Affinitive and milieu-building transnationalism: The advance party initiative


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The field of transnational cinema studies is a burgeoning one, and I would like to contribute to some of the lively ongoing debates by looking at the ways in which film professionals belonging to small, relatively privileged nations and/or states have responded to the challenges and opportunities of transnational filmmaking. My focus will be on two nations, one with an independent state (denmark), the other with a degree of autonomy as a result of a devolutionary process (Scotland).1 And within these two national contexts, the emphasis is on cross-border interaction between agents located in key cities: Copenhagen and Glasgow. While cultural policy is an important part of the picture, the emphasis here is not on state actors but on a quite different type of agency. The point is to draw attention to promising transnational initiatives that film companies, operating within the parameters of national, subnational, or supranational frameworks, can undertake in order to develop a filmmaking milieu in cities that are of strategic importance for the nations in which they are situated. Milieu-developing transnationalism is a salient feature of the cinematic case that provides the focus for my discussion here: Advance Party, a rule-governed, three-film collaborative endeavor involving Gillian Berrie's Glasgow-based Sigma Films2 and Lars von Trier and Peter Aalbæk Jensen's Copenhagen-based Zentropa Productions. drawing on interviews with producer Gillian Berrie and her assistant Anna duffield in Scotland, and with producer Marie Gade and filmmaker Lone Scherfig in denmark, I shall describe the motivations, as understood by some of the central players, for initiating Advance Party in 2002. The point is to try to grasp the participating agents' subjective rationality, and not necessarily to determine the accuracy of their various pronouncements. I am concerned, in other words, with practitioners' agency, with the self-understandings that motivate certain transnational collaborative choices. Key questions that inform my attempt to understand the still-developing alliance between Sigma and Zentropa include the following: 1. How do the two small-nation film companies understand their transnational collaborative venture long term? 2. What makes collaboration between the two companies mutually beneficial? 3. What is the interest of working with a model involving sustained rather than one-off collaboration? 4. What is the envisaged effect of linking artistic experimentation to transnational collaboration? 5. How is the transnational project served by adopting metacultural strategies - manifestos or publicly announced rule-governed frameworks - as is the case with the Advance Party initiative? My aim is to provide elements of a theoretical framework for understanding the contribution that Advance Party makes to both the diversification of models of transnational filmmaking and to the articulation of solutions to the problems of small-nation filmmaking. The anticipated effects of the Advance Party collaboration are, as we shall see, very much about transferring some of the positive features of the now thriving danish filmmaking milieu (in Copenhagen) to Scotland (and, more specifically, Glasgow), where an appropriate milieu is deemed by Sigma to be lacking for various reasons.3 I shall begin with a few remarks about small nations and states, and about various types of cinematic transnationalism, before considering Advance Party in detail. © 2010 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48201. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCinema at the Periphery
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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