Author: Timo Vuorensola

The No Film Festival


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UPDATE: I just learned the great George Romero had passed away, sadly. He was supposed to be the main guest of the Grossmann festival I wrote this article about, and I had a bad feeling about how things might be when he had to cancel. Great respect to a great man, thanks for the most amazing movies and thanks also for the time we had a chance to meet and share a jury duty at Lund Film Festival in 2013.

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The Lund Fantastic Film Festival jury in 2012 – me, Helene Cattet and George Romero.

And here’s the actual post I wrote, before learning of the tragedy…

Here’s a freebie for anyone who likes to grab it, although if you ever make it, I must demand me, Romain Roll, Guy Delmote and few other drunkards around the table in Grossmann film festival last week require to get invited every year as special guests.

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Some of the brave minds at Grossmann

Introducing: The No Film Festival! A film festival like no other, ever – we have no films. We even make sure the cinemas in whatever city we decide to organize the festival (most likely: Luxembourg) on won’t play any films during the period of the festival. We of course have a great selection of films every year from all over the world, that we never accept part of the program – Cannes winners, Berlin winners, new films from all these Korean super-talented directors, and none will ever be shown at our festival. We even give the laurel leaves for dismissals.

But oh boy, the other stuff we have organized for the festivalgoers, the guests, the jury (because of course there’s a jury, how else could we decide yearly that we won’t give out prices this year because the quality of films that were not submitted was so depressing?) – there’s a lot of it! Skydiving, drinking, moutain climbing, drinking some more, seminars (about anything but films), concerts, bus tours, wine tasting, beer crafting, art galleries, it’s all there. Only, the films aren’t there to distract the experience.

This came to our mind when sitting at a small town of Jeruzalem, near a small town of Ljutomer, in a small country of Slovenia surrounded by the most breathtaking scenery – wineyards stretching for miles, sky bright blue with small puffs of clouds chasing one another at a slow motion speed, bees buzzing and the always-smiling host of this heartstoppingly great establishment, the Hlebec farm serving us a constant flow of wine from their own grounds, mushrooms picked from the forest this very morning and food so fresh you probably heard it porking around in the backyard this morning. Why go into a cold dark theatre when there’s all this going around us?

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Our lodging, the Hlebec Inn at Jerusalem

Of course, we did, and enjoyed the movies. But really, maybe the reason Berlinale is such a big festival is that nobody wants to go out of the theatres once they get in, with all the snow on the ground and cold winds blowing…

But talking of films, I’m proud to say that as a jury member, I was for the first time able to give the main price to a film that makes you literally say out the name of the festival. Gross, man… I mean, if you haven’t seen The Night Of The Virgin – don’t. I hope I’ll never have to see that film ever again, anywhere. But it’s so masterfully made, shows such a deep understanding of the genre (which is basically torture comedy) and the medium of filmmaking that we just had to give the price to them. We also handed a special mention to Ron Goossens: The Low Budget Stuntman, about a village alcoholic who accidentally becomes a stuntman.

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Me telling the Star Wreck / Iron Sky story at the Iron Sky masterclass. Photo by Boris B. Voglar.

Rest of the festival went in a blur of spritzers in the afternoon, wine in the evening, a lot of Suomi Finland Perkele -shouts and Manowar song lyrics reciting… We were the happiest bunch of assholes in the planet for that short week, and although my body thanks me loudly for getting the hell out of there, my mind knows I’ve found my favorite festival of them all.

 

But… what is it *about*? (Twin Peaks, Episode 8)


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Last night I spent in a beautiful, moonlit landscape on a 900 year castle overlooking the brilliant lights of Zagreb shining under me, at the ending party of the Fantastic Zagreb festival. During the festival, we had been discussing Twin Peaks quite a lot, and I had found like-minded folk who appreciate the new Twin Peaks just as much – even more – than the original run. But one question I heard on that night came from two kids who were out partying, and asked from a friend of mine whether he had been watching the new Twin Peaks. He had. So what did you think of it? Well, he thought it’s brilliant. The kids were looking suspicious, then the other dared the question on everyone’s lips: “…but what is it about?”

What is it about? Why is it that film has become an artform that requires itself to be thoroughly explained to be accepted as a viable performance?

