Oscars

Oscar 2021 Predictions & Final Results


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An extraordinary year for film, as everyone knows, Oscars this year offer some unique treats for us to follow! I managed to watch all the feature films this year, and have now formed my opinion about the awards. In the end, I wasn’t that far off, I got 16/23 correct, most painfully failing at the Original and Adapted Screenplays, and Song I knew I would fail anyhow.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES

RIZ AHMED

Sound of Metal

CHADWICK BOSEMAN

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

ANTHONY HOPKINS

The Father

GARY OLDMAN

Mank

STEVEN YEUN

Minari

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

SACHA BARON COHEN

The Trial of the Chicago 7

DANIEL KALUUYA

Judas and the Black Messiah

LESLIE ODOM, JR.

One Night in Miami…

PAUL RACI

Sound of Metal

LAKEITH STANFIELD

Judas and the Black Messiah

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES

VIOLA DAVIS

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

ANDRA DAY

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

VANESSA KIRBY

Pieces of a Woman

FRANCES MCDORMAND

Nomadland

CAREY MULLIGAN

Promising Young Woman

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

MARIA BAKALOVA

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

GLENN CLOSE

Hillbilly Elegy

OLIVIA COLMAN

The Father

AMANDA SEYFRIED

Mank

YUH-JUNG YOUN

Minari

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

NOMINEES

ONWARD

Dan Scanlon and Kori Rae

OVER THE MOON

Glen Keane, Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou

A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE: FARMAGEDDON

Richard Phelan, Will Becher and Paul Kewley

SOUL

Pete Docter and Dana Murray

WOLFWALKERS

Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young and Stéphan Roelants

CINEMATOGRAPHY

NOMINEES

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Sean Bobbitt

MANK

Erik Messerschmidt

NEWS OF THE WORLD

Dariusz Wolski

NOMADLAND

Joshua James Richards

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Phedon Papamichael

COSTUME DESIGN

NOMINEES

EMMA

Alexandra Byrne

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

Ann Roth

MANK

Trish Summerville

MULAN

Bina Daigeler

PINOCCHIO

Massimo Cantini Parrini

DIRECTING

NOMINEES

ANOTHER ROUND

Thomas Vinterberg

MANK

David Fincher

MINARI

Lee Isaac Chung

NOMADLAND

Chloé Zhao

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Emerald Fennell

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

NOMINEES

COLLECTIVE

Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana

CRIP CAMP

Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht and Sara Bolder

THE MOLE AGENT

Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez

MY OCTOPUS TEACHER

Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster

TIME

Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

NOMINEES

COLETTE

Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard

A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION

Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers

DO NOT SPLIT

Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook

HUNGER WARD

Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman

A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA

Sophia Nahli Allison and Janice Duncan

FILM EDITING

NOMINEES

THE FATHER

Yorgos Lamprinos

NOMADLAND

Chloé Zhao

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Frédéric Thoraval

SOUND OF METAL

Mikkel E. G. Nielsen

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Alan Baumgarten

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

NOMINEES

ANOTHER ROUND

Denmark

BETTER DAYS

Hong Kong

COLLECTIVE

Romania

THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN

Tunisia

QUO VADIS, AIDA?

Bosnia and Herzegovina

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

NOMINEES

EMMA

Marese Langan, Laura Allen and Claudia Stolze

HILLBILLY ELEGY

Eryn Krueger Mekash, Matthew Mungle and Patricia Dehaney

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson

MANK

Gigi Williams, Kimberley Spiteri and Colleen LaBaff

PINOCCHIO

Mark Coulier, Dalia Colli and Francesco Pegoretti

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

NOMINEES

DA 5 BLOODS

Terence Blanchard

MANK

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

MINARI

Emile Mosseri

NEWS OF THE WORLD

James Newton Howard

SOUL

Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

NOMINEES

FIGHT FOR YOU

from Judas and the Black Messiah; Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas

HEAR MY VOICE

from The Trial of the Chicago 7; Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite

HUSAVIK

from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga; Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus and Rickard Göransson

IO SÌ (SEEN)

from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se); Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini

SPEAK NOW

from One Night in Miami…; Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth

BEST PICTURE

NOMINEES

THE FATHER

David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi and Philippe Carcassonne, Producers

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler, Producers

MANK

Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski, Producers

MINARI

Christina Oh, Producer

NOMADLAND

Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, Producers

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell and Josey McNamara, Producers

SOUND OF METAL

Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche, Producers

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Marc Platt and Stuart Besser, Producers

