The Norwegian Film Institute was established by Parliament’s decision on 3 May 1955, as the last in a series of major government initiatives in the film sector in the wake of the Second World War. 

Norwegian Mobile Cinema  (“Bygdekinoen”) and the National Film Board of Norway (“Statens Filmsentral”) were set up in 1948, the National Newsreel (“Filmavisen”) in 1945 (from 1949 as a department of Norsk Film AS), and thus increasing government share ownership of the production company Norsk Film AS. Alongside these institutions, a system of state support for feature film production was introduced in 1948, and amended in 1950, 1955 and 1964, with a support scheme for “independent artistic short films” being introduced under the aegis of the Arts Council Norway in 1955.

The Norwegian Film Institute (NFI) was, at its origins, set up as a film archive.  The NFI was a founding member of the Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF).

Expansion and Film Support

The responsibility for administering feature film support was transferred from the Ministry for Culture to the Film Institute in two steps in 1988 (selective, ex-ante support) and in 1990 (automatic, ex-post support).  The “Nordic model” of a commissioning executive in charge of selective support for feature film production replaced the old system with grants dispensed by a committee in 1993.  From 1989 the Institute also took over the presentation and promotion of Norwegian films abroad.  During the same period, the NFI was host to the Videogramme Register, which was later merged with the National Board of Film Classification, finally to be incorporated into the Norwegian Media Authority.

Merger and a New HQ

The NFI merged with the National Film Board of Norway in 1993.  With the merger came new assignments in distributing 16mm film and video for non-commercial use, and in promoting visual literacy among children, in and out of school.  Relocation to the Film House in downtown Oslo and the incorporation of the Oslo Cinematheque in 1994 raised the public profile of the Film Institute.  Increased political awareness of cultural and film policy during the 1990’s, and increased production subsidies, further spurred activity in the NFI.

2001 Film Reform

However, falling admissions to Norwegian films led to the Ministry’s initiating a review of its film support policies and the institutional apparatus administering it.  Following a series of consultancy reports the Ministry’s “2001 Film Reform” restructured the government’s executive bodies in the film sector.  Production support resources from the Audiovisual Production Fund, Norsk Film AS, and the Norwegian Film Institute were pooled in the newly formed Norwegian Film Fund, charged with implementing a string of new regulations and support schemes.  The NFI was assigned a more “cultural” role, with emphasis on film archiving and preservation, visual literacy and film promotion abroad.

A “New” Film Institute

Another review, this time of the Film Fund’s activities, in 2007 led to the Norwegian Film Fund, the Norwegian Film Institute, the Norwegian Film Development, and the Norwegian Film Commission being united under the name of the Norwegian Film Institute on 1 April 2008.  Filmarkivet, the archive, was moved to the National Library of Norway along with the responsibility for preserving and restoring Norwegian film.

Towards the Future

In 2015 the Norwegian film policy was brought up to date with a new government white paper on future-oriented film policy. The paper did not change NFI’s primary tasks, but put greater emphasis on restructuring and simplifying the development and production funding schemes. The white paper also emphasized a stronger focus on diversity and platform neutrality. 

NFI was also given added responsibility for funding of distribution and exhibition initiatives in Norway through cinemas, cinematheques and film festivals.

And finally, in 2016 the new Incentive Scheme, a refund-based framework program intended to encourage the film industries of Norway and other countries to shoot films in Norway was established.