I mean, there I was, overlooking at the beautiful scenery – but what it actually is, is I was watching a rock hanging incredibly in the sky, a rock which nobody exactly knows where it came from, although there have been multiple theories like for example it was born from a residue of a great impact of proto-Earth and a Mars-sized other object few billion years ago. This rock is seen to us because a huge gas monster is burning billions of tons worth of nuclear explosions every second producing light. And all of this – us along with it – are being whizzed across the galaxy at a speed of over million kilometers per day, although, to us it seems we’re all pretty much still. None of it makes any fucking sense, yet, we’re completely capable of enjoying it, just as well as the prehistoric creature who rose to this same spot three hundred thousand years ago, watching the same Moon, and had even less of an idea of what it was.

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Gotta light?

Same goes with the music, for example. The party I was at had some kind of electronic music DJs playing bunch of catchy tunes and everyone was happily prancing along – the same kids, actually, who presented the question of Twin Peaks’ meaning to us. But they had no problem with the music, they didn’t demand an explanation of it to be able to enjoy it.

But imagine Mozart would walk up the hill suddenly, having dropped from a weird time-dimension -loop to the very same castle. He would recognise the castle as a fortress of some kind, although probably would shake his head a bit due to the lack of maintenance it suffers, but to this musical once-in-a-thousand-years genius, to this person who created most of the basic structures all the music in the world today exists, the noise coming from the loudspeakers would be indescribable mess of inhumane (electronic) sounds placed in and around a repetitive melodic structure he would write twenty while taking a shit. And even more, the whole setup would be impossible to understand: these two humans are playing these tunes that have been digitally recorded to a digital source – both impossible to understand as a concept. It would be just way too much to understand.

Yet, I bet he would after a few beers be dancing there along the others, not giving a fuck about hows and what-this-means and other nonsense, if the music works, it works. It needs no explanation.

So, why is it that film has somehow become an artform which needs to be explained to be thoroughly understood by those who are on the receiving end? I mean, I could try and start explaining what possibly, probably, who-knows, happened in Episode 8 of the new Twin Peaks, but that would be first completely missing the point of the episode, and even an insult to its’ greatness.

What the Episode 8 brought us was a much-needed revolution of TV, a nuclear detonation of storytelling mixed with art, sounds and music. It’s nothing to be understood, but to be experienced, just like any other art would be. Yes, it may take time – Lynch is yet again on the verge of something completely new, just as he was when he came out with original Twin Peaks – but his vision is beyond our comprehension. And we should take it as it is. Just like we nowadays don’t question the fact that rap is actually musical artform, or that although we don’t completely understand the Moon on the sky, we have no reason not to enjoy the beauty it creates.

Film and TV are art, and although not everything needs to be artistically challenging – they can also just be supercharged stories with sound, music and actors in them – when we are presented with a rare case of actual art on big screen – or small screen – that should be taken in and enjoyed.

But yeah, if you want to know, Bob was created when the first nuclear bomb exploded because the event shook the careful balance between good and evil in the world, and to fight this, they created also Laura Palmer. The burnt woodsmen are still a bit mystery, and the creature that climbed in the woman’s mouth is possibly Laura Palmer’s spirit, which Sarah Palmer will later on give birth to. It’s really not that complicated.

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Funny thing, by the way. The object on the left hand side reminds me of the alleged secret German invention called “Glocke”, the Bell, which was said to have a lot to do with UFO propulsion systems. It was designed by the same guys who later on designed nuclear devices, in a secret research factory called Der Reise (The Giant) built in Germany under the Owl Mountains. Coincidence? Maybe. But a funny one!

Full moon and farewells


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8.7.2017 – 222 Days Left until the release of Iron Sky The Coming Race!

I faded out of the sleep around 9am, to greet the cloudy day with a nasty, grinding hangover on the right hand side of my brains. Counting back how many different drinks I had mixed yesterday, I knew I was the only one to blame. I spent much of the day to salvage the situation, and managed to get out of the bed only around 5pm.

I took my skateboard and kicked down the few streets around Zagreb. The city is just perfect for skating – communism brought if nothing else, at least wide streets to Eastern Europe, and Zagreb – being a flat big city – is nothing short of a dreamland for a casual city cruiser.