PRODUCTION DESIGN

NOMINEES

THE FATHER

Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton

MANK

Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale

NEWS OF THE WORLD

Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan

TENET

Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

NOMINEES

BURROW

Madeline Sharafian and Michael Capbarat

GENIUS LOCI

Adrien Mérigeau and Amaury Ovise

IF ANYTHING HAPPENS I LOVE YOU

Will McCormack and Michael Govier

OPERA

Erick Oh

YES-PEOPLE

Gísli Darri Halldórsson and Arnar Gunnarsson

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

NOMINEES

FEELING THROUGH

Doug Roland and Susan Ruzenski

THE LETTER ROOM

Elvira Lind and Sofia Sondervan

THE PRESENT

Farah Nabulsi and Ossama Bawardi

TWO DISTANT STRANGERS

Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe

WHITE EYE

Tomer Shushan and Shira Hochman

SOUND

NOMINEES

GREYHOUND

Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders and David Wyman

MANK

Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance and Drew Kunin

NEWS OF THE WORLD

Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller and John Pritchett

SOUL

Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker

SOUND OF METAL

Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michellee Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés and Phillip Bladh

VISUAL EFFECTS

NOMINEES

LOVE AND MONSTERS

Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camilleri, Matt Everitt and Brian Cox

THE MIDNIGHT SKY

Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawrence, Max Solomon and David Watkins

MULAN

Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury and Steve Ingram

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones and Santiago Colomo Martinez

TENET

Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM: DELIVERY OF PRODIGIOUS BRIBE TO AMERICAN REGIME FOR MAKE BENEFIT ONCE GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN

Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Swimer & Peter Baynham & Erica Rivinoja & Dan Mazer & Jena Friedman & Lee Kern; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Dan Swimer & Nina Pedrad

THE FATHER

Screenplay by Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller

NOMADLAND

Written for the screen by Chloé Zhao

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…

Screenplay by Kemp Powers

THE WHITE TIGER

Written for the screen by Ramin Bahrani

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Screenplay by Will Berson & Shaka King; Story by Will Berson & Shaka King and Kenny Lucas & Keith Lucas

MINARI

Written by Lee Isaac Chung

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Written by Emerald Fennell

SOUND OF METAL

Screenplay by Darius Marder & Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder & Derek Cianfrance

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Written by Aaron Sorkin

Life, Opinions

Filmmaking during the COVID-19 era


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One year ago today Covid-19 shut down Finland for the first time, as part of the worldwide lockdown of the spring of 2020. Covid-19 had been around a bit longer, but it took a while to land to Europe and USA. For a while, we thought we got away from it, but now, one year later, as the Covid-19 -situation is again worsening in Finland, while getting better in some other places, I thought it was time to write – maybe if for no other purpose than historical record for myself – about the filming process during the Covid era, and why I believe it’s important we keep on doing it.

As anyone who has ever seen one behind the scenes picture from a film set knows, films are made in close proximity to tens, sometimes hundreds, even up to thousands of people. Depending on the production, filming may take place outside, in a big studio, or in very cramped spaces, like in small sets or inside a vehicle. But one thing that’s always present in every film set is the constant hurry. No matter how much resources you have, you’re always running out of time.

A set in China

Now, filmmaking is not easy. Actually, it’s a pretty damn complicated process, just to get a bunch of moving images out there. In order to get a shot that makes its’ way to the cut, a lot of things need to be perfect: performance, lighting, sound, camera movement, focus, continuity, VFX markers, special effects like blood, smoke and so forth… To get it all exactly right, you have to shoot each shot at least three times, maybe five, sometimes up to ten – and beyond (Most I’ve shot is around 20 to 30 takes, some directors can hit way above 150 takes). It’s a painstaking process which’s only goal is to hide the process from the viewer’s eye, so that they can experience the story in its’ fullest.

Added to this nowadays is the extra layer of Covid-19, which basically dictates that you shouldn’t be close to each other, in a closed space, refrain from touching or even walking near each other, masked up. It’s a huge ask to an already stretched-out machine to observe and adhere to, but it is also the new normal. I don’t think we’ll be out of Covid-19 any time soon, maybe never. This is what our future looks like, and we can either try to dismiss it, or adjust to it and master it completely. No miracle vaccine is gonna march in and make things like they were just under two years ago – vaccines will make this more bearable and more contained, but they won’t make the virus disappear.

Filmmaking in Covid-19 era brings about challenges that one wouldn’t have guessed few years ago. Masked-up crews, weekly (or daily!) Covid-tests and the constant fear of being shut down for days, even weeks.

Testing is obviously the key to anything: nobody should enter the set untested, and tests should happen at least once a week. As you can imagine, this is both slow and quite an expensive process. I don’t have figures, but one can only guess how much it will cost to do a medical test on hundreds of people on weekly basis, administered by medical professionals. Luckily, testing is nowadays quite rapid – the new tests allow batches of tens of samples being processed simultaneously, and results come in one hour time, possibly even faster. This of course means the whole crew needs to allow being swabbed quite often, which is at first quite uncomfortable, but over time, gets not one iota more comfortable. But it is what it is. One thing, though, is quite clear: Covid-19 -deniers and non-maskers will have to start looking for other avenues of work, as their entrance to film set is nearly impossible these days. Not to say they’d be missed, too.

