Exclusive SACC-LA interview with Anna Serner – CEO of the Swedish Film Institute

Anna Serner when she was the Summer Host for the popular Swedish Radio Show “Summer on P1” in 2018.
Photo Courtesy: Mattias Ahlm/Sveriges Radio.

Anna Serner has a vast and impressive background, for example; a degree in law, she has also undertaken a two-year course in practical filmmaking at the Stockholm School of Film as well as film studies at Stockholm University. Ms. Serner has also had her own marketing communications consultancy business, she was the CEO of the Advertising Association of Sweden (Reklamförbundet) as well as Managing Director of the Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (Tidningsutgivarna). Serner then started as CEO at the Swedish Film Institute in October 2011. At the Cannes Film Festival 2016 she launched the Swedish Film Institute’s initiative 50/50 by 2020, which became one of the starting points for greater awareness and work for parity within the global film industry. We are also proud that Ms. Serner was the keynote speaker at SACC-LA’s Gender Parity Summit 2016 in Los Angeles, and she has been a welcomed and much-appreciated guest at many of SACC-LA’s events during the years.

A few months ago, in late April, Anna Serner announced that she is resigning as CEO of the Swedish Film Institute in autumn 2021. You’ll find the press release via one of the links below. But before then, enjoy our exclusive interview with Ms. Serner! 

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background before you started at the Swedish Film Institute?
I am a strange mix of a creative background, I have studied film science and attended Stockholm Film School, and I have a law degree. But I became a “bossy” person and ended up having been a CEO for three different organizations during the last 25 years. First in advertising, then in the newspaper business, and most recently in film.

2. What inspired you to start the 50/50 by 2020 initiative?
It was really my background where equality between everyone was a very important value in my family. When I was a CEO at 34 years, I realized that all questions were related to my family situation and not my job situation, and I began to talk about it. Also, when I started at the Swedish Film Institute I was already a well-known feminist so I got the equality questions, but now about the film industry. We immediately started counting and discovered that we funded far more men than women; 70/30. I have always said that equality between the two sexes should be 50/50, over time. So when we, after the initial four years, could see that we actually had achieved 50/50 over that period, we wanted to call our next action plan something, and it became the initiative; 50/50 by 2020.

3. Looking back on your career as CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, what experience(s) and /or project(s) is the most memorable?
Oh, that is a much too big of a question! But we have passed some milestones, one was in 2017 when Sweden won four of the world’s most prestigious prizes; Cannes, Sundance, EFA and LUX and it was two men and two women doing it!
Another thing has been when we, the Swedish Film Institute, as an organization, received the funding for digitizing our film heritage. As one of few cultural institutions, we received permanent funding which meant that we could build a post-production studio, hire people and start to get Sweden’s film history out into the world. One unforgettable moment was when our restored and digitized film “Terje Vigen” (“A Man There Was”) by Victor Sjöström from 1917, was picked by the prestigious archive film festival Cinema Ritrovato and shown on the Piazza Grande in the middle of the night, still hot, with 3500 people in the audience. I inaugurated the screening and had one of my most exotic cinema experiences ever.

4. What do you think it will take to reach 100% gender parity in the film industry in Sweden and also worldwide?
Time, resilience, action, action and action!

5. In what way do you think Swedish films stand out or are unique in comparison with other countries’ films?
We have a much wider diversity of expressions and stories than most countries. Besides that, it’s up to each film to prove itself.

6. What tips do you have for women in male-dominated industries?
Connect with people who want you well, but also people that can add on things to your career. Networking with too many of the same people is no good, go out and find new people and groups. And remember to hang around with people who give you energy and who don’t steal your energy. But always be generous back. What goes around comes around.

7. What experience/learnings/knowledge will you take with you from your years at the Swedish Film Institute?
So much. Everything I know about film, and film archiving, and film literacy. Everything I know about intersectionality, racism, and discrimination besides gender inequality. All people I have met on the international arena when working with gender equality and wider inclusion. It has been amazing, and I hope I will keep everyone and you all in my life.
8. The Swedish film industry is at the forefront when it comes to gender equality but what, in general, can the Swedish film industry learn from other countries?Everyone can learn from each other. But Sweden needs to learn how to do good mainstream films that feel contemporary. They quite often feel… old fashion.
9. Do you have a favorite place in Los Angeles that you want to share with our readers and network? 
Yes, actually I think it was Gudrun who took me to the most amazing sushi place in West Hollywood, Jinpachi. Besides that, all the generosity shown by the Hollywood industry that listened to me, coming from far far away.

Five Fast Ones

Drama or Comedy?

 Movie night at home or movies at the theater?

City pulse or Countryside? I can´t live without any of them.

Hiking in Sweden or Beach walks in LA?

 Swedish “Köttbullar” or American Barbecue (BBQ)?

Anna Serner

Photo Courtesy: The Swedish Film Institute/
Jessica Scanlon.