Cinema Features

An open source adventure from outer space

“It started
as a hobby,” Samuli Torssonen, the man behind the Star Wreck saga and the face
of Captain Pirk, the ultimate emperor of the Universe,
explains. “I’m a
huge fan of the Star Trek series and movies since I was kid.  I liked it so much that I had to make
something similar. It was my way of expressing my fandom”. In 1992, a teenage
Samuli created a simple 2D animation movie with three spaceships shooting at
each other. It was his first step in the universe of Star Wreck. As he admits,
the graphics are bad, the story is bad, almost everything was bad… but the core
of the story is there: Pirk, Mr. Fukov, Mr. Dwarf, the Plingons… The big
Finnish parody of Star Trek had begun.

The last
episode of the series so far, Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning has become a cult
movie, downloaded millions of times from Internet. For being an amateur movie,
it counters with astonishing computer-generated special effects.  “During the seven years that this project
lasted, several computers worked non-stop at my apartment”, admits Samuli.

Star Wreck
is all do-it-yourself philosophy. The production started with a small camera, a
portable television, a couple of 25 euro work lights and a broken wheelchair, Timo Vuorensola says. “Samuli contacted
me through some friends and asked me to play the role of Colonel Dwarf in 1997
for Star Wreck V,” Timo recalls. “The requirements were that he needed a guy
who can speak loudly and a guy who is tall and has long hair.” He ended up
being the director.


Internet hit

Internet and word of mouth have been the distribution channels that made Star
Wreck widely known. “People got
interested in us because we were giving it for free. The best way to market
your film is to get a lot of people watch it,” according to Timo.

As Samuli tells us, Star Wreck went to the Internet very early: “We released the first movies in 1997
and it was amazing because there were no movies at that time in the Internet.
Then people started contacting us through newsgroups and our message board”.

That is how
Star Wreck started to be a collaborative effort that gathered more than 300
people working voluntarily. For the forthcoming projects the team wants to keep
the community idea of the project: “We
would like to use the Internet to make a collaborative film,” says the director.
”The whole concept is that there are not only us making the film, but also our
fans. That keeps on giving the same kind of freedom to create. The idea behind
this attitude seems to be based on open source software: “For some reason this
kind of thinking is very Finland-based,” he continues. “We have Linux and a
couple of other phenomena. If it’s done so effectively in computer programs,
why not in the film industry?”

The open source idea is also applied to the ways the movie is
distributed. It is released under Creative Commons license and freely
distributed from the movie’s official website and peer to peer networks.
Copyright battles are not in the Star Wreck agenda: “For me, piracy the
funniest thing in the world,” says Timo. ”I’m more afraid of the things that
are done against it, like the Digital Rights Management (DRM), which is
preventing people from using the  available technologies."


{mosimage}Iron Sky

Samuli’s production team is currently ready for the next project. It
will start with a large budget. So far, only the title, Iron Sky, and a promotional
picture have been released.

Do expectations affect these guys? Samuli admits that “people are
expecting something a little bit better, but we want to make something way much

Timo thinks that one way to improve is to be very careful with the
story: “Everybody knows that we are able to make great special effects. I have
a feeling that we have a very strong story that people don’t expect from us”

And obviously, after so many years working hard together, the guys have
become a great family, cheering up each other when going through bad times.
“Low moments usually last a couple of hours, and get solved with some beers.
We have our own working methods. We
know what the others are thinking. There are no big problems between us. Now we
are four working as the core team, very strongly involved. Most probably we
will be working like this in the future, although it is true that we will need
to expand a bit. We need more professional people joining. However, it is a
hard process to include someone into a group that has worked together for such
a long time”. And expert hands have joined the team, since it was recently
confirmed that writer Johanna Sinisalo
will contribute to the script.

As a last question, we wanted to know what people’s reactions are when
they see the supreme emperor of the universe walking around Finnish streets: “I
have noticed in Tampere that people stared at me, but not really in Helsinki.
In bars Finnish guys come and talk about the movie…they find the courage when
they are drunk in the toilet!” Samuli laughs.

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