From producers at small, independent companies to decision-makers in the corridors of power in Swedish film. Meet the Swedish Film Institute's new Film Commissioners.
Since January, Juan Pablo Libossart has been a new Documentary Film Commissioner and Erika Wasserman the new Short Film Commissioner at the Swedish Film Institute. Both have a past in production companies Atmo and Fasad. However, they have never worked at the same place at the same time.
"What we have realized is that we've not only worked but also studied at the same places, so we've clearly been walking in each other's footsteps," says Juan Pablo Libossart with a laugh.
Another common denominator is that both have produced films outside of Sweden and have often collaborated with foreign co-producers. Both Libossart and Wasserman believe this has positive effects: a bigger budget and better distribution opportunities, but above all more pairs of eyes that can add a valuable outsider perspective.
"What we do can't just be relevant to a Swedish audience. It also has to be of value beyond our own borders," says Erika Wasserman. "Perhaps not in every film, but if you look at the industry in general, film isn't produced in some kind of national vacuum. Bringing in talents from outside is important also when it comes to developing our own narrative."
Libossart joins the Swedish Film Institute from production company Fasad, where he has produced documentaries by directors such as Erik Gandini and Marcus Lindeen. He is a strong advocate for Swedish and Nordic documentary films, which he thinks of as probably some of the best in the world.
"I think we've entered a stage where we no longer just think about reporting facts and using archive footage. We quite simply allow documentaries to be films. The filmmakers have strong visions, and they mix formats and methods. If there's something I'd like to see more of, it's hybrid film. I like when there's a lot of room for subjectivity and when documentaries have elements of fiction, animation and other art forms."
Wasserman does not have a traditional short film background. She has almost exclusively produced feature length fiction film, since 2009 at her own company Idyll. Her interest was piqued by the way the job was advertised: "Commissioner for short film and new formats."
"New formats, what are they? I've always been interested in things I've never seen before. Short film could be so much more, and so different, than what it is today. There could be more series formats, or other formats. We primarily see short film on digital platforms, which opens up other ways of telling a story. And the job is of course also about finding new voices. The Swedish Film Institute has done a lot in terms of gender equality and diversity, but we have to continue to reach out to a wider audience."
As producers Libossart and Wasserman have both applied for funding from the Swedish Film Institute's Film Commissioners. Now, they find themselves on the other side of the fence.
"I know myself how crushing it can be to be turned down," says Libossart. "Film projects are often very personal, so it's important to treat all applicants with respect and integrity."
"At the same time though, it's about what we in the industry can do to raise quality and make relevant, interesting films. We all have a shared responsibility to do that. So in those cases, being declined can be an opportunity to work for better films," says Wasserman.
This article was written by Karoline Eriksson and was originally published in Swedish Film #1 2017.
Published 11 April 2017