THE HISTORY OF THE DANISH NATIONAL VIDEO WORKSHOP
– a brief summary by Gunhild Hall, production secretary .
From its humble beginnings in 1977 and till today the Video Workshop has lived through turbulent times. The original ‘Workshoppen’ was founded by the City of Haderslev in co-operation with the Danish Film Institute. Hans V. Bang became head of this workshop. Applications received by the new workshop came to a total of 31. 18 of these were given a production grant. A year later, the number of applications had increased to 60 of which 36 received a grant.
As time passed, the workshop moved from a few rooms in the Activity House to larger and more suitable premises, and finally moved into the building that previously housed ‘TV-Syd’.
But prior to this and for many years, the technical equipment was not exactly state-of-the-art but there was no lack of ambition. As early as 1979, Workshop Haderslev was proclaimed ‘the workshop of visual arts’ in Denmark. That year, 49 applications were received and 22 were given a grant. In 1980, the first Danish international video week was arranged with 67 productions from the Nordic countries and Europe, and 450 visitors. The number of applications almost exploded – 100 applications were received but, at this point, the workshop could only give grants to about 45% of these. The number of reaching-out activities was considerable this year. The visual arts fair in Vejle was a success and so were the alternative women’s conference and the War and Peace event in Haderslev.
During the next year (1981), the workshop dealt with 91 applications out of a total of 279 enquiries, 30 were given a full grant while 14 were given a partial grant.
In 1982, 108 applications out of a total of 321 enquiries were considered, 32 received a full grant, 30 a partial grant. This year saw an increase in the number of applications for short features above films about social realism. This meant different requirements to both technical equipment and staff. The number of home video productions was increasing, and the workshop had to decide whether to demand a higher professionalism from its users while at the same time remain open to amateurs. This year, the name was changed to Det Danske Videoværksted (DDV) – the Danish Video Workshop – appropriate in a geographical context and as a government institution.
In 1983, the Workshop received 402 enquiries, 97 resulted in applications, 39 received a full and 28 a partial grant. The Video Workshop took part in the new Odense Fairytale Festival.
This was the start of a concentrated effort to have the workshop productions shown at festivals worldwide, and the workshop took part in the Berlin Film Festival for the first time in 1984. This year, 35 productions received a full grant, 36 a partial grant.
1985 was Youth Year according to a UN initiative. Two large-scale projects were initiated: 1) A job creation scheme ‘Video 85’ and ‘Youth 85’ and 2) A project for young people in Southern Denmark: ‘Create a programme about something that you find important’.
The total number of productions peaked with 45 full grants and 33 partial grants, or a total of 2,500 minutes of finished production.
In 1986, large-scale reaching-out activities were initiated with and for refugees and immigrants in Denmark – in collaboration with the Danish Refugee Council. The refugees’ own film work was upgraded – a kind of positive discrimination – and from then on this type of work was shown great sympathy by successive project committees.
It was close to a 98% utilisation of the workshop’s capacity. 400 enquiries resulted in 112 applications, 39 were given a full grant while 32 were given a partial grant.
In 1987, the workshop was awarded “Work-horse of the Year” by the Danish branch of the International Television Association. This year, Haderslev City Council halved its subsidy to the workshop, but the Film Institute and the City Council agreed on a continuous mutual interest in supporting the workshop for at least three years. 122 applications were received, 44 were granted full support, 7 partial support.
In 1988, the animation department was opened. That meant that persons under 18 were allowed to use the workshop. The ‘Next Stop Soviet’ project was launched and covered Moscow, Leningrad, Minsk and the towns along the Trans-Siberian Railway. 134 applied for support, 58 were granted.
- The Fall of the Wall between Eastern and Western Germany. Co-operation with Eastern Europe was intensified; new contacts were established in Berlin. There was a huge interest for workshops based on the Danish model in, a. o., Schwerin, Rostock and Neubrandenburg. Medium to large-sized workshops were established here during the following years – this was a prime example of export of culture and democracy on the partners’ terms. The number of applications was 118 this year, 69 were granted support.
In 1990, the DDV was invited to take part in an international TV co-production called TIMECODE with Channel 4, Kanal 4, INA, ORF, and Spanish and Belgium television a. o. The finished compilation was shown on 9 European TV stations. The Danish contribution was by the director Henrik Ruben Genz. DDV participated in the video part of the Nordic Film Days in Lübeck and The Open Window. Now the workshop had computer animation facilities. 141 applications were received, 72 were granted support.
- A special event of the year was the grand and ambitious video installation PEEP and Hats by Pablo Llambias and with music by Niels Rosing Schouw. More than 40,000 shots on 150 monitors and from 28 computer-controlled video sources were exhibited at Charlottenborg – and caused quite a sensation. The number of applications this year reached 64 – 39 were given a grant.