Masks are, of course, a mandatory part of any future film sets. The rules are simple: wear mask, all the time, everywhere. The only people excluded from this are actors when they are on set. The reason is obvious, their faces will be constantly on camera and makeup, which can be smudged under the mask, is essential part of any actor’s outfit. But anyone else is required to wear the mask – including, but not limiting to, director and director of photography.

For a director, the mask requirement can be quite a hinderance. Our job is to try to communicate our thoughts, visions and directions to a crew of hundreds of people. Because everyone is constantly in such a hurry, precision is the key for running a good film set and DP and Director are the ones who everyone looks at in order to know what’s happening and how it should be done. Humans rely on facial expressions as much as they do on words, and suddenly, half of director’s face is cut out and words are muffled, making everything much more complicated to communicate, more susceptible to errors and misunderstandings. Added to that working in different languages, masks add a layer of confusion on top of already confusing environment – but nothing we wouldn’t get used to. I worked for quite a long time in China, where masks have been in daily use for years, and things work very well over there – it’s just a hurdle we have to get used to.

Masks were already a mandatory part of shooting gear in China in 2018, and nowadays, everywhere.

Social distancing is a much more complicated issue because many operations on film set require constant collaboration. From electricians to camera crew, set builders to makeup, stunts to special effects teams, it’s physical work that can’t always be done the required social distancing in mind, for safety’s sake. Not only that, but shooting spaces simply won’t allow that in some cases – say, a car requires camera and sound crew in a small space, nothing to be done to it. A makeup can’t be applied from 2 meters away. Pushing a dolly requires two bodies, a stunt wire two to three to hold it securely. But even given that a pass for safety’s sake, just sitting by the monitors and staring at performances requires people breathing down each other’s necks to see every detail being right. Tom Cruise called out two crew member doing exactly that, staring at monitors while under 2 meters apart from each other, and this bred a famous catch phrase in film industry – “gold standard”. It’s nearly impossible to reach, but the more we work together, understand the situation and adhere to rules, the closer to gold standard we can get.

Another thing familiar from my experience in China is the accommodations. The filmmakers are often booked for a certain period of time and housed in same lodging, no matter if they shoot in their home town or not. This is becoming more norm nowadays all over the world as well – they call it “bubbling up” these days, and the idea is to create a working and lodging arrangement that offers as little as possible of outside contacts, with the idea that only tested crew- and cast members socialize with each other, and all contacts to outside is handled with as little exposure as possible. This creates a strange new tension and feeling of unity within crews, as suddenly you are on a mission with a bunch of people, in a closed environment for quite a long time, stranded from contacts to the outside world. You can’t go to a pub, or to a restaurant, or to see a movie or in the worst cases, even to take a walk outside, you are living in a bubble with a bunch of people, almost like on a Mars mission that can take months, and you just have to get along with each other. This will also create issues for the most anti-social ones, as in the most tightest bubbles you are not allowed to have any kind of an exhaust valve to the outside world. It’s no wonder people train years for the upcoming Mars missions living underwater or in the desert among a small group of people…

The biggest fear is, of course, is if the production gets shut down. There have been cases all over the world where this has happened, some have recovered from it, some haven’t. It all begins with a singular exposure to someone who’s shown to be ill. First, you have to make sure if it’s an actual positive, or a false positive, which can happen quite easily. To my understanding, anything as small as eating a menthol candy can mess up the results and it comes back as “inconclusive” – but even that would mean a catastrophe for a production. An “inconclusive” means the production needs to figure out who this person is, who he or she has been in touch with, and then isolate everyone who’s been in contact with the one giving the inconclusive results. It may mean, in the best case scenario, that only a few people get sent back to lodging, followed by another test which hopefully comes back negative – but in the worst case scenario, it may mean that it’s impossible to continue until the situation has been solved. Shutting down even for a day in a big production can be devastatingly expensive – and usually, there’s no extra days lingering in the schedule to be used as contingency for Covid shutdowns, so one just needs to re-build and re-schedule according to that. That is, if the production even is able to continue: depending on the level of exposure and the rules that are applied, it might mean 10 days quarantine for the whole crew, which, obviously, is a real show-stopper.

There’s obviously also the insurance side of everything, as well, but I’ve (thankfully) never had to deal with that, so I can’t really talk about that, but I’m sure that’s another thing producers are getting gray hairs over. Not to mention the rest of the issues coming up during marketing and distribution; film theatres are still closed, film festivals are non-existent and even the biggest of productions find their way straight to digital, which is only half the experience, and for sure, half the income.

But, it’s good to remember, we are on the early days of the way things are going to be. It’s going to be tumultuous few years, that’s for sure, as everyone learns the new rules of the game, but only by doing it as good as one can, we’ll learn to be even better at it.

The last question remains, should we even do films in these trying times? Why risk so much for just a few hours of entertainment, shouldn’t we just lay low and wait for this to blow over?