I found myself wandering deeper towards the old city. The afternoon sun was hot but not uncomfortable, there were only very few people on the streets and I was feeling great. I found a small pizza joint and wandered and spent good one hour slowly eating a pizza and reading Eric Idle’s stories – this time, he was remembering the funeral of George Harrison, and I shed few tears for the lost legend right there in a small pizzeria somewhere in Croatia.

By the time I was back out, the sun had already started to drop, and I knew I had to hurry back to the hotel to make it to the bus for the evening’s event. The whole EGF posse was packed on the bus and we started our ascend to the mountains – destination: a 900 year old castle overlooking Zagreb.

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As the roads started to narrow, I realised we’re already quite high, and the winding road turned from asphalt to old cobblestones, and below us, just few feet from the edge of the bus was a fall that would’ve killed us all. For a while it was fun, but as the bus driver kept kicking the pedal and speeding up the old castle road, I started to feel bad. At one point, there was even a staff member telling us to not go further, but the driver paid no heed and upwards we went.

These, I’m sure, are the stories you hear every now and then – a tourist bus with 25 people in crashed into a gorge, killing everyone. I’ve always liked to make the headlines, but not that way. So I was relieved when finally we stumbled out of the bus, all slightly shaken, but safely in the front yard of this big old castle.

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Medvedgard Fortress was built after the Mongols invaded Croatia back in 1200’s, and was abandoned only after 1590 Neulengbach earthquake, which did severe damage everywhere around – most notably, Vienna. Having stood there for nearly a thousand years, and without any permanent residence for the last 500, it’s of course crumbling (and about to be renovated next year), but offers a panoramic view over Zagreb from high above that’s worth the trip.

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We were greeted by a full moon staring brightly at the sea of lights below that was Zagreb, and walking by the wall in the soft, darkening July night would’ve been romantic – had I had my wife with me. Now, it felt just a missed opportunity.

IMG_8465The Fantastic Zagreb people offered a magnificent outdoor screening of John Carpenter’s The Thing, which I decided to take a peek at and then head back to chat with the EGF people, but man that film has stood time so well, with unique atmosphere and tremendous visuals – all practical, of course, since it’s from the year 1982. The storytelling is so strong it’s impossible to not to watch it to the end. That’s how you know a good film – even if you’ve seen it a thousand times, you just can’t walk away halfway through.

IMG_8468The rest of the night we spent chatting quite deeply with the EGF people under the full moon, sitting on the grass and contemplating life, film, music and love. A perfect ending for a tremendous festival, and we all felt sad knowing we’d have to part our ways in the morning.

The more I travel the festivals, the more friends I have across the world. Back in Helsinki, I maybe have two people I really get to call to go for a beer, but thanks to this festival circuit life, there’s less and less cities around the world where I don’t know at least one person I’ve had a great evening with and can call to show me around the town. It’s the one thing I never expected from becoming a filmmaker – the amount of friends you make at festivals. Nobody told about that, everyone’s always raving about submitting to the festivals, or competing at the right ones, but … who cares? Nobody knows any of the films they’re about to see at the festivals, they don’t remember who won what and when, but the people, the connections and the friendships you make are tremendously important.

Well, now I’m rambling. I made it safely back to Finland yesterday, and since nothing ever happens here, I’ll probably write the next time when I head back to Croatia – that’s in 2 days 🙂 Stay safe, friends, and listen to Mayhem.

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The European Genre Forum team. Left: Sten-Kristian Saluveer, Aaron Hillis, Stjepan Hundic, Ant Timpson, Li’l Ol Me, Alexander O. Philippe, Chris Oosterom, Maja Zigic, and the last two on the right are Annick Mahnert and Josh Sobel, in all black!

Zagreb Dirtbagz


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7.7.2017 – 223 Days Left until the premiere of Iron Sky The Coming Race!

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Great journalist/crowdfunding expert Aaron Hillis giving a presentation in his morning gown. Photo by Annick Mahnert.

Giving advice to young filmmakers is always a perilous path, and I’m pretty bad at it: my suggestion is always to go big. Unfortunately, that’s also the reason so many good films never get made – the filmmakers aim too high, when in fact they should just do something they can finance easily and just get the film made. But hey, I was hired to read two scripts and give advice to the filmmakers, and that’s what I told: go big.

