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From the Film Agreement to a governmental film policy. An analysis of the activities of the Swedish Film Institute (2019:9)

The Film Agreement model was established in 1963 and has thereafter characterised Swedish film policy and the Swedish film industry for just over half a century. On 1 January 2017, a new fully governmental film policy was introduced that aims to ensure good conditions for the Swedish film industry to develop and be renewed.

The Government has commissioned the Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) to analyse how the Swedish Film Institute has adapted its activities to this new state funding and governance model. The Agency shall also monitor how SFI has developed its activities according to the needs that the Agency identified in its analysis conducted on behalf of the Government in 2013.

The new film policy is not especially new in terms of content, as the objectives are essentially the same as before. The biggest change comes from the termination of the Film Agreement. On the one hand, this has yielded positive effects for the Swedish Film Institute in the form of, among other things, reduced micro-management. On the other hand, the lack of cinema statistics has led to hampering the provision of support and follow-up. Some of the Swedish Film Institute's activities have previously been managed and financed by the state, but for the film industry, the governmental film policy represents something entirely new.

The Swedish Film Institute has thus far not fully utilised the increased scope for action

Statskontoret notes that the Swedish Film Institute's scope for action has increased with the discontinuation of the detailed regulation inherent in the Film Agreement. This has meant that the Institute's ability to conduct its activities has improved in several aspects:

  • The same goals and financing apply to the entire organisation.
  • The goals are fewer in number and more comprehensive.
  • The Swedish Film Institute's funding resources can be moved between the different funding schemes based on goals and needs.
  • Changes in the funding activities can be made without waiting for a new Film Agreement or renegotiation of an existing Film Agreement.

Furthermore, the new film policy has led to improved opportunities for the Swedish Film Institute to work more strategically with a long-term approach, as the board's new composition has meant a more overarching focus. The new film policy also contributes – by way of financing through appropriations – to a somewhat more stable and predictable economic environment compared to during the era of the Film Agreement.

However, the Swedish Film Institute has only utilised this increased scope for action to a limited extent. The changeover to the new film policy has resulted in an increased workload for part of the staff as new tasks have been assigned and the administration has increased. The changeover has mainly affected the department for Film Funding. The Swedish Film Institute implemented certain measures in advance but underestimated the impact of the changeover.
Our assessment is that part of the increased workload entailed by the changeover is transient in nature, whereas other aspects of the new tasks are considered more permanent. When the Swedish Film Institute has made more headway in its conversion process, there will be the opportunity to increasingly work strategically and with a long-term approach in promoting and developing Swedish film.

The Swedish Film Institute has not yet achieved the industry influence intended by the Government

With the new film policy, the forms for the industry's influence have changed, and now takes place via industry councils. The actual design of the industry council structure means that the influence over the Swedish Film Institute's activities decreases for the part of the industry that was previously a contracting party in the Film Agreement. In order to better reflect today's film industry, however, a broader circle of industry players are included in the councils. For these, the industry councils have provided an opportunity to have more influence than before.
Statskontoret's assessment is that the councils have in reality had less influence than was intended by the Government. The work in the industry councils has thus far not found a format for effective consultation and influence.

The Swedish Film Institute has organised the consultation formats with the film industry's representatives. The industry's influence is limited by the fact that the meetings of the councils are only held twice per year, compared to the five board meetings each year. Furthermore, the councils have not received any feedback from the Swedish Film Institute on how their viewpoints have been received and processed. Nor have representatives from the councils had the opportunity to present the councils' viewpoints to the board prior to decision-making, as stated in the bill.

If the dialogue between the industry councils and the Swedish Film Institute was to improve, this could contribute to a more effective collaboration with the film industry, compared to consulting with a large number of actors separately. As the councils gather a broad representation of actors, the discussions held in the council can also contribute to promoting a holistic approach to common industry challenges that may benefit the activities of the Swedish Film Institute.

The work to increase the transparency of film funding has not had a large enough impact

The Swedish Film Institute has worked to make the funding of film production more transparent. However, Statskontoret can conclude that the work with increasing transparency has not been implemented to its fullest. Although the Swedish Film Institute has developed the criteria for its assessments, they have not had any significant impact in practice.
Statskontoret finds that the criteria must be more clearly reflected in the Swedish Film Institute's assessments. We are aware that it is difficult to set clear criteria for artistic activities. At the same time, clear assessment criteria are important in a system with a subjective element as strong as that of the film consultant system. The criteria must therefore permeate both the work with assessing the project applications and the justifications for those seeking funding.

The Swedish Film Institute lacks appropriate statistics

The Swedish Film Institute no longer has access to complete cinema statistics. This makes it more difficult for the Institute to allocate funding and to monitor activities. The fact that the Swedish Film Institute does not have complete cinema statistic represents a threat to the legal security of its funding activity in the long term, according to the Institute. There is therefore reason for the Swedish Film Institute to now do a retake and, starting at the beginning, go through what statistics are needed to be able to conduct effective follow-up and funding allocation.

Statskontoret's assessment is that the Swedish Film Institute should utilise the opportunity

rovided by broader and developed film statistics, which can be designed more specifically based on the Institute's needs and new consumption patterns in the area of film. A renewed grasp of the collection of statistics would provide the opportunity to include more viewing platforms for film than just cinemas.

Development areas for the Swedish Film Institute moving forward

Statskontoret has identified the following areas where it is particularly important for the Swedish Film Institute to develop and improve its activities:

  • clarify the role of the industry councils
  • plan its activities and report the results based on the film policy objectives
  • develop and produce broader film statistics for follow-up and the provision of support
  • strengthen work environment efforts

We can also note that the Institute has worked with all the development needs identified in our 2013 analysis. However, our assessment is that the Swedish Film Institute needs to make further efforts within certain areas.

Key issues for the Government's governance

In conclusion, Statskontoret wants to highlight some areas that the Government should take into account in particular in its continued work with governing the Swedish Film Institute:

  • the foundation format should be retained for the time being
  • the Government may need to clarify the role of the councils
  • there may be reason to use a different assessment system
  • support SFI in developing broader film statistics