Written by Shona Smith on Feb 19, 2020. Posted in Interviews

On location in Greenland with Klaus Georg Hansen, Chairman of Film.GL – The Film Industry Association of Greenland

On location in Greenland with Klaus Georg Hansen, Chairman of Film GL - The film Industry Association of Greenland.

How did you become involved in the film business and what has been your career path to get you to your current role as Chairman of Film.GL?

Klaus Georg Hansen on a dog sledge trip in Sisimiut

My involvement in filming goes back decades. As social anthropologist, I have used the film media for cultural documentation. Film production has never been a fulltime professional occupation for me. When film production began in Greenland in the last part of 2000’s I assisted as line producer on some of the productions.

In my professional occupation, I have specialized in business and project management. In 2019, Film.GL had developed to a full-size organization, run by enthusiastic filmmakers. At the general assembly, the members were in search of a person a little less directly involved in film production as chair to bring Film.GL forward as a strong association. This is the current aim for the four members of our board.

What does this role involve exactly and what do you enjoy most about the job?

It is an unpaid job to run the association Film.GL. All four members of the board of Film.GL have fulltime jobs alongside with running Film.GL. The board is also the secretariat for Film.GL. As one of our tasks is to maintain our website www.film.gl In collaboration with the film workshop, Filmiliortarfik, we invite key persons to give courses on different aspects of film production
Because Greenland still does not have a national film institute, Film.GL also see as its task to act internationally to promote Greenland as a unique film location country and to promote Greenland film production abroad.

Please tell us about the Film.GL

Elevated view of Paradise Valley, Greenland (c) Photo by Dan Bach Kristensen - Visit Greenland

Some of our pioneer film makers formed Film.GL in 2012. Some of our pioneers are Jørgen Chemnitz and Peter Jensen. Without their visions and dreams for a national film industry, we would not be where we are today.
Film.GL works for better conditions for our film industry in regard to working conditions, production economy, legislation in relation to film production and other topics.
Currently, we are about 40 individual members. Our members represent about 25 film companies. It is not all in Greenland engaged in the film production, who are members of Film.GL. Many of those who are involved in film production are only occasionally engaged in a production. Film.GL is the only organization in Greenland, which is dedicated to organize people working in the film industry.

How many of your production company members also offer location or production services to incoming productions wanting to film in Greenland?

Most of our production companies are capable of offering location and production services. Many of the companies have less than five employed. One of the main challenges to us is lack of capacity to be involved in all the potential productions. Each week Film.GL as well as the single companies are receiving several requests from foreign production companies looking for local partnership for a production in Greenland.
Our companies need to be selective in their choices as they firstly typically have their own ongoing productions, secondly mostly are interested in inquiries that are open to have a Greenland partner being involved in their project very early in the development on the project.
To Film.GL and our members, our website is the main entrance for contacts between foreign film producers and local film professionals. I invite everyone to visit www.film.gl to see if a relevant local collaborator can be found amongst the members of Film.GL.

View from the hostel in Qeqertarsuaq. On a clear summer's day, you can see icebergs stretching all the way to the horizon (c) Photo by Reinhard Pantke - Visit Greenland

Who can join Film.GL?

Our bylaws state that any individual that is working with film and who is living in Greenland or is living outside of Greenland and has a clear affiliation to Greenland can apply for membership. We organize all aspects of film production from preproduction, through production to postproduction.

Do you have international members, and if so who?

Well, yes, we have members who are living in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. All of them are characterized by have strong connections to Greenland and many of them have their company registered in Greenland.

Snow and wind in Sisimiut (c) Photo by Mads Pihl - Visit Greenland

The river running through downtown Qaqortoq in South Greenland with the old red church in the background (c) Photo by David Trood - Visit Greenland

Do any of your members offer post-production services?

Yes, we have a handful of very talented post-production professionals. Among those, I can especially point at Malik Kleist and Marc Fussing Rosbach.

Do you help foreign producers find development and film finance for films shooting in Greenland?

Being a nation of 56,000 citizens we do not have the volume in our economy to provide funding for much largescale film production.

What is the state of the Greenland local production industry today?

For decades, films have been shot in Greenland. Among the early films is SOS Eisberg, by Arnold Fanck (1933), Palo’s Wedding by Knud Rasmussen (1934), and Qivittoq by Erik Balling (1956). All of these early films have been produced entirely by foreign film crews except from a few Greenland actresses and actors, not many of them mentioned on film posters.
During the last 15 years, our own film industry has grown and has been professionalized. The last couple of years we have been consolidating the organization around the film industry. Since 2017, we have had Nuuk International Film Festival. It is a small film festival, but it has given us the needed window of display of our film production. In 2018, our first film workshop was established enabling us to start educating the next generation of Greenland filmmakers.

Flying with an Air Greenland Bell 212 helicopter from Narsaq to Qaqortoq in South Greenland (c) Photo by Mads Pihl - Visit Greenland

Film.GL is currently in close dialogue with the Government of Greenland about the need for a national film institute.

Roughly how many foreign productions come and film in Greenland each year?

I would say that through the last 10 years, about one or two.

Parts of an old plane from the American air base in Narsarsuaq (c) Photo by Mads Pihl - Visit Greenland

How many crew make up the Greenland production industry?

For small and medium size productions, we can provide one or two crews. For larger productions, the film industry in Greenland is still too small to be able to set up a full crew.

What approximately is the maximum number of incoming productions that the Greenland local production infrastructure can accommodate at any one time?