The first project was expanded from a short film to a feature film, and you can smell it easily from this kind of scripts: they become very repetative and the character development is easily ignored. I suggested the producer to develop it more into the shape and size of a feature film – with new setups, deeper characters and more things to watch and admire on big screen.

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Trying out a bass ukulele. Didn’t know they exist, now I do, and loved it.

The other project was more my kind of a movie to begin with – a wartime story with a fantastic element adde

d to it. In addition to this, the script was a riveting read, with surprisingly little to complain about. But the plan was to make the film with a budget of half a million, and that’s where my warning lights started to blink. A story with really a unique angle to it, with a perioid environment and loads of big VFX, one shouldn’t try to go micro budget with. Then, either all the interesting needs to be ripped out of the script, or the VFX will be really crappy. Either way, it will be a waste of great script. So I tried to get them interested in the idea of making it bravely into bigger and more expensive film. Might be bad advice, I admit and said it quite clearly to them, but my great wish is to see the film one day hit the big screen – there’s something unique to it.

Outside of the work, we also hit the club scene of Zagreb in the evening. There was a private birthday party on the top floor of a three-storey club, and we had some decadent fun evening dancing and chatting with the film festival people. I was home again way way way too late and knew I had a nasty day coming up tomorrow, but it was worth it, a fun evening and a great time to get to know a bit more of the fellow filmmakers. I was pretty wasted by the time we arrived back to the hotel, but at least I didn’t do what some of the guys did – they went to the casino. Had I done that, that would’ve been the very end of me.

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Zagreb dirtbagz having a night out.

My Finnish Soulscape


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6.7.2017 – 223 Days Left until the release of Iron Sky The Coming Race!

IMG_8362The more I spend time abroad, the more I miss my Finnish roots. Put it in writing, it sounds like a depressing cliché, but put it in music and you know what I mean. I gathered a Spotify playlist I play every time I’m abroad – in the morning brushing my teeth or evening after dinner and especially after few drinks. This list takes me back to home, and although the real homesickness never leaves, it helps me feel I’m a bit closer to home and the loved ones. For my Finnish friends, you’ll understand what I mean by listening to the playlist here, and for those outside of Finland – this is how Finnish soulscape sounds like.

Second day here in Zagreb started with a bunch of project presentations. Now, when it comes to pitching sessions, for so many the fundamentals of pitching are completely lost. First, you have to be able to pitch in five seconds your film. Anything longer, and you don’t know what you’re selling. Second, you have to impress them with visuals. Forget sizzlereels from other movies, forget moodreels and anything that hasn’t been prepared for your film, specifically – respect the audience enough to show them at least something original. But also, it needs to be top notch. If it’s not, don’t show it. Third, you need to have a believable budget. A full-fletched scifi feature with a budget of 100k doesn’t sound very good, but neither does first-time director going after 20 million budget. Be quick, look good and leave a believable impression, it’s really all you need. Unfortunately, none of the pitches I saw were very good as pitches, although some of the projects seemed very produceable. Hope they will get made.

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This is us – me and Atte Joutsen – presenting Wreckamovie in 2006 at MindTrek.

I had my Iron Sky –presentation as well in front of the audience, discussing the building of the franchise, challenges and possibilities and telling the whole story of Iron Sky – from Star Wreck to The Ark and beyond. Somehow, I wasn’t really able to grasp the audience’s undivided attention in the same way, feeling a bit exhausted after the first 20 minutes already, and although usually I’m pretty good in this kind of situations, talking to a super professional, small crowd is actually harder than a big hall full of people. I’ve done this for over 10 years now and I’ve become much better at public speaking from when I started at Mindtrek in 2006 presenting Wreckamovie platform, but even still today, it’s hard to say when you connect with the audience and when not.

Then, back to reading the scripts. My attention span is so short when reading other people’s scripts I have to reward myself with something after each 10 pages, so it takes forever to get to read even one script, let alone two…

Next stop: Zagreb


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5.7.2017 – 224 Days Left until release of Iron Sky The Coming Race!

European Genre Forum has invited me to talk about Iron Sky and mentor few projects, and the place is Zagreb, in Croatia. So, beautiful Eastern european women all around, sunshine and five star hotel, and they even pay me for it. I can do that.