In 1992, the Cultural Foundation granted the Danish TIMECODE anthology support in order to select the Danish contribution to the international publication. The winner was “I think I am” by Jeannet Schou. Applications this year: 72. Grants: 45.
The first “Southern Denmark Cartoon Workshop” took place in 1993. 17 children took part, and it resulted in18 films. Number of applications this year: 80. Grants: 51.
In 1994, the Video Workshop and an exhibition group arranged an impressive exhibition about the cinema at the Gl. Dok Architecture and Building Export Centre. It was called the ‘Dream Palace – Films and Architecture’. The first exhibition to illustrate Cinema and Film in connection with the 100 years’ anniversary of the Moving Pictures. The number of applications had gone up to 99 and 53 were given a grant.
In 1995, the first steps to establish an animations bus were taken, and in January it set out on its first tour to Berlin. In collaboration with the Danish Film Institute, a great exhibition to celebrate Danish Film through 100 years was shown at the Danish House in Paris, then at the Museum at Koldinghus Castle, later with special attention to Elfelt in Schwerin, and finally at the Power Museum in Bjerringbro. Number of applications: 96. Grants: 40.
In 1996, the workshop moved to the premises in Laurids Skausgade, an old girls’ school and later officers’ quarters. With the help of external sponsors and others, a repair workshop, a cinema for screenings (Garagebio), an exhibition area and a studio (Studie 12) with light and sound control were established. Some of the employees produced the workshop’s first cd-rom – an introduction to the house, its history, status and the 1995 annual report. A CD-ROM project about the Danish cinema through 100 years was initiated. The number of applications was 103, 44 were given a grant.
In August 1997, the Video Workshop celebrated its 20th anniversary with a number of events. This was also the year that three of the most important film institutions in Denmark were amalgamated: the National Film Board, the Danish Film Institute and the Danish Film Museum. This amalgamation was called the Danish Film Institute and consisted of a number of departments, such as the Film Museum, the department for shorts and documentaries, the department for feature films, and the two workshops. In his anniversary speech, the Minister of Culture assured the audience that nothing should hinder another 20 years of the workshop! The workshop increased its reaching-out activities, initiated a co-operation with the academies of fine arts in the western part of Denmark and took part in festivals etc. The Dok Film Academy was established, and seminars on documentaries as the central theme were arranged. The Southern Denmark Media School offering two lines, film/video and animation, was established with support of the Ministry of Culture. A kind of preparatory school for young people between 17 and 25 that qualified them for a future career in the trade. In collaboration with several other cultural institution in Haderslev and supported by the Ministry of Culture, the ‘Hothouse’ for children, young people and media was established in order to develop the talent of children and young people through projects and prepare them for temporary work at the Video Workshop or for courses at media schools. During the year, the workshop and its in-house cinema, Garagebio, was visited by more than 4,500 people, most of them children. The production facilities were changed from analogue to digital production, and the workshop selected the most suitable technical equipment. 53 applications were received, 36 were given a grant.
The total re-organisation of the new Film Institute resulted in a cut in the workshop’s 1998 budget, and the planned investments were postponed for the time being. For a long time, the Video Workshop was playing a strange peripheral role, receiving different information about its future and lacking concrete actions with a perspective. Despite its success, the ‘Hothouse’, now called the ‘Growth Promoter’, had to close down in October 1998 due to the lack of financial support from the local authorities. However, that did not discourage the workshop from exploring new fields, trying out new combinations and building on past experiences. Experiences can be stored for another time and perhaps be made use of by others. ’Garagebio’ was now visited by about 13,000 a year. The ‘Animation bus’ had been to Summer Video Camp Nida in Lithuania, let out to projects in Randers and Vejle and had visited Bornholm in connection with a Nordic-Baltic seminar about ‘the up and coming’, arranged in collaboration with Filmwerkstatt Kiel, Germany, Mediefabrikken in Akershus, Norway and Susanne Lund (Nordic Baltic Media Network). This year 47 applications were received, 28 were given a grant.
In 1999, it was argued whether the workshops had a place in the media world and whether they had a future. The Video Workshop argued, that the very point was that its future was in the development of new talents and in its function as a kind of ‘convent’ which worked so well for the users. The application procedure was changed in order to heighten the quality of the applications and the work of the project committee. This form was later adjusted to fit the real world. The workshop took an active part in a Summer Camp for young talents from the Baltic area with staff, technical assistance and financially in close co-operation with the Landesfilmzentrum in Schwerin and the Filmwerkstatt der Kulturelle Filmförderung Schleswig-Holstein. A Nordic-Baltic co-production sequence was arranged with Mediefabrikken in Akershus in Norway and Medieværkstedet in Lyngby, Denmark, and resulted in six brilliant films by young talents from the Baltic States. The ‘Animation bus’ was invited to the Youth Film Festival in Rakvere, and took part in projects in Randers and Odense, a.o.
