– It is important to make room for starters/non-food items

– It is important to make room for starters/non-food items
From the movie Armand. Photo: Ain Al Ain Pictures

– I was happy when there was a planned debut in NFI, says Halfdan Ullmann Tundel.

On Tuesday, May 14, the Cannes Film Festival begins. On Saturday 18 May there will be the world premiere in Cannes of “Armand”, the first feature film from screenwriter and director Halfdan Ullmann Tundel, with Renate Rensef in the title role.

After several years of developing the script, the turning point came in January 2023, when Armand received production grants worth NOK 6,350,000 through Neo, the new talent program started by the Norwegian Film Institute (NFI) in 2021.

Now Armand will be the first feature film to debut after traversing the entire Neo series, from development to production. Armand also received two rounds of new development grants.

– The project was in the consulting scheme first and came close to obtaining production support several times without reaching the top. The risk appetite of consultants in the new scheme was greater. In New, they dared to bet on this project, says Halfdan Ullmann Tundel.

– I've been working on this script for six or seven years, and I got to a point where it became like this: now or never. Now something must happen. It was nearing the end of the project, so if I had not received the grant from NEO, Armand would not have made anything, says the director.

picture.  Half-length portrait of a young man wearing a white plaid shirt on a faded dark green background
Director Halfdan Tundel. Photo: Ain Al Ain Pictures

Since 2017, it has gone through several rounds of development with another production company, before Tøndel and the Armand project entered the first planned Neo, with Eye Eye Pictures and Andrea Berentsen Ottmar as producer.

“Halfdan Tundel and Andrea Berentsen Otmar are two powerful new talents who bring a pressure cooker to a film that engages and entertains and asks important questions. “Two directors who dare to say something about difficult psychological and social issues,” NFI film consultant Rodrigo Stoychev wrote of Armand in his proposal to support the production. .

Thanks to production support from Neo, Eye Eye Pictures was able to go ahead and get Armand fully financed, and begin filming in the spring of 2023.

On April 11 of this year, it was announced that Armand had been selected for the Un Certain Regard program in Cannes, and would have its world premiere there.

– Production support from Neo was the first truly critical piece put into place to realize Armand, says producer Andrea Berentsen Ottmar at Eye Eye Pictures.

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– Money is of course always important, but I would like to highlight the trust we received from the advisor and consultant at NFI. We have seen that they really believe in the project in Halfdan, and that we will be able to achieve it. It always takes more confidence and a willingness to take risks to support new entrants, and we've seen that at Nio, says Otmar.

picture.  Half-length black and white portrait of a woman with long hair and long hair
Producer Andrea Berentsen Otmar. Photo: Ain Al Ain Pictures

New chart for new sounds

Neo replaced the NFI Nye Veier's talent scheme in 2021, with the goal being a more straightforward scheme geared towards beginners.

-I was happy when the NFI debut was planned. It's very important to give beginners room to do their own thing, says Halfdan Ullmann Tundel.

The goal is for Neo to promote talent development in the Norwegian film industry by allowing new voices to emerge, and stimulating diversity and innovation in the creative industry.

“We see strong projects coming out of NEO, and we are very proud that the first feature film Ready Now will have its world premiere in Cannes,” says Therese Hollo-Clausen, Director of Curation, Development and Audiences. In non-food items.

Neo is aimed at filmmakers and series creators who want to debut in a longer format. The target group are talents who work at a professional level. Neo is also aiming for the producers' debut. Documentaries, feature films and drama series can all receive subsidies through Neo.

– We want Neo's scheme to embrace and enhance strong narrative voices and artistic boldness. The talent at NEO shapes the future of Norwegian cinema, says Therese Hollo-Clausen, director of artistic evaluation, development and audiences at NFI.

Neo includes three grant programs, which follow three stages in realizing a series or film project:

As part of the NEO programme, events aimed at enhancing skills and developing talent, through gatherings of grant recipients and open seminars, are also included. In 2023, New called, among other things, a masterclass with Anna O'Dell, and a speed history forum where producers met with grant recipients to develop ideas for both documentary and fiction films.

Watch the Neo Masterclass with Anna Odell and Alvilde Naterstad here

Budgets and ambitions

Neo is a low-budget scheme, with the total grant for development and production of non-food items ranging between NOK 1.5 and 7.5 million.