(The first time I was staying in Westin was back in 2005, in Tokyo, where I was speaking about Star Wreck. It was – and still is – the most prestigious event I’ve been speaking at, sharing the stage with people like Reid Hoffman, Jimmy Wales and the ashes of late Timothy Leary.)

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A picture from 2005: That’s me, my weird-ass hairdo, and an ill-fitting suit. In the orange box on my right are the ashes of Timothy Leary.

What I didn’t realize when I signed up for this Zagreb gig, though, was that I had to read the scripts of the projects I was to mentor. So instead of relaxing and checking out films and listening others speak, I had to spend most of the day indoors, struggling through scripts.

The first day I went out with my skateboard, cruising around the town, getting my bearings and enjoying the summer the way it’s supposed to be – not the +9 degrees of Celsius Finland calls “summer”. I stopped for a steak and a glass of wine at a small restaurant, listening to some choir rehearsing House of Rising Sun (in Croatian) next door.

In the evening, we had some welcome drinks at the hotel, hosted by the guy running the show here, Stjepan Hundic, whom I know for many years. He’s a funny, charming chap with gray well-kept beard and Croatian sense of deadpan humour. I also got to know bunch of producers and directors and their projects, all a charming lot, loads of Udo-stories shared, until calling it a night way too late.

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Producers Aaron Hillis and Ant Timpson sending greetings to director Aaron Moorehead from Zagreb.

Drunk in Brussels


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4.7.2017 – 225 Days Left until the release of Iron Sky The Coming Race!

“Are you a rugby player?”

A cute girl at the breakfast counter at Metropole Hotel greets me with a smile. It’s not often I get mistaken for a professional sportsman – if anything, an ex-basketballer, maybe, but one badly out of shape. Rugby player is much better. They are allowed to be burly, and probably my 2 meter height and tattoos can give an intimiable appearance – which, anyone who knows me, is in fact quite the opposite. I’m kind fluffly teddybear, rugby is way too nasty for my personality. I’m a lover, not a fighter, baby.

I’m snapped out of the positive vibe when I realize there’s an aging gentleman, apparently the headwaiter of the restaurant, nagging angrily at the girl, in French. He then continues to serve a group of tourists using the ages-old belittling politeness only Frenchmen master, ending every sentence with patronizing “okay?”

“Here’s ze breakfaast, okay? Iz zelf zerviice, okay? On ze right, ze hot food, okay? On ze left, ze drinks, okay? Bon appetit, okay?”

And, without missing a beat, continues his rant to the girl.

OK, I don’t really know if he’s ranting or just instructing in a French way, but it’s nevertheless ruining my well-started mood for the morning.

* * *

The day slips past quickly at Fridge office, working with Jan. We tighten the cut and eventually finish our work on the first half of the movie, and then proceed with the latter part in more general level.

One of the key scenes of the film has been floating around the edit, sometimes in the very beginning of the movie, sometimes smack in the middle, sometimes later in the film. We had found a satisfying solution for it already a year ago with film’s editor Joona Louhivuori, but with Jan we decided to try it in one spot we had never thought of – and bang! It fit there like a glove. We felt victorious.

Latter half of the movie has been in much clearer shape already for quite some time, so for us it was just watching it through, discussing the upcoming changes – but Jan’s new assistant was there with us, a young lady who had never seen the film. Afterwards, she was beaming, complimenting the film and admitting she even cried a little in the end. I was happy, since after seeing your own film for 100th time, you forget how it affects you when watching it for the first time. It’s easy to become overtly cynical – but it’s not just that. The changes we had made for the edit have made it much lighter in tone, and it’s a welcome adjustment.

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The old Stock Exchange in Brussels, a beautiful building on which’s front porch the youth gather every night to hang around and about.

Dinner I washed myself with Belgian beer and great conversations with Jan, his girlfriend, also a director (we agreed that watching other directors work on set is like watching a couple have sex in the same room – it’s too private and icky to bear, that’s the reason we rather not visit other sets) and the new assistant.

Eventually we found ourselves sitting at 3 am in front of a charming little restaurant, talking to a drunken producer friend of Jan’s and sipping a wide variety of drinks. The last one must’ve been pretty heavy, Gibson if I can recall, thus to the headache the next morning.