. Or in a somewhat simplified translation: What you are passionate about you can also express!


Straume thinks an education more adapted to the individual might be something that runs counter to against our Nordic ideas about equality and democracy.


– Development and realisation of an artistic vision is difficult within a democratic system, where everyone's voice has the same value. The end result is a bit too many indifferent exercises and too little room to develop voices of distinction.

– I guess we are also very normative and a bit afraid of “craziness” in Norway. But if you're going to create good films a lot of craziness is needed.


Joachim Rønning og Espen Sandberg


A framework for development

Thomas Stenderup too emphasises that the Film School cannot cultivate talented filmmakers out of nothing.


– Talent is not something we can influence. It's something that has to present already, and we have to take a chance on this every time we do admissions both for the Bachelor's and Master's Degree.  The school can create some frameworks where a talent can develop. This is what we attempt to do, quite simply. But it takes time. And big talents need a lot of time.


– And it's not only directors who are of interest here, it's definitely the case for other disciplines too. A development has occurred in Norway over the last few years, with a higher level in many disciplines. The Norwegian Film School plays an important role for the quality development we have seen in Norwegian cinema, he thinks.


– We can say it like it is, people who break into Hollywood are far and few between. But I'm fairly sure that the people who're going to make waves during the next ten years will include graduates from the Film School in Lillehammer.


In conclusion, Yngve Sæther carefully emphasises that film professionals must be a bit sturdy.

– We cannot afford to think about filmmakers as fragile children who have to be pampered. They have to be able to cope with some resistance, otherwise they may not be cut out for this business. Also, there are many with no film education at all who have become eminent directors. There are many paths to the goal. The most central thing is that we should be happy to have a serious and good film education in Norway, on a high level – but it won't be suitable for everybody.



Sist oppdatert: Tor Magne Roaldseth 10.06.2016

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