I claim what we do is essential. Right now, Finland is closing up again; the restaurants are shut, the gyms and places to do sports are going to be shut down. Film theatres, stage theatres and all live music venues are shut down. We are not allowed to meet anyone physically. Someplace else things are opening back up, but I’m a pessimist by nature and don’t believe Covid is anywhere near over. But if you look at the suddenly much smaller, much more duller and less inspiring world around us, there’s honestly not a lot left to do to relax but watch films on streaming sites. I don’t claim we are essential workers in the same way as the frontline medical staff, doctors and nurses, or teachers, police and store workers are, the ones who put their lives on the line every day, risking hundreds or even thousands of contacts on a daily basis to keep our society running – no, we are not that essential. But what we do, the entertainment we provide, the culture we carry on, especially now that much of other places and means of culture to exist are down, is essential. In these drab, dire times we do need an escape from these four walls crashing around us, an exhaust valve of emotions, shared experiences, even though digital ones and films and TV can help in their own little way to get over this crisis, or at least, to find solutions around it.

PS. From a filmmaker point of view, I believe what we do is essential. But none more essential that what say, musicians, stage actors or entertainers do – the only difference is that films can offer an experience with rather controlled risks. By carefully planning the production and distributing digitally is way lower risk than packing hundreds, or thousands of people into one space, night after night, to view a live concert or a theatre show, it’s just the unfortunate fact and the way it is – the virus spreads from person to person through physical contact – mostly aerosols in the air. All arts are taking a heavy hit, probably none harder than music industry; selling records haven’t provided musicians in years, and now that live shows are off the table, it’s impossible to understand how the branch of arts which I love the most, even more than movies, can survive. I don’t know, but I think those who are able to, should support their local musicians and stage actors. Go buy your favorite band’s latest album online, or get it from a store – if for nothing else, to support. Go book a ticket for an online theatre – I watched, and happily paid $25 for it, David Bowie’s “Lazarus” theatre performance, and enjoyed it thoroughly. It may not be the same as sitting there in the audience, but also us, the audience, need to come forward and be more lenient to the artists trying to support their craft. I’m always shaking my head at the latest TV “musicians doing shit together” -formats, but even those provide at least some income to the stranded artits. I’m sure Jay Z is going to do fine, and Kanye isn’t going to end destitute, but your local punk band might. Think small, and support the artists you dig, if you are able to. It’s gonna mean a lot, so that we still have music and theatre when we eventually emerge out of this Covid hellhole, in whatever shape and form it might be.

Going Places

Gone To Place, Came Back!


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I’ve now been back in Finland for a little over 2 weeks since returning from the last leg of shooting in UK. The latest stretch, which took 1 months of prepping and 8 days of shooting, concluded the shoot for the film I’ve been working on for the last about 1 years, and now remaining is edit, sound, music and, well, release.

Moonlight.

Only now, I’ve started to be able to actually gather my thoughts on the last 6 months I’ve been away. The journey begun with me flying to UK for a day of meetings, then off to Dubai. In Dubai, I spent time writing and working on the script, with producer Jake popping over for about a week. Then, it was time to fly to Louisiana, where we started prepping for the first part of the shoot. It took about 1,5 months of slow-cooking preparations in the sweltering heat of Louisiana to get the first three shooting days done, after which it was time to fly to UK.

Dark Woods

In UK, we started prepping with a completely new crew to the main stretch of the shoot. Original plan was to shoot everything in one go and get home by Christmas, but this turned out to be impossible as Covid ate two of our shooting days and after that, we had to break for Christmas. I missed my chances to hit home for Christmas thanks to Covid instant lockup all across the world due to new UK strain of the virus, but found a way via France and Amsterdam eventually home for few days, before heading back in early January.

Director, cold and in the dark.

In Louisiana, we stayed at the studio lot where I had my own apartment. In UK during the first stretch of the shoot, we “all” – that means, most of the HODs – stayed at Froyle Park mansion, which suited well for us to enjoy fun times when not shooting. Coming back to UK after Christmas, I first stayed at the local Alton hotel Alton House, but found it being extremely drab, and was later relocated to a much nicer Northbrook, a Froyle-style mansion but with separate cottages that have their own kitchens and washing machine options etc. We stayed there with two folk from our makeup team with, and must say I enjoyed the peace there as well, as it was a bit away from all the noise and fuzz.

Night Shooting.

Anyway, the film is now in the can! That’s quite amazing. That’s my 5th feature film that’s done and done, and one I’m particularly proud of, not just because it’s something I’ve never done before – not a scifi film – and i’m happy of the outcome. Of course, it still has quite a bit of VFX to be done, which goes without saying, but it’s way less than any of the films I’ve done before, so it relies much more on what we actually shot and how we cut it together. It’s also much more reliant on atmosphere, which needs to be spot on to capture the special nature of the story.

And yeah, I’m excited getting to show the film to you all. So stay tuned!

Gray morning over at Black Hangar Studios

Going Places

Back in the U.K.


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Post-Brexit travel to UK means a lot more of border checks, small paper slips you have to not to lose, many more police officers staring at you with suspicion and a general atmosphere of “why was this necessary”. Add to that the extremely strict Covid-19 restrictions in UK, this is definitely not a fun fair, coming back to UK after the short Christmas break I managed to have.

