Autumn, my favourite time of the year, is upon us. September brings the chilly air, paints the trees in millions of colors and prepares us for yet another long winter ahead of us here in Finland. I thought it’s about time I give a bit of an update on what’s going on with my life lately, as I find myself being less and less active on the social media these days.
Ever since I returned back from my long-ass trip to Louisiana and UK, I’ve stayed more or less put back in Finland, save few quick trips. One of the reasons has been, obviously, the rampant COVID-19, which keeps on making traveling really complicated and rather expensive. The other one is, with a flick of a switch, everything in the industry just went online.
Finally, I might add.
The tools have been around forever, but for years, we the filmmakers have spent gazillions in traveling to short meetings across the globe, ones that could just as easily have been made on a Skype – or nowadays, Zoom -meeting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a definitive need for traveling when working on international co-productions, whether for negotiations, casting or post-production elements such as editing, mixing and color-grading, which are hard to do swiftly online. In addition to this, film festivals are important, and can’t be replaced with online screenings and Zoom meetings, this would cut out a whole left leg and arm of the industry – the opportunity to bounce into like-minded folks, to pitch that random-ass project you’ve been working on or catching up that film you’d normally end up skipping completely.
But much of stuff that’s been given, is nowadays easier, swifter and more accessible than before. When I released the first Iron Sky, my managers and agent in US sent me out on a “coffee or water” -tour across LA. I met with Marvel, Paramount, Universal… You name it. The name “coffee or water” delivers, of course, from the first question you’ll be asked when coming to a meeting. Those meetings weren’t for nothing, although nothing came out of them. Well, not exactly “nothing”, I started to work on a project called Jeremiah Harm, which, sadly, never came to be (and probably for the best, it might have just been overran by Guardians of Galaxy that came out around the same time).
Nowadays, those meetings are de facto Zoomies, and I salute that. Only issue is attending them from Finland, which often means having to stay up until past midnight, but I’m a bit of a night owl these days, so nothing new there. But nevertheless, the conversations are the same, it’s less of a stress to get around and more focus on discussions. And as always, there’s really nothing to expect at this point on the discussions, but who knows, something might come out of it all.
Right now, thanks to Jeepers Creepers being underway, there is a level of interest in me as a fresh face in the horror and thriller community, which is often the easier and more accessible route into finding one’s footing in US market. With scifi, projects are often too heavy to lift off the ground, but with horror one can do impressive things with smaller budgets, which is less risk for every party, and there’s always that huge hit potential as we know can happen with well made horror.
Speaking of Jeepers, the post production is well under way. Right now we are focusing on laying down sounds, music and – of course, visual effects. With Jeepers, it turned out to be quite a big VFX job in the end.
Luckily, I can say we are in good hands. VFX supervisor Jason Rayment has pulled out the big guns for this and is showing an extremely quality-driven attention to every detail of every shot. I’m happy to follow the progress from my vantage point on the other end of the pipeline, watching as the scenes that were nothing more than quickly sketched storyboards only few months ago, are starting to look top notch.
It’s hard to say when the film really does come out. The producers have their plans and schedules in their mind, but unlike with Iron Sky -films, where I’m much closer to being a producer, with Jeepers my job was to direct the film and guide the post production process, but anything regarding the release goes through the producers. Simultaneously, I’m pretty openly active on Instagram and Twitter, which brings a lot of people to me, asking whether I know when the film comes out, or the trailer, or cast or plot details – but all of this I’m not at liberty to discuss. Our official Instagram and Twitter accounts are the only places you’ll find accurate information. We might have a Facebook, too, but as I’m not there, I have no clue of that.
Other stuff is happening, too. The Chinese film – The Ark – has finally seen what I’m thinking as the final, locked cut of the movie, and now the question is how to finish it. There was a break in the production due to reasons related and unrelated to Covid-19, so re-gearing up and getting the film back on track is a bit of a hurdle, but I believe in the renewed enthusiasm of our team, because I really believe it’s a pretty nice movie which needs to see the light of day rather sooner than later, and now we are on the track of doing that.
Obviously, the bankruptcy of Iron Sky Universe, the company that handled the IP of Iron Sky, was a big blow not only in business level, but personally. Having worked so hard on something and bringing it so close – yet so far away – from big success truly burned me down for quite a while. Coming out of such and intensive production, I probably went into some kind of a work stress related state of depression for months. During that time I tried re-inventing myself, as a advertisement guy. I went and worked at two ad companies for about a half a year, but honestly, I didn’t find a footing there. Either I was still too exhausted from Iron Sky, or the work – 9-5 office job – just wasn’t for me. Then, Covid hit and everything grinded to a halt and I had to take a breather, to really decide what’s next, and go on from there.
The few months of complete lockdown of Covid was indeed a lifesaver for me. I had a chance – a permission, actually, an order from the government – to not to do anything but stay indoors and stay put. That cranked my mind into understanding that nope, there’s no re-inventing oneself, you’ll just have to pick your head up and march on, and good things will come. And they did. And are still coming. But if I ever had a middle life crisis, those months after release of The Coming Race and leading up to Covid-19 lockdowns were when that took place.
Not looking forward into repeating those experiences, though.
And right now, we are looking into a brighter future. While the pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere, there are vaccinations and people are more knowledgable about the disease than when it started. Man, it was scary then. I remember laying in my bed with my wife talking for hours on at night about what all this means, how bad can it turn into, what’s our future going to be like. But today, it’s different. It’s still just as scary and deadly disease, but we know what to do to keep it in reins:
In addition for working on Jeepers Creepers, and pushing The Ark forward, I’m also developing another very interesting production, also in the realm of horror, and setting up the next episode in the world laid out in the first two Iron Sky movies. I’m also and helping out friends with their films, scripts and productions. I’ve had numerous discussions with producers on possible projects, and that’s what the biggest part of our film director’s work is. I compare it to those horse race games in the penny arcades, I don’t know what they are called but the ones where you put money and horses move forward in their lanes. At one point, one may be galloping fast, but suddenly come to a complete standstill, and a wild card of a horse makes its way across the finish line, one you would’ve never believed could do it. It’s the same with film productions, everything moves forward, it’s just the question of pace, but one should never lose hope on stuff even if they need to be halted for a long time. (I’m happy to tell you that even an oldie goldie of mine, I Killed Adolf Hitler has resurfaced lately.)
In my personal life, there’s also been some turmoil. I’ve moved to a new area in Helsinki called Kallio, which is like night and day from Lauttasaari where I used to live for years. The beautiful beaches and woodlands of the Isle of Happiness have changed into trams, tramps and tarmac, and the fuzz and buzz of the central capital city. I love seeing the newly-found diversity of folk around here – in Lauttasaari, seeing a band T-shirt is a rare occasion, let alone people of other cultures, it’s very white, very suburbian and very middle-class. In Kallio, life happens constantly, up to the point of it sometimes being quite rough and rowdy. But I never found that intimidating myself, for me, it’s part of the world we live in, and trying to push that away from one’s surrounding is not good in the long run. But more than anything, a change of scenery is refreshing and sets mind down new paths and alleyways.
Also, my son started studying in the media school in Tampere, and I’m really proud of him. He’s getting first hand education in all the stuff I still use constantly – I just wish I had chosen that road back when I was in school. So much really cool really important stuff being taught every day, and I love watching him finding his calling – whether it’s filmmaking or other part of media world, or something completely different. It’s weird, just few years ago he went to the preliminary school, and now he’s already a young dude making his world. May it be an amazing one!