Bureaucracies and Judgmental Autonomy: Film Consultants in a Public Film Institute

Jesper Strandgaard Petersen, Per Darmer, Chris Mathieu

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study focuses on how the central public agency in the Danish film field, The Danish Film Institute (DFI) sought to increase its legitimacy and stave off criticism through two structural organizational design maneuvers. The first
structural maneuver deals with mediating the tension between artistic and commercial considerations and demands by constructing two subsidy programs, one oriented towards commercial films, and the other towards artistic films. The
second structural maneuver seeks to deal with the almost inevitable vulnerability inherent in the artistic subsidy scheme – how, and ultimately who, decides what is of artistic merit and should receive public funding, and how to make such
procedures and decisions beyond reproach? Here, the DFI seeks to insulate the chosen evaluators – the film consultants – from external pressures by granting them an organizational position of sovereignty coupled with individual responsibility with regard to evaluations of artistic merit. This can also be seen as an attempt to build a firewall between the DFI and the film consultants. The article shows that neither structural maneuver provides watertight solutions to
the problems and issues they seek to resolve. Based on archival research and interviews, two incidents that were portrayed in the press as «scandals» are used to analyze the dilemmas the film consultants and the DFI face in their attempts to deal with legitimacy challenges. One overriding dilemma identified for the film consultants – the «proximity-distance» dilemma revolves around the fact that most consultants are recruited from and eventually return to work in the Danish film industry, but for the period they hold the position of film consultant, they are expected to act in a neutral, disinterested, impartial and fair manner in making their (inevitably subjective) artistic judgments and subsidy decisions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordisk Kulturpolitisk Tidskrift
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)68-89
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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