And if you thought 2020 was a weird year, 2021 is looking ever weirder. Just recovering from the shock of US government practically showing its’ true face as Trump incited a group of crazy rebels to attack the Capitol and did nothing to stop it. I wonder what’s left of anything by the end of year…

But here I’m back in the UK. We are prepping to get back on to the shoot after the break, figuring out exactly what we still have left to shoot and what’s to come. It’s a big list but also, it’s been good looking at the stuff we already have and get a feeling that it’s coming together very nicely.

Right now, studios are silent and there’s only few people around but already starting today some are starting to flow back. It’s great to get the group together and finish this beast.

Oh, and it’s David Bowie’s birthday! Have a magnificient one, wherever you fly, Starman!

Going Places

Day 101: Stranded


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Saturday was the last shooting day of our first block here in UK. During that time, we shot in greenscreen studio, outside at studio backlot, at virtual sets – and finished at practical sets built in the studio. The team was beyond phenomenal, and we managed to get by without any Covid-19 cases, thanks to our rigorous testing process. But also, we got lucky: we had big crew, tens of extras coming and going and a hectic shooting schedule. We may have not been the gold standard of film productions, but we definitely tried our very best to stick to the rules, and that helped to keep us clear of all of it.

Red.
Green.
Blue.
As always, my trusted Capt. Picard was overlooking the shoot behind the monitors.

Today, I watched the current cut of the film. Obviously, it’s still missing at least one third, but already I could see it rocking. So now it’s time to head for a Christmas break, just in time as Covid is getting heavier across Europe and in UK. Our plan is to come back in January to finish the shoot, Covid permitting of course. But for now, our apartment at Froyle is slowly getting more and more quiet as people are leaving for the holidays. It’s always a melancholic moment, and looking back at our amazing crew, it feels like a piece of my heart leaves home with them.

Only thing, I’m not going anywhere.

EU decided in a flash move to close the borders for all incoming traffic on air, water and land from UK, just in time for Christmas. What a wonderful world we live in. This is, obviously, due to the new Covid-19 strand that’s going around, and is being said to be 70% more infectious than the ones we’ve had before, and it has been discovered here in UK. The Foreign Ministry informed that all travel will be banned for 2 weeks, which means that in case they stick to the regulations, I may not be able to come home for Christmas or even New Year.

Now, that sucks. We’ve been planning with wife to have a nice Christmas, reuniting with my family after over 100 days of absence, but it seems that that’s simply not going to happen. It seems I’ll spend the Holidays alone in a small hotel in a small town… Certainly not the kind of Christmas I was expecting for. But then again, this goes with the whole year. I bet 2020 goes down in history as one of the pivotal years of recent history.

I don’t really feel like writing too much today as I’m feeling slightly depressed given the circumstances, but hopefully will come back with more gleeful entry in the coming days, now that I actually have some time. I want to write about what I learned during this production, what I would’ve done differently and how Covid in practical terms affected the shoot.

But for now, stay safe, keep your hands clean and your socials distanced and have a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!
Going Places

Day 72: Ready to shoot!


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It’s now been approximately three weeks I’ve spent prepping for the shoot for the film here in UK, staying at Froyle Park haunted mansion and traveling daily to the studio for the work.

A lot has happened. Let me start from where we are with the movie.

When we started to work on the project, I wanted to take the franchise this is based on, and twist it into a modern take of what we are building here. This means obviously on script level, but also in casting and revamping the horror elements into ones that are more – like our production designer Sivo Gluck says – funky. This means, more “today” than when the series originally started.

This, I think we’ve managed to grasp that in quite a good detail. The film feels like it’s a product of this time, not a re-heated take of something that was once popular. To make this happen, one needs to be ready to really swipe the whole table clean.

The team here in UK is nothing short of phenomenal. The production designer, props, cinematographer, costume, makeup, AD team… just a tremendous team. There’s of course still the actual shoot to be done, so I can’t really judge anyone’s performance as of yet, but I’m very excited. And most importantly, I’m excited of our cast. A long and complicated casting process which relied on endless Zoom calls as due to lockdown we shouldn’t be meeting anyone, it was quite a strange experience.

We are starting to shoot tomorrow. The shoot is going to last until Christmas, after which we all head back home, then in few weeks back to Louisiana to finish what we started over there.

Other things have happened, too. We are in lockdown, this means, no restaurants, pubs or bars are open. This is a big problem for a hard-working film crew full of artists who need a way to wind out after a shooting day. Luckily, we are all staying in this huge-ass hotel/mansion in the countryside, so we’ve made our own party there. But having said that, we are waiting eagerly for the lockdown to end, to be able to pop our heads out into the public for just a bit…

I’ve been away from home for 72 days, that’s over 2 months. I haven’t had a chance to see my family in over 2 months, and it’s gonna take another 1 month until I’m back home. It’s pretty hard, and alienating. I feel pretty lonely here for the most part of the time. And because it’s lockdown, Covid and all, I can’t even get them to travel here, which would normally be the case. It really wrenches my heart.