The violent storm on 3rd of December caused some damage to some of the rooms, but it was not so extensive that the production had to stop. Out of a total of 52 applications, 30 were given a grant and there were 3 of the so-called reaching-out projects.
In 2000, a new application procedure was introduced, a kind of ‘pitching’ which meant that the applicant sent in a project which was then prepared for two sessions in the project committee – this was to meet the management’s demand for a higher quality in the workshop productions. There was a noticeable drop in the number of applications – many did not feel that they could go through this procedure. There were only 4 deadlines for applications this year and that was not enough. The stage was set for a softening of the procedure and for more deadlines in the coming year.
Throughout the year, the Film Institute and Haderslev City Council were negotiating how the Video Workshop was to be organised and financed in the future. Was it to be a private foundation – with a higher degree of independence and competence but also the chance of drying out if there were no funds for the running of the workshop, or a private foundation under the Ministry of Culture – or what was less likely – a local institution? Was it doomed to failure having a national workshop in a city like Haderslev? Some people believed that, but only because they had not visited the place and did not understand the importance of being able to concentrate on one’s work 24 hours a day and in reasonably quiet surroundings.
Despite the uncertainty about the future, plans were made for the biggest event of the year – the Screening 2000 Festival. With the help from sponsors, the workshop arranged an event where producers could meet and where the public was invited. It was a success and resulted in new contacts, screenings for the media and good discussions about production. In 2002, the next Screening Festival would celebrate the workshop’s 25th anniversary. 31 applications were received, 19 were given a grant.
Year 2001. The productions had become more extensive and time-consuming. An increasing number of producers regarded the workshop as a production office. Targeted festival and distribution efforts gave unprecedented results. Several prizes were awarded through the year – the culmination was the shared First Prize for ‘Dancer With Joy’ by Eske Holm. It was the third year in a row that the workshop was awarded a prize in Odense. The first year, the prize was for the Best Workshop Film and was given to Fanny Knight for her film ‘In Search of a Life’. The second year, Camilla Buttingrud was awarded the Jury’s Prize for her film ‘In Denmark’.
Some of the producers were invited to take part in festivals in, a.o., Germany, Greece and the Netherlands to present their films and the workshop was commended for the high quality of its productions. This year 28 out of 49 applications received a grant. 8 reaching-out projects were initiated.
Year 2002. The year began with a reduced budget, more projects, and became a successful year for the distribution. Looking at the festival list for 2001 and up to March 2002, the Workshop had 61 screenings of its films around the world. 7 of these received awards. The digital production demanded more of the staff. Out of 47 applications 23 were given a grant.
More than 300 films were distributed to about 200 festivals, TV screenings, premieres, cinemas and other film cultural events by the festival department. One of the films “The Tunnel” by Claus Schrøder Nielsen was very successful and was awarded numerous prizes, culminating in the selection for the Clermont-Ferrand Festival in France. It was one of only two Danish short films to be selected for this prestigious festival. It did not win, but following its selection the Film Institute’s festival department paid for a 35 mm copy of the film.
The workshop’s 25th anniversary was celebrated, among other things, by screening more than 130 different titles from its production through 25 years. Taking place at the same time was the Screening 2002 in which 25 films from the last 2 years’ production competed for the 4 prizes founded by ‘Filmarbejderforbundet’, Nordic Film, Zentropa, Nimbus Film and Video-Graphic. A jury selected the 3 best films. The 1st prize of DKK 5,000 went to Arun Sharma’s “Indian Quality”, the 2nd prize of DKK 3,000 went to Kaspar Munk for “Simply Fish”, and the 3rd prize of DKK 1,000 went to Søren Vad for “Splitsekund”. The special prize for best editing, editing software from Video-Graphic, went to Arun Sharma for “Indian Quality”. Celebrations were only shadowed by the fact that the future of the workshop was still uncertain. Just before the Christmas holidays, Hans V. Bang, head of the workshop and Bo Terp, technical manager, received information that they could expect their dismissal in the near future.
Year 2003. The year started with nerve-wrecking negotiations between the City Council and the Film Institute, and the indications that the head of the workshop during the past 25 years would stop later in the year. Was the workshop to be moved, would there be a change of status or would it even have to close down? Finally, a decision was made. The workshop was to remain in Haderslev but as a private foundation. The news was received with mixed feelings. On one hand, it was a great opportunity for the workshop and there were lots of plans of what the workshop could do in the future – on the other hand, who would be head of this new institution!
31st July was Hans V. Bang’s last day at the workshop – the workshop he had helped build up more than 25 years ago. Bo Terp was temporarily employed as a consultant to keep the production going. A committee would have to employ a new head of the workshop. The future lay ahead with new challenges and new projects.