Articles Misc

Monkey business

Within the
film or show business in general, actors are often considered a different
breed. They look like normal people but behave differently. Many of them seem
to fast-forward their lives, being greedy to consume marriages and ideologies.
They experiment with social masochism, seeming not to care about other people’s
reactions. The wild, eccentric and unpredictable actors. Drunk, filled with
lust, spontaneously jumping into anything that might provide a new dose of

stereotype is unjustified, of course. I have friends who act. There is a vast
amount of actors I have worked with – good hard-working and reliable people.
There are intelligent actors. There are actors who live in balance with
themselves and people around them.

But still,
there is something in the profession. I think performing publicly strongly satisfies
one of the most basic human desires, the need to be seen and recognized. Many
actors consider themselves shy, and their choice of forces them towards the
greatest fear: fear of exposure.

The need
for exposure and feeling sick about too much attention is sometimes almost

Tola, a very bright and talented young actress and photographer made a book
about acting (Miksi näyttelen – Why do I
). The book contains interviews with other actors and short comments on
the subject. It becomes obvious to the reader that especially for those new in
the profession, life can become really hard. Tearing themselves open publicly,
with the possibility of cruel criticism, can be sometimes too much for a fragile
soul. And we are all fragile souls.

An actor is
a professional who uses himself or herself as a tool – all the fears, hopes and
memories are material to work with. Building a fictitious character is not
(only) about pretending to be someone, one has to actually become someone else. Imagine becoming a serial killer, a victim of
gang rape or Adolf Hitler – starting to see the world through their eyes and
living their lives. It can be psychologically consuming.

This is
obviously true of any storyteller, even a writer, but nobody is as directly and
as completely in the game as an actor. A writer can write happy ends to all of
his life traumas (or kill the ones he loves most), but an actor follows the
lines drawn by the writer like faith itself – ending up in death or misery, or
glory, without being able to influence the course of events. (This is a cliché
but aren’t we all actors on the stage of life?)

Acting is a
challenging profession. I used to think that they were pussies, whining for
nothing and using cheap show tricks to get attention for themselves. Not
anymore. With great admiration I follow those who have the calling and talent
to change themselves – and come back.

Articles Misc

Dark people make dark films

My next film is about the civil war. It will not be exactly hilarious.

A darkish undertone exists in a large number of Finnish films, although lighter subject matters are made into film too, there is often something very artificial about them, like a forced smile. After all these years of Americanisation, genuinely positive films are few in Finland – you might point out that ”genuine” positivity is rare in the US too.

Are we a dark people? To some extent the answer is yes. Slavic, Finnish and Icelandic people very often find each other due to the same dark sense of humour. An Icelandic colleague once asked an international crowd what does a used condom and the M/S Estonia (a ship that sunk with 800 passengers about 10 years ago) have in common? They are both full of dead se(a)men. I laughed as well as the Russian guy, but the others stared at the Icelandic lady in anger.

A dark sense of humour means laughing at death, at the fragile and temporary nature of human existence, but I think it is vital to distinguish that from cynicism. Acceptance of irreversible death does not mean that there would not be hope in the world. There is.

Paha Maa (Frozen land) was a very unlikely box office hit, proving once again that depiction of sorrow can be appealing to audiences. This year’s best film so far, Miehen työ (A Man's Job), is also very dark, but not at all without hope.

I think a lot depends on skills and the quality of thinking. Telling true stories where good prevails is not easy. Just like simplicity is one of the most difficult things to achieve in storytelling.

So, if too many Finnish films are depressing, it needn’t mean that we all are – maybe we just need to learn about filmmaking. Keep in mind the golden rule: 95% of the films in the world are crap. Look at the 5%.

I am a keen Marxist in two senses of the word, the other being an admirer of the late comedian Groucho Marx. In his autobiography he wrote about a deeply depressed man who went to see a doctor. The doctor tried various things but nothing seemed to help this poor man. Finally the doctor suggested that the man would go see the circus, he had heard that there is a clown called Delaney who is absolutely outrageously funny. I am Delaney the clown, replied the patient.