But, having said that, I’m excitedly looking forward for the next weeks. We have a great catering of awesome actors, action, some nice gory moments, visual- and special effects and much more. It’s going to be an awesome trip, can’t wait to tell you what it is actually we are working on (but won’t just yet!)

Waiting for the first day.

Going Places

Day 51: Welcome To The Overlook Hotel!


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Last week, we shot and wrapped the shoot of the first segment of the film in Louisiana. As it so often happens, much of what we had prepped had to go out of the window in the last moments, when there turned out to be a major communication mishap with the road closures, and all the shots we were planning to shoot during the three days had to be re-thought. Luckily, though, we did manage to do the road closure for one of the days, meaning we could pull off some of the more challenging stunts.

All turned out well, though, in the end. The cast I got to work with were just phenomenal, and I was very happy with my team. We canned ten pages of footage, including complicated stunts, studio and on-location shoot in three days and got what we wanted, so it was all pretty much a slam dunk!

Still inside the bubble, we threw a nice wrap party including a LOT of karaoke at Mackie’s, followed by late-night sit-together at the yard drinking red wine and whiskey and listening to some great tunes with the team. But like it always is, all good things come to an end, and eventually I had to stumble to my bed and call it a night.

Post-shoot Rhapsody

Afterwards, we spent several days at the studios, first recovering from the wrath of the wrap party, then by shooting some more. We went out did some drone- and GoPro shots we had missed during the principal photography, and then I was whisked over to Texas, to spend night at Jamie’s place in Houston, to make it an easy one to catch the next day’s flight (and to get out of the way of yet another hurricane that was approaching).

One more shot with a much smaller camera!

Houston to London was a direct flight, quite an easy one, and after that I spent few days in London, just to catch the vibe of the city and spend some time in a nice hotel with proper breakfasts and what not. It was heaven, I tell you. I went to see a play – The Great Gatsby – shopped around for a bit and had few great dinners and enjoyed a nice bunch of pubs, catching up with some friends, just before learning another lockdown is going to come to UK the next week. This means, all the pubs, restaurants and the likes will be closed for one month. This is not going to make our time easier making this movie, but as we survived the Covid Bubble in Lousiana, I know we’ll soldier through this one, too.

Today, I was picked up from the hotel and taken to where I would spend the next couple of months. I call this place The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. It’s a huge, empty mansion. There’s no staff here, only us, the film crew residing in big, beautiful rooms, enjoying the huge empty hallways, drawing rooms and endless miles this estate stretches on. And we are the only ones here. Definitely has some very creepy horror film vibes here…

Well, now off to bed. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

Going Places

Day 38: Life In The Bubble


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We are all living in a bubble now. Last week, we went over and did Covid-19 -tests to all of the crew at the production offices (all tested negative, thankfully!), after which the bubble was closed. We are not to leave anywhere where there are other people, and nobody from outside the bubble is allowed to enter. All food and grocery runs are done by a runner who handles everything specifically clear, masked and obeying the social distancing rules to make sure the risk of getting infected runs as low as humanely possible.

Producers and crew chatting on the yard.

Also, we have indeed started to crew up. The first AD arrived last week’s Monday, after which everything started to become more and more real. Schedules, planned meetings and crew lists started to fly around. On Wednesday, the director of photography arrived, making things even more clear. I finished storyboarding our first bit to shoot here, and ever since that, we’ve been running around looking for locations (luckily, which require meeting no people), getting the camera gear and all that. And finally, on Friday we closed the first cast members – and I must say, I’m really excited to get to work with these people, as I’m a big fan of both of theirs.

Other than that, life here at Village Studios has been quite, well, small and closed. Days we spend either at location scouts or at the office, working on shooting plans and by evening, we gather up at Mackie’s, the in-studio bar that’s offering drinks and entertainment. Some nights, it’s a movie night – last night we watched Predator – other nights, we have few drinks, sing karaoke and shoot shit with the awesome bartender John, who has stories that make your ears drop off.

Mackie’s
John the bartender
Your’s, truly.

Sometimes, we gather at the porch of the Hearsey House, one of the houses and do some grilling and listening to music. If it’s a week day, we may stay up for a bit, but hit the sack after a while – on weekends, the sit-downs tend to drag longer and whether it’s politics, religion or film business, there’s quite a lot to chat about.

Sometimes, I just walk outside of my little house and sit on the porch enjoying the warm night breeze that’s blowing between the units and look up at the starlit sky. There’s very little light pollution here, so the stars can be very bright – and the brightest of them all is Mars, shining clear and reddish in the sky. Sitting there, I can’t help but think how happy I can be to be working in this business, doing films and getting to see places and meet people who I would never normally cross paths with.