The purpose of the scheme states that projects must have low-budget DNA, so that the budget frames shape the expression of the film. For a feature film, this could mean, for example, that the action is centered around one location, with a limited cast of characters, and can be achieved with a small film crew and few special effects. Armand takes place in a school and revolves around the conflict between two nations and their children.

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picture.  Portrait of a half-length man with a beige shirt on a light background
Rodrigo Stoychev, Fantasy Film Consultant, NFI. Image: non-food items

Although budgets are limited, the artistic ambitions of the New scheme are high, emphasizes Rodrigo Stoychev, who was NFI's advisor to Armand.

One of Neo's goals is to show that it is possible to produce a high-quality film on a low budget. Low-budget films can be an interesting alternative to the film industry, many of which are now facing greater funding pressures

– It is not that a low budget means low quality, nor that a low budget means low attendance. I think the films now being produced through the NEO scheme will position themselves in the market in new ways. These are films that have the potential to do well in cinemas, if the marketing is done right, says Stoychev.

At Neo, filmmakers and producers can receive close monitoring from NFI advisors.

– We offer dialogue with filmmakers throughout the NEO run, and we see NEO talent benefiting from this mentorship. There should be open doors and room to ask all kinds of questions, says Nina Barbosa Blade, who was a talent consultant in the first phase of Neo and is now a film consultant for Neo with Rodrigo Stoychev.

– I followed Armand from development to production grant, and it's a pleasure to see that a good script has become even better through the development round at Neo, says Rodrigo Stoychev.

Four Neo premieres this fall

The results of three years of the NEO chart are now starting to appear on screens and cinema screens in Norway and around the world.

In 2023, the documentary Rahčan – Ella's Rebellion had its world premiere at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen, and this year the documentary An Army of Women had its world premiere at SXSW in Austin. Both received Neo production subsidies in 2022.

This fall sees the Norwegian premiere of four feature films that received production support through Neo.

  • Armand
  • Pero Ongarga (Director: Egil Pedersen)
  • Darling (Director: Lilja Ingolfsdottir)
  • Uncle Jens (Director: Barwa Vahabour)

Ten feature films and seven documentaries have received production grants in the NEO scheme from the first NEO production allocation in March 2022 until March 2024.

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-I'm excited for the other upcoming films from NEO's plot. What I gather from what's going on sounds exciting and new. Halfdan Ullmann Tundel says it is important to bring out beginners who dare to bet.

He is now preparing for his first trip to Cannes.

-It's absolutely crazy to be taken to Cannes. This is the biggest dream a director can achieve. Cannes is the most important fair in the world for the kind of films I like – Yes, no matter what kind of films you like, in fact, Cannes is the most important festival, says Halfdan Ullmann Tundel.

– After all, our goal was to take Armand to Cannes, and during the cut, we saw that this might be good enough to get a chance. But the eye of the needle is too narrow. “So, it's great that we've gotten to this point,” Tundle says.

Lead actor Renate Rainsef and producer Andrea Ottmar were both at Cannes with The Worst Person in the World in 2021, while director Tundel has never attended Cannes before, either as a director or an audience member.

– There is a huge apparatus around Armand in Cannes, where many people work on the film and prepare a busy program for me. “I will wear nice clothes, smile nicely, and hope the film goes well,” says Halfdan Ullmann Tundel.

Read more about Neo and apply for grants

Neo idea development and Neo development have rolling deadlines for submissions, while Neo production has deadlines four times a year.

For 2024, a total of NOK 47.1 million is allocated in the NFI Fund budget for the development of the Neo concept, the development of the Neo and the production of the Neo.

Thrillers and documentaries receive subsidies from NEO

Neo – Application Guides

People to contact

New Production:

Linn Kirkener, Drama and Fiction Production Consultant – 932 08 629 linn.kirkener[@]nfi.no

Helen Prestgard, Documentary Production Consultant – 469 05 002 helen.prestgard[@]nfi.no

New idea development, development and new events:

Nedin Mutic, Talent Consultant – 485 38 995 nedin.mutic[@]nfi.no

Jannicke Hansen, Talent Coordinator – 981 04 702 jannicke.hansen[@]nfi.no

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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