'2 Guns' Director, Icelandic Industry Shocked by Cuts to Local Film Fund

Baltasar Kormakur

Iceland plans to slash the budget of its national film fund by around 40 percent.

Baltasar Kormakur, the Icelandic director of 2 Guns, has joined his fellow Nordic filmmakers in expressing shock and dismay at plans by the Icelandic government to chop the budget of the country's film fund by around 40 percent.

The plans, presented by the Reykjavik government this week, would see film funding cut from $8.42 million (IKR 1.018 billion) to $5.17 million (IKR 624.7 million), starting next year.

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“What can I say. It is a terrible shock for everyone working in the film industry in Iceland,” Kormakur told THR. “I think everyone knew there would be some cuts but not as big as they turned out, more than in any other cultural field.”

In addition to his bigger budget English-language films, such as 2 Guns and Contraband, Kormakur continues to make Icelandic features, most recently the real-life survival tale The Deep (2012). Like most Icelandic directors, he often relies on backing from the Icelandic Film Fund to get his local projects greenlit.

The Association of Icelandic Film Producers, the Icelandic Film Makers Association and the Directors Guild of Iceland issued a joint statement protesting the cuts, saying they would actually harm the local economy. They cited a report on the economic impact of film subsidies, published in 2011, that found public investment in local production resulted in a five-fold return in turnover. The filmmakers estimate that the proposed budget cut will result in a loss of some $5 million in tax revenue next year alone.

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“Based on this, the Icelandic film industry associations are bewildered with the proposed cut of the Icelandic Film fund and don’t understand how the foundations for a modern thriving growth industry can be so suddenly demolished, so many jobs cut and how a valuable foreign investment can be turned down,” the group said in a statement.

Kormakur was more blunt: “It is almost impossible to build any future for the Icelandic films when they keep cutting us down at the knees.”

Iceland slashed the budget for its national film fund in 2009 following the global financial crisis, but restored much of the cuts in 2012 and 2013. The boost was followed by jump in film production, with turnover hitting $97 million (ISK 11.7 billion) last year and revenue up a further 25 percent in the beginning of 2013.

The Icelandic film industry associations are pressuring the government to overturn its decision and restore funding before the 2014 budget takes effect.