The documentary project  « War of Art » (Story House Productions and Norsk Fjernsyn as, with Tommy Gulliken directing) was successfully pitched at Sunny Side of the Doc 2017. It won the award for « Best Arts & Culture Project » on the same occasion. What followed on from your pitch and which new international partners did you attract?

When we pitched the project at Sunny Side of the Doc last year, it had been in development and pre-production for quite some time. The crew was in the middle of preparing the shoot in North Korea, and our partners at Norsk Fjernsyn had already secured funding from the Norsk Filminstitutt as well as Fritt Ord. In addition, Arte and TV2 had expressed interest in the film.

After the pitch, many broadcasters and distributors from across the globe, especially Asia, approached me and wanted to hear more about the project. These were colleagues that I would have found very hard to meet without this excellent exposure during the Sunny Side’s Pitching forum.

Nine months after, at what stage of production is « War of Art »? In how many countries will the film be distributed?

The film is currently in post-production and will be completed this spring. It will air in a number of European countries, such as Germany, France and Norway. In addition, we are in talks with broadcasters from across the world – Canada, the UK and Japan – to name a few.  We are also prepping a theatrical version and are in talks with distributors.

 « War of Art » follows a group of experimental western artists to North Korea as they collaborate with their North Korean counterparts. What makes it a story fit to travel across borders, despite the fewer number of « arts & culture » slots on television today?

“War of Art” takes an international audience behind the facade of North Korea. In the film, we do not only cross a metaphorical border, but also a literal one. The viewers get to experience the country and its culture from a unique point of view, the artists’ point of view. The artists featured in the film come from Norway, Germany, France and the UK. The language is English.

These are the key elements that make this a global film. The subject matter is of concern to everybody and our protagonists allow the audience to bond with their compatriot without making it a local film.

How do you see « arts & culture » programming reinventing itself in order to attract younger audiences and enrich public engagement with Culture?

The TV market is becoming increasingly competitive. At the same time, new opportunities arise for creators and producers. New platforms emerge and with them new ways of producing, financing, and distributing content. However, in the end, what matters most are well-told and compelling stories.
Regardless of the genre or platform, be it fictional short form or a 10-part documentary series, as long as we have engaging stories to tell, we will be able to engage viewers of all age groups and generations.

« War of Art » also demonstrates a successful example of coproduction between Germany and Norway. What have been Story House Productions’ takeways from this professional and creative experience?

The advantage of working with an international partner is that you can share expertise and knowledge that you otherwise would have no access to. An international co-production opens up new possibilities for your project. At the same time, you share the responsibilities, the successes and also the risks. For a co-production to be successful, everyone involved needs to be on the same page.
You must be able to trust and rely on each other. And it’s always fun to work with new creative people.

Submissions are now open for Sunny Side of the Doc 2018. What advice would you share with fellow producers and doc makers looking for financing/co-production on the international market?  

Attending these markets, networking and connecting with producers and broadcasters from across the world is essential to launching a project internationally. Keep your eyes and ears open. Even if your project is not exactly what attendees are looking right now, other opportunities might open up later on in the process.  Never give up. Release your inner pit-bull and keep smiling.

ABOUT “WAR OF ART” Synopsis: What will happen when a group of international artists go to North Korea to teach local artists about subversive art? North Korea. The world’s most closed-off society. A totalitarian family dynasty propped up by military generals, where Kim Jong-Un keeps the people from knowing what happens in the world around them. Reportedly, between 150.000 and 200.000 North Koreans are in concentration camps, brutally submitted to forced labor for any critical expression against the regime. In such a place, is true art even possible? Some totalitarian regimes fall due to external military action. However, recent examples like Iraq and Libya show that this rarely leads to successful revolutions, compared to when people change society from within over time. North Korea has been unchanged for 70 years, a society without debate. Their artists are technically world-class, but make statues of their leaders, paint cute cats and pretty sunsets –– their only function is to prop up the existing regime. But if artists are not allowed to question the way things are, who can?