But, all things move towards the fact that one day, the blissful prep is over and we move to shoot this movie. The time is closing: our first shooting day is on Friday, after which it’s time to rock. There’s still quite a bit of unfinished things that need to get done for the shoot to begin, but we’re getting there – so I’m pretty confident it’ll be quite a show. Well, at least the crew seems phenomenal, the cast will be amazing and the script really works.

Now, crossing fingers all goes smoothly to the end, nobody gets sick and we get the thing done!

PS. There’s this one thing I was thinking whether or not I should bring up here, as it’s not related in any way to the film I’m working on here, but I think it’s pretty timely, so I might as well write few words about it. The production company of Iron Sky, called Iron Sky Universe, one which I jointly set up with Tero, is going under. At least, there’s a high potential for it to happen, as a bankruptcy filing has been done on the company – obviously, we are trying to find solutions to prevent it from happening.

This is of course heartbreaking for me, as I believed in the company and hoped it would get past the rough times but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. We spent several years with Tero building it as an entity to handle the Iron Sky franchise, but now it seems it’s going to need a different approach. Iron Sky has played a huge part in my life for the last 15+ years, so it would be a very disappointing to see it all go to waste, especially after all the effort we built into it, both financial and creative – me, Tero and the Iron Sky fans who are also minority shareholders in the business.

Obviously, of course, the films still exist, and the fandom still exists, so the stories we have planned for Iron Sky can and will continue, we just don’t necessarily know in what exact shape. There’s still possibilities to save the company, which of course would be ideal, and that’s what we’re hoping for. If this doesn’t happen, well, there are always other options – partnering up with some other entity being one of them.

So, it’s not the end of the world but simultaneously, not what I was hoping this year to bring to Iron Sky.

Going Places

Day 29: In The Eye Of The Storm


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There’s something humbling sitting outside on a porch, watching as wind tears off pieces of the adjacent apartment’s tin roof, throwing them all over the yard. Hurricane Delta struck yesterday here at Village Studios, hard. We started the evening off by watching a horror film at the studio’s barn-like bar, which is a perfect place for a horror film, especially with the added sound effects of roaring wind and ear-shattering rain outside. Added to that, the electricity went out every 10-15 minutes, leaving us in pitch black – and often in a perfect sync with whatever jump scare the film was about to throw us.

Creepy Green Light

Afterwards, I went to my room and then, boom. The electricity went out for good. A bit later, Internet followed. We gathered outside at the next door porch and sat there with some of the studio folk, having a splash of whiskey and just staring as the hurricane showed its’ strength at us. First, it was just rain, then the wind started to blow really hard, thrashing the yard and the trees around wickedly. Then, somewhere in the distance apparently a transformer blew, lighting the otherwise pitch black skyline in electric blue and green.

Now there’s few reasons I’m not super comfortable with losing electricity here. First is, of course, that then we’re out of means to communicate. Cell phones would die eventually. But not only that, there’s also a big prison just next door, which is also the reason the roadsides are dotted with “Don’t Pick Up Hitchhikers” -signs.

After a while of us out there, I decided to call it a night. The hurricane was still in full blow outside, and even crossing the yard was quite a challenge, but once I hit the bed, the pattering of the rain lulled me into a deep sleep full of disturbing dreams I had to pull myself awake from.

In the morning, the power hadn’t come up yet, although the hurricane had passed. I spent the day in the soft post-hurricane breeze outside, watching the roof pieces on the ground and reading Dune. Afternoon came and went, still no power. It took us all the way until nightfall until finally we got connected to the grid, leading to my phone blowing up with tons of messages and emails. But before that, being totally off the grid, literally, it was peaceful.

PS. I had a fun moment in the evening. I was watching a movie in my room when I heard some rattling, and happened to glance just the right time, seeing something small run under the fridge. It came out a bit later and yeah, it was a small, grey mouse. It must’ve gotten in during the day when I had kept the doors open as no air conditioners were functional, and now it was scared, trying to find its way back out.

I asked the studio folk what should I do. I mean, it’s just a mouse, but I’m no mouse catcher and was afraid it would turn into a Mr. Bean episode with me running around this small mouse in the apartment, but fear not, studios’ mouse patrol was on its’ feet. Five minutes later, I got a knock on the door and opened it. The two guys were standing out there, huge machete knives in their hands and two huge dogs with them. I couldn’t help but laugh, this tiny rodent and these two guys standing there, menacingly. I tried to say they shouldn’t kill it, and luckily, it wasn’t their plan. They also had one of those metallic dog poo pickers, and after a while of rattling my fridge, the dead-scared mouse ran out. They managed to clip it with the poo picker and took it outside, where it was set free.

All in all, it was my first hurricane experience. Yeah, it was a bit scary, but hanging out with good buddies, I’m not surprised people around here throw hurricane parties whenever the thing hits.