Because of our kind of island infrastructure, the logistical capacity is determined locally. For instance, if a shooting takes place in Ilulissat everyone have to be in Ilulissat during the entire shooting session. Commuting between towns is not an option while production is going on.
Regarding locals cast and crewmembers, one large production will easily swoop up the entire Greenland film industry.

Houses on the hill (c) Photo by Aningaaq R Carlsen - Visit Greenland

Please describe the diversity of locations that Greenland has to offer?

Being the largest island in the world covering from north to south a distance like from northern Norway to southern Italy means that Greenland has a wide diversity of locations.

South West Greenland has farming and even a small forest. Sheep farming dominates most of the fjords. Smaller icebergs are floating close by the hay fields with modern farming equipment. Especially during autumn, the vegetation colours in the mountains are spectacular ranging from light yellow over all aspects of green to the darkest red.

Two Hikers approaching Tasiusaq sheep farm in South Greenland (c) Photo by Mads Pihl - Visit Greenland

Midwest Greenland is characterized by our largest towns, Sisimiut with 5,000 citizens and Nuuk the capital with 20,000 citizens. The midnight circle crosses just south of Sisimiut. We have a modern, urban life apartment blocks and buildings up to 12 floors high … those are our skyscrapers.

Sunrise over a snowcovered Nuuk in Greenland (c) Photo by Rebecca Gustafsson - Visit Greenland

The Disco Bay West Greenland is dominated by Ilulissat and the Ilulissat Fjord with its spectacular scenery of giant icebergs floating majestically by the town. I’ll add, that you can all just relax. In spite of the increasing melting the scientists have ensured us, that there will new floating new iceberg from the icecap for the next 1,000 years. Ilulissat is also the most northern larger town (5,000 citizens) with a midnight sun and winter darkness.

It's hard to take in the scale of the massive icebergs coming from the Sermeq Kujalleg Glacier and out into the ocean through the Ilulissat Icefjord. Here, a pair of mountain bikers contemplate their Magnitude. Ilulissat, North Greenland Photo by Ben Haggar - Visit Greenland

North West Greenland is dominated by smaller and relatively isolated towns. In this part of Greenland, we have top modern fishing activities going on alongside with the traditional hunting for primarily seal and narwhale. Often the same people are involved in both kinds of activity depending of the time of year.

Unummannaq and its famous heart shaped mountain (c) Photo by Trevor Traynor - Visit Greenland

In the highest north, we have Qaanaaq (often referred to in English as Thule). Through the years, a few films have been shot in or around Qaanaaq. They are mostly documentaries and with a limited number of crewmembers.

East Greenland is inhabited in two areas with more than 1,000 kilometers between them. Due to the current coming down from the Arctic Sea along the east coast of Greenland the climate is rougher than in most of West Greenland. The infrastructure is thin and can be a major challenge which of course appeals to some producers. It is something to be able to say: ‘parts of the film was shot in East Greenland’. Paamiut harbour

How is the infrastructure for traveling in Greenland?

As I have mentioned, commuting between towns is not possible. The reason for that is partly the huge distances. We easily have 200 kilometers between our towns. Furthermore, there are no roads between the towns. Traveling has to be done by sea or by air.
Today, the airport infrastructure is based on an airport, Kangerlussuaq, built by the US air forces during Second World War. It is an airport in the middle of nowhere. It is located 200 kilometers inland from Sisimiut close to the icecap. As such, Kangelussuaq is a location for filming on its own. It is possible to go by off-road car the last 50 kilometers to edge of the icecap.
Kangerlussuaq is currently our only international airport, but that will change in 2023.
In 2019, the government decided to invest in two new international airports, one in Ilulissat and one in Nuuk. This will make Greenland open to the world as never before. It will be possible to fly directly to Ilulissat and to Nuuk, the two towns with the most hotel capacity.

Paamiut harbour (c) Photo by Aningaaq R Carlsen - Visit Greenland

Boat sailing through farm place in the summer sunny day (c) Photo by Aningaaq R Carlsen - Visit Greenland

What foreign productions (any type or size) have filmed in Greenland in the last 5 years?

I do not have a full overview. Until now, there has been an administrative system to register foreign film production in Greenland. That is about to change soon. Many documentaries are shot in Greenland; typically, they are scientific or are showing different aspects of our diverse way of living.
If I should mention a few foreign produces feature films, I will point out
The idealist by Christina Rosendahl (2015) a Danish drama,
Aquarela by Victor Kossakovsky (2019), a documentary shortlisted for an Oscar, Conan in Greenland by Conan O’Brian (2019), a TV show, Thin Ice by CC (2020) a Nordic drama TV series.

What kind of permit system and cost reduction systems applies to Greenland?

There are now regulations directly pointed at foreign film production in Greenland. The authorities have been focused on the issue for a while, and soon a new set of regulations will be introduced. I have no knowledge of how these regulations will be.
From January 2020, the government of Greenland – for the first time ever – has introduced a tax reduction system for large foreign film productions in Greenland.

What tips would you like to share about filming in Greenland?

Be prepared for the unexpected. This is an enlightening challenge to any producer. When you are here, you cannot just go around the corner or to the next town to pick up something you forgot to bring with you,

Most of all, your will get a lifetime experience which will spread all the way to the screen of your production.

Thank you Klaus. It has been great talking to you and finding out more about you, Fiml.GL and about Greenland as a film location destination.

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