Long story short…
I’m a film director, musician, geek, a father, husband and an Internet (ab)user from Finland, working on the Iron Sky franchise. So far, I have released three feature films (Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, 2005; and Iron Sky, 2012 and Iron Sky The Coming Race, 2019), a handful of short films, advertisements and music videos. Currently, I have one feature film in post-production Iron Sky: The Ark (2019). I’m also a co-owner and one of the founders of Iron Sky Universe, a company created to around the Iron Sky franchise. We do films, TV-series, games, merchandise and much more, with the fan collaboration as our main focus. My own company is called Spaceboy, with film productions, advertisements and crowdfunding as its’ core businesses.
For the long story, read on…
It all started a long time ago in a galaxy, far far away…
To be honest, I never really dreamt about becoming a filmmaker. Before finding myself from behind the camera, film was always something I loved, but never really thought about working in the business. If I remember correctly, my first film I really saw in the theatres was The Bear (L’ours) by Jean-Jacques Annaud, a heartfelt story about an orphan bear. I remember crying in the theatre – I was probably around 9 years old – being extremely moved by the story. But that really wasn’t a reason to go into movies.
First, there were the roleplaying games. I fell in love with the hobby full on, and it’s the single most important move I ever made, walking into a games store in Tampere, and purchasing my first roleplaying game – Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game. That was it, I was introduced to the world of storytelling.
In The Beginning
But film came into picture years later. From roleplaying games, I evolved into a LARPer, a Live-Action RolePlayer, which included a little bit of acting in addition for just storytelling. I participated and even co-wrote a good selection of Live Action games, and a friend of mine introduced me to Samuli Torssonen, a guy who was working on a film called Star Wreck V: The Lost Contact in 1996. They needed an actor with long hair, and asked around from LARPers if there was somebody like that in Tampere.
When I showed up on the set, I realized how chaotic the production was. There was no proper director, whoever wasn’t in front of the camera was behind it, and the conditions we were shooting at were terrible. Watching the production unfold, I found myself assuming the position of “director” every now and then, mainly to get out of the set in time. But even so, my plan was never to really become a director. I just wanted to get home early.
Few years later, Samuli called me, surprisingly, and asked if I’d be interested directing the next Star Wreck. Mainly, because there was nobody else around willing to do it. Already at that time I had been doing some short films for my art class at school and playing around with camera here and there, so I decided to give it a try. But I wanted to do it properly. I wanted to do it bigger.
What started as a 20 minute short started to grow into a feature film, and I realized that in order to really helm a film, I need to know a little about directing. I went to a library and brought down a shelf full of books on filmmaking, and started to read. The idea of really going into a film school never even crossed my mind, I wasn’t much of a student. I believe in learning through doing.
The film – Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, was a seven years long process which we produced without a budget or a professional crew, mainly shooting at Samuli’s home, with me directing and acting, and Samuli producing, doing the VFX and playing the main part.
Towards The Iron Sky
One evening after one of the endless shooting days of Star Wreck, we were sitting in a sauna together with the production crew, and Jarmo Puskala, one of the writers, had an idea: he suggested we should do a movie about Nazis on the Dark Side of the Moon.
The idea was ridiculous, as many so called “sauna thoughts” are, but simultaneously, there was something profoundly intriguing about it. The visual aspect was the first, but soon I fell in love with the political incorrectness, the possibility for comedy and the whole craziness of it all. But we buried the idea, and continued working on Star Wreck for another six months.
Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning was finally released after seven years of production on August 20th, 2005. The film soon became the most downloaded film from Finland, ever, and hit every Internet chart with millions of downloads clocking every day. We were featured in the international news and received a lot of attention – so much, that even our city of Tampere decided to award Samuli with some kind of an award. In that award gala, he met with Johanna Sinisalo, a science fiction writer from Finland, with whom they were introduced by a local reporter, asking are you two planning to work together in the future. For sure, neither had really thought about it, but they agreed a meeting.