Yes, we are dark people and there is no need to change that. Let’s make dark films then. But they can still be enlightening, optimistic and amusing, only if we become good enough storytellers.

Articles Misc

Art makes the world go around

American producer had bought a super yacht with the revenue he made with his
last film. “What about the rest of the money then?” Biotechnics shares was the answer. 

The Greek
producer had remained silent and the other two turned to him and asked what he
had bought with the revenue from his latest film? “A tape recorder”, he
replied. “And what about the rest of the money?”, the other two asked. 

”My mom
lent me the rest”, the proud Greek said. 

You could
replace Greece with Finland and there would be no difference. Filmmaking in a
country of five million is business wise nearly as absurd as agriculture in
these freezing and dark latitudes. But it is a well-known fact that once you
have food, shelter and health, money has little influence in happiness. Greed
is not the strongest motivator in life. (I was once close to starting a joint
film production company with an Icelandic colleague – it would’ve been called Lust, Envy & Greed Ltd). 

It is
incredibly rewarding to work on something that feels meaningful. This explains
why nurses, teachers, policemen and many others keep on working hard despite
minuscule pay. Feeling of something bigger also motivates film workers, who
joggle their lives between short but exhausting 50-hour weeks and months of
unemployment without hope. 

working on commercials get better paid than when working on film – even though
it is the same people doing the same kind of job. But the absence of something
bigger – a meaning, be it art, innovation or just ambitious entertainment –
must be financially compensated for. 

There is
not much glamour in actual film life. In Finland, actors do not have vans with
Jacuzzis. They take public transport to the shoot and eat cold food on
disposable paper plates during lunch breaks. Of course, they feel mistreated
and underpaid, which is also true. But there is a lot of truth in the English
language – the verb play refers to both a child’s playing, and acting. What a
luxurious job it is to get paid for having fun! 

Some people
think that people working in the creative business are privileged. It is very
true. But it also true of everybody who knows that their work makes the world
just a little bit better – or at least more bearable.

Articles Misc

Finnish cinema reaches abroad

industry is suffering, however, as public funding has failed to follow the
production costs – not even the general inflation. Film production pays more
taxes than it gets in support, plus most of the budget is spent on human
labour. The audience wants the films, the process dynamically benefits the
society, but politicians have failed to react to this. I think it is a shame.

life attitude still affects Finnish politics. Art and cinema does not feel like
"work" or "real", even after the IT bubble popped it is
still relatively easy to fund things with words "mobile" or "digital"
in the business plan. I think it would be great national self-defence, a
patriotic act, to strengthen the story industry, even just for a fraction of
the cost of the, just as such important, support for technological development.

Films are
universal, eternal signs of our life and our time. Seeing films evokes
feelings, such as compassion, anger, anxiety, amusement and whatever else possible.
Feelings means being alive. Emotions can make people happy. Happiness is tax
money well spent! Therefore, making a film is a patriotic act.

Each film
producers, such as myself, looks abroad to solve a chicken and egg type of problem.
The budgets are becoming increasingly harder to secure, so we must find foreign
investors, buyers and audiences. However, how can we find those when our small
budgets make our films look old, slow and childish in comparision?

We must
spend more time making better films than whining about money.

Some great
victories have been achieved. Jade
is an example of a film that will be at the disposal of hundreds of
millions of people. The new Rölli
animation has been sold to many countries a year before its official release. I
just sold an upcoming Aku Louhimies film to the most important arthouse cinema
broadcaster in Europe, ZDF-Arte. Perhaps there is light at the end of the

language of film is international, as is the craft of making films. Every
production company receives more and more job applications from non-native
Finns, although the odds for these applicants are not too good. They lack the
network of contacts built during years of filmwork and film schools. Making
English the production language can restrict some older members of the film
society from working on the projects. Still, these foreign people will bring
invaluable aspects and experiences with them to Finnish cinema.

their problem can be a part of solving the film export issue.
Keep applying and we will keep trying!