Going Places

Day 25: Storm Is Coming


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Today I heard yet another hurricane is forming up at the Gulf of Mexico and headed towards us. Well, “us” might be a bit of an exaggeration, since we are quite far up north in Louisiana, but the predictions are saying that it might reach up to hear as well – if nothing else, rains and crazy winds should show up some time tomorrow. If worse comes to worst, we might have to shelter ourselves for a bit, as it’s always possible wind throws something unwanted in the air, but usually the destruction up here in Jackson, Louisiana, is minimal – at least compared to New Orleans.

Speaking of which, I visited New Orleans during the weekend. Our trip consisted of both scouting and a bit of vibe-catching, as well as of some chilling and relaxing. Located about two hour drive south-southwest from where we are, one can’t help but fall in love with the slightly scruffy nature of Louisiana, still all green and weather pitch perfect with sun – but worst moisture has already given way for the upcoming winter.

The city itself is beyond beautiful. Formed in the 1700’s and brought to history books by its’ both dark and illustrious history of slavery and commerce, New Orleans is also known as a birthplace of some of the most important music in Western world: jazz and blues. The city has been torn apart time and again by hurricanes – latest total devastation was Katrina just under ten years ago – but it has managed to keep its’ stunning beauty, culture and spirit alive.

Now, another hurricane has swept across its’ streets, pandemic called Covid-19. This one has left the city’s businesses in pretty sad state, with many of them closed and those still operating, operating only at 20% capacity. But the flow of tourists hasn’t stopped, and while the otherwise packed streets are now delightfully easy to navigate, thousands of people do gather in the weekends to listen to some of the best street musicians anywhere, enjoy Hurricanes (local strong drink) and many of city’s nice little bars.

And yeah, just like everywhere, while daytime people wear their masks nicely, by the time the sun sets over Bourbon Street, those nuisances come off especially on young folk and partying begins. This is one of the reasons Louisiana does have quite big spike in Covid infections.

Our task was to visit local Voodoo shops to get an idea of how they are in this area, as I had never been in one. Voodoo is here taken semi seriously, and while the stores are touristy trinket joints, there is a certain, eerie aura behind it all, one you want to respect, no matter if you believe in stuff like this or not. We did leave cigarettes and coins to Baron Samedi’s altar and refrained from rattling the spirits that still roam in the streets and swamps in and around the city.

I found myself eventually sitting down with our team and enjoying a beer, some fried alligator and a po-boy (local kind of bread), basking in sunlight and listening to smooth jazz notes bouncing up and down the mildly crowded streets. The team was buzzing on about production stuff, but I zoned out, for a moment taking in the fact that the job I’m doing, making movies for international audiences, can be sometimes just pretty damn awesome, and I’m not ashamed of saying that.

We enjoyed our stay there so much we decided to book hotel rooms and stay overnight, and do some shopping the day after. By nightfall, streets were flooded with freaks of every size and shape you can imagine, artists, teenage drunks and party-goers, but we (wisely, I think) decided to avoid the crowded places, but found a nice bourbon-and-cigar -type of bar close by. There, one of our producer’s business partners told us the most amazing stories from his times in Syrian and Russian special forces, climbing Mount Everest and living quite an extraordinary life, finally finding his way to USA and making it his home.

It was a privilege to see the beautiful city of New Orleans and I am coming back with my wife one day to show her this unbelievable gem of a city one day.

While storm of one type might be falling on land in Louisiana soon, another one is to follow, and that’s the one I’m more worried of. Obviously, I’m talking about the upcoming presidential elections. The tension is in the air, there’s no question about it. I spent the other night listening to a Trump supporter going on about his views on Black Lives Matter and “the left” (whatever that means here in USA anyway…). I wasn’t feeling like an argument so I rather nodded my way through it, making mental notes for further writings, but you could find yourself in a very heated discussion if you wished so very easily over here.

Still, what really worries me are the most religious and fanatical lonely Internet message board neo-nazis who will wake up on 4th of November to a four-year season with Democratic president. Yes, I strongly believe that the country is just fed up with the chaos Trump is causing and that there’s only one possible outcome of the elections. It’s clear Trump won’t go down without a fight, and I’m a bit concerned whether or not the basement-Bubbas are going to just let go easily, especially knowing their access to heavy armament if needed. Whatever is happening after the elections, one thing is clear: this nation is divided beyond easy repair, and needs a long line of wise bi-partisan leaders to steer it back to the greatness it once was.

Production-wise, we are moving swiftly towards the first block of shootings. There’s still quite a lot to be done, but I’ve already started scribbling my storyboards and we have a script everyone’s happy about, so in that sense it’s a relief. The way this film is produced between USA and UK is a bit of a juggle, and I’ll tell you about it one day as the coast is clear, but for now, it’s looking pretty good we’ll get cameras rolling in about two weeks. Everything Covid-related has been settled, which has been one of the biggest struggles from the beginning, and here’s hoping no dramatic, earth-shaking surprises are lurking around the corners.

Anyway, y’all stay healthy and in good spirits, while we can see storm clouds gathering, or more precisely, we might feel we are already in the eye of the storm, a new day will soon shine!