Johanna came over to our office and we met with her. She asked what kind of film ideas we have in mind for the future, and for a while we spoke about the possibility to do another Star Wreck, which felt wrong to me, but we really didn’t have much more to go with. Well, almost. We did have this one crazy idea, one about Nazis on the Moon.
Shyly, we spoke about it to Johanna, whose eyes lit the more we told about it. A sly smile crept on her face as we talked about Swastika-shaped fortress on the Moon, Nazi UFOs, secret technologies, the dark humour of it all. Instantly, she fell in love with the idea. She said she’d like to work with us on the idea, to make it into a story.
It wasn’t really until 2007 when we finally met with the right person to take the story to the next level, and towards a real feature film. In the meanwhile, we revealed the premise of Iron Sky to our fans in 2006, which prompted quite a buzz of guesses on what the film would be about. We also started to work on a collaborative film production platform called Wreckamovie, which was launched in 2008. We also launched our own production company, Energia Productions, which was to take Star Wreck and Iron Sky films out into the wider world. Star Wreck was also picked up by Universal Pictures for DVD distribution, and we started working on a remastered version of Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, called Imperial Edition. In addition to this, we had also started to prepare a promo, and shot a little clip with an early-stages version of a Moon Nazi riding a Zündapp motorcycle on the Moon. But meeting our future producer Tero Kaukomaa was the next important step in progressing forward with Iron Sky production.
Tero is known as a long-time film producer in Finland, and he had asked to arrange a meeting with us, along with his then-business partner Petri Jokiranta. We arrived to Helsinki and met with the producer duo, who had just recently released the first Finnish kung-fu -film Jade Warrior, under the company Blind Spot Pictures. We had been very impressed by the film, which reached all over the world due to its’ unique nature, so our plans with conquering the world with Moon Nazis were befitting as a match. We hadn’t really spoken too much about the actual concept of the movie – just the name – so when we revealed to Tero and Petri our concept, they were intrigued.
With Johanna, we had put together a 20-page treatment describing our idea, and handed it to the producers, and while there was a lot of questions about the actual story of the movie, the Iron Sky charm had set in. We showed them the little piece of a promo we had been working, which wasn’t finished, but already a promising start. Tero saw something in our energy and asked us to prepare to take the film out into the public. He invited us to Cannes Film Festival, in May, to present our concept to the wider public.
In Cannes You Can
Cannes Film Festival is an annual event which pools together filmmakers, distributors, financiers, investors, actors and whoever you can imagine existing on the fringes of such a huge business. For us, it was the first time being introduced to the ruthlessness of film industry, and it can be quite a disheartening experience. We had been working under the assumption that cool films are being made, and filmmakers are being treated with respect – but soon undestood, that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, where for every dollar there are hundred takers, so one must really stand out to be able to make a difference.
Our first Cannes wasn’t really a great experience, indeed. We had prepared to have a promo for Iron Sky with us, but by the time I landed into Cannes, Samuli was still back at home rendering it – and by far it wasn’t ready. We did have a slight present in Finnish Film Industry parties and events in the form of a poster, but to the most people, we were just some weird strangers nobody knew anything about.
But it was time before indie films from Finland found their way to Cannes, so we were also quite a unique guys over there. And then, we also had a great pitch with us. “In 1945, the Nazis went to the Moon. In 2018, they are coming back!” Although our plans to conquer the world and get our film financed in one sit-down didn’t really go through, the story of Moon Nazis grew wings and soon it was spoken about at parties, events, conferences and dinner tables all over the town.
While the first festival was not quite a success, yet, the festival became our key market for many years to come. In 2008, we returned, this time with a beautiful promo and a synopsis we presented at parties we arranged in a rented apartment. The promo sparked a lot of discussions, and the financing for Iron Sky begun.
Yet, it took few more years to get everything together. In 2009 we returned with yet another promo, and even in 2010, we were still lacking a lot of funds, but the time to shoot the film was looming ahead.
That’s when Tero decided to turn over to our fans, and ask them to join the financing of the film. That’s when we turned our crowdsourcing experience into crowdfunding.
(To be continued, when I have time…)