This week, award-winning makeup artist Bjørg Serup publicly said goodbye to the Danish film industry.
“I am on sick leave due to a work injury due to serious stress and I cannot wait to return to the film industry or any other full time job,” he wrote in an article published in Echo, the magazine of the country’s film industry.
The reason? Stress-related cognitive decline, which he attributed to the way production times and budgets have been slashed to meet today’s almost limitless demand for Danish drama.
This year, Serup began work on the return of director Lars Von Trier’s cult 1990s comedy hospital. The kingdom, which she enjoyed, and last year did the makeup for the award-winning real-life crime miniseries The investigation, and the Norwegian royal drama Atlantic crossing.
It was this summer, after a historical drama he was working on was postponed, which caused him to collide with another project, that it fell apart.
Serup’s article came two days after 415 people from the Danish film industry, including several well-known actors, signed an open letter to the country’s producers, warning that the high volume of work and stress was causing “harassment, intimidation and threats to destroy people’s careers.”
“People who are just doing their job shouldn’t have to report sick with depression and stress, or leave the industry entirely just because the lemon just needs to be squeezed a little more,” the letter said.
Production designer Emilie Nordentoft, who organized the letter together with actor Dorte Rømer, said the hunger for content from streaming companies like Netflix, HBO and Amazon was pushing the industry to the limit.
“We have the streaming companies now in Denmark, we have HBO, we have Netflix, and it’s great that we have this variety, but it creates a situation where the demand for content is constant,” Nordentoft told Observer. People just have to run faster, and when people are under pressure, they start yelling, and it’s not okay to yell. “
He said the letter originated from a closed Facebook group he had created for those who felt intimidated.
“I started getting calls and messages from people whispering to me how well I was doing this. But they are scared. And I understand why they are scared because they are being bullied. It’s like, ‘We’re going to crush your career, you’ll never come back.’
Netflix currently has two new series, Chosen one Y Elves, on the production line of Jannik Tai Mosholt and Christian Potalivo, the creators of the company’s hit miniseries Apocalyptic. The rain, and has also finished production of the Nordic crime series noir. The brown man and the thriller Loving adults.
HBO launched its first Danish original series this year, Kamikazeand Apple, Amazon and Disney are looking to order Danish series.
Jørgen Ramskov, executive director of the Danish Producers Association, agreed that demand for streaming services was pushing the industry to “full capacity.”
“We have situations in which production companies cannot produce because they cannot get skilled labor, “he said.” We don’t have much of it, but I think we’re very close to the limit. “
Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen, CEO of SAM Productions, which has produced two Netflix original productions, The brown man Y Ragnarok, and is currently doing a new series of the hit political drama Bail, was forced to delay.
“I just put off production for a month because we couldn’t get a production designer,” he said. “I have big trouble manning.”
However, for her it is a golden age. “The business is booming. A lot of these streamers who come to Denmark have a huge appetite, which is a wonderful and positive thing, ”he continued. “But their hours are rooted in countries with other work cultures. I love working with Netflix, they are a very nice partner, but I find it very difficult to meet their expectations of how quickly we can do a TV series and have happy workers. “
Denmark’s film industry began to overcome its weight in the 1990s with the appearance of directors such as Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, but it was only when the crime series the murder and the political drama Bail became surprise international hits in 2012 that Danish television attracted the interest of foreign broadcasters. Foldager attributes Denmark’s success to “storytelling”, while Nordentoft attributes “very dedicated and hard-working people.”
For both Foldager and Ramskov, the solution to the problems of intimidation and working conditions is to make sure that the existing system through which filmmakers can report abuses and insist on union rules is working. “We have to be aware of what is going wrong to act,” Ramskov said. “If we only have these rumors about how dire this situation is and the dire conditions, it is very difficult to act.”
In his article, Serup said that the problem was more structural than a matter of a few bullying producers and directors.
“When I started making movies, they spent eight weeks on a feature film,” he said. “The last films I have made have been period films. They have been given five and a half weeks. Budgets have by no means been sufficient. “
Nordentoft argues that, in a sense, workers in the industry were being punished for their strengths. “What I have heard from people is that they have found that Denmark, apparently, is a country where film workers are very efficient,” he said. “But we also need to have the necessary time. We are not robots. It is not a factory where you just spit movies. And sometimes it can feel like a factory. “
Netflix, HBO and Amazon declined to comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism