China Diary

China Diary

Finishing The Tour – my job with Iron Sky The Coming Race is (just about) done.


No Comments

What began seven years ago with nothing but a crazy pitch and few written words on the paper, is officially now done. My third feature film Iron Sky The Coming Race has been released in many main territories, and while there are still many places left for the film to come out, my job is more or less done with it. I mean, yeah, if there’s a premiere or a festival screening somewhere, I’ll go, but the main chunk of the work – the preproduction, production, postproduction, and PR related to the release is mostly done.

Phew.

The film itself will live on for many years to come, mind you. After the initial release, comes the DVD and BluRay release followed by TV and streaming services and – who knows – maybe one day even a Director’s Cut version.

But much of that is in other people’s hands. My contribution has been given.

I guess now it’s time to move on. Finish The Ark, of course, and write. I have a good heap of scripts in different stages I want to finish, one of them being, obviously, the last installment in the Iron Sky saga, but also a big pile of other stuff I want to get started or jump on board with.

I just came back from the latest festival where Iron Sky The Coming Race was screened, the amazing Grossmann Wine And Film Festival in Ljutomer, Slovenia. There, in a crowded main square, we played our film in an open-air cinema and enjoyed a great reception, preceding the cinematic release in Slovenia. I haven’t really counted how many countries the film has been released or will be released, but it’s pretty much traveling all over the world.

rbsh
Grossmann audience watching the end of Iron Sky The Coming Race

Great.

So, what next?

I really want to continue down the science fiction rabbit hole, further and deeper. There are few scripts I still dream to be able to make one day, Jeremiah Harm and I Killed Adolf Hitler, but those are out of my hands. Maybe one day I’ll come back to them if an opportunity rises but the big part of filmmaking – searching for the right project – is ongoing.

I don’t trust in films falling into my lap from the skies, although I’ve seen that happen – basically, that’s how The Ark got started – but I don’t want to cling on to the first weak script that’s thrown my way, because knowing it might be that in another 7 years I’m writing this again, having finished a movie – and if it’s one I’m not happy with, I’ve just wasted a lot of my life for basically nothing. I’ve been lucky so far, having had a chance to work with films I can believe in and be proud of, and I intend not to change that.

Films – or TV. That’s another thing I’m interested in. I’d loved to get onboard a TV show and see how a production like that works. I find myself spending about as much time watching TV shows (I mean, Netflix, HBO, you know…) as films these days, and both work well for me. (Not surprisingly, we are actually plotting the last part of the Iron Sky “Moon Nazi Trilogy” in the form of a TV show.)

But yeah, rest of the year I expect spending my time mostly either writing new stuff and post-producing The Ark. Less traveling, more creating, that is. A different gear in life, that is, on the eve of me turning forty.

Luckily, we just moved to a beautiful new home in Lauttasaari, where it’s a bliss to work, just by the beach in a nice, peaceful area, so the need to get out of the house is also a bit less pressing.

Anyway, I’ll keep y’all updated on what’s going on next. Whatever it is, won’t be boring.

China Diary

Premiering Iron Sky The Coming Race Around The World


No Comments

I’ve been crisscrossing the Planet Earth now for the most part of the year from a premiere here to a festival screening there, all to promote my latest movie Iron Sky The Coming Race, which we spent uh, quite a while to make. While sitting in small airplanes is not what I prefer to do with my life, getting there and screening the film to tens, hundreds, even thousands of fans, friends, freaks and followers makes it definitely worth it. The latest of such trips was the one  I’m returning now from to Japan, where we had tons of interviews and a great screening with nearly two hundred fans, signing session and what not,  in the promotion to the upcoming Japan premiere.

timotokio1

It’s interesting to see how the film has been received all over the world. Just like the first one, Iron Sky The Coming Race is definitely splitting the opinions of both critics and filmgoers – some find it lovely, to quote one of the recent tweets I came across:

 

“Things of great surprise: aside from being a tangled spaghetti monster of ludicrous plot points, the sequel to Iron Sky is highly entertaining. Hollow earth, many weird cultural references, and a kick-ass mixed race female protagonist who is here for absolutely none of your shit.”

While others feel differently:

Iron Sky 2 is a truly dreadful movie, but there are circumstances in which it might be appropriate to watch it: Hackney, London.

Goes without saying, nasty critics can hurt, those who “get it” bring me right back up and that’s just pure awesome. And then there are premieres like the one in Japan, which give a whole new meaning to what I love about making these movies. This article, for example, writes very nicely:

“Iron Sky: The Third Empire Strikes Back” A masterpiece fantasy full of science fiction love.

First, we had arranged two full days of interviews – without lying at all, I probably did 30 half-hour interviews in the first two days after arriving in Japan, answering the most creative set of questions from the journalists. Seems like the whole idea of a tech cult like we have in our movie – the Jobsism – really was received well, and they were also curious on how we ended up choosing the historical figures the film proposes. There were magazines that were purely focused on crazy conspiracy theories, and I got to talk to the interviewers about deep end Hollow Earth theories, noticing they had indeed found nearly all of the little tidbits I had managed to hide there for the craziest of us to spot. There were gun magazines, where we spoke about the weapons used in the movie, and of course, film magazines who wanted to know everything about the references, my background in Japanese movies (which I have followed surprisingly much). Also, Obi as a strong leading character was appraised by Japanese media, as well as Udo Kier in his double-role.

The premiere itself was a great success. The reactions were great throughout the movie, and afterward, we had hundreds of fans gathering around, lining up like good Japanese do, for autographs, handing me gifts and taking selfies. The enthusiasm was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, but walking around Tokyo and taking in the entertainment culture there, it does make sense – there is a level of enthusiasm towards music and movies unlike anything we have in Europe – or maybe we’ve had it once, but now, everything is very jaded and cynical. This is, I must admit, a bit depressing atmosphere to make movies, and I do wish there was a way to inject some joy into entertainment culture in Europe.

Not to say I’ve had bad premieres, in Europe – quite the contrary! Our Finnish premiere was a blast, the German premiere was amazing, UK and Switzerland, Brussels and Copenhagen and all those places were just pure fun to screen the film at. There’s still quite a lot of places where the film will open in the coming months – I’m now flying to Prague for Checz premiere, then there’s Slovenian premiere, some festival premieres and of course, the US release that’s coming in July.

But importantly, I guess what I’m trying to say here is: filmmakers, go and screen your film to the audience. Even if it’s for one day, it’s worth taking the time off the calendar and go out there, meet the people and get in the vibes. That’s the most direct, most enthusiastic feedback you will get. It keeps you going, no matter how complicated the film business might sometimes seem.

 

Anyways, arigato to our Japanese fans and our distributor Twin for the amazing premiere event and great marketing push, the film is coming out in July in Japan, crossing fingers for a great kickoff there!

 

China Diary

Day 226: Heading back home


No Comments

Ah well, wrapped this leg of the production in Beijing again, and now I’m homeward bound, flying 10 kilometers over Central Russia, just passing over the town of Kodinsk. Did you know that Kodinks was established in 1977 as a settlement servicing the construction of a hydroelectric power station, with population close to 15000? I didn’t. But it’s crazy. Flying over Russia, it’s just insane. The country is so big, full of so much unknown little towns, huge cities and endless forest stretching everywhere.

I’ve started to read a really interesting book, one called One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I grabbed it on my Kindle as a recommendation for a read to understand a bit about the life in the Soviet Union, and this one is about a day in the life of one person in the gulags somewhere in the middle of the huge mother Russia. Written in a deadpan style, it’s both hilarious and scary at the same time, and very damn educative.

I finished my job in Beijing few days earlier than anticipated, and didn’t really feel like sticking around as there was nothing, really nothing for me to do there anymore. On the last day we sat down with Chris and went through all the remaining shots, solving some of the biggest issues we still had with the visual effects, and then agreed that we would continue the work online over Cinesync sessions.

I don’t know yet when I’m going back to Beijing, to be honest, but if things progress the way I suspect they might, it could be late September, early October, but let’s see what the future holds. Nevertheless, despite the massive sleeping issues I had, it actually was a pretty good trip and worth doing. Now, my next adventures take me to Japan, where we will be promoting the release of Iron Sky The Coming Race, after which we’re moving with Annika and then, well, I don’t really know yet!

Anyway, this story continues when I come back to Beijing next time, whenever that is – until then, have a wonderful summer dear readers!

China Diary

Day 225: Day off


No Comments

This.

Is.

Boring.

A day off means there’s absolutely nothing to do for me here. Since I don’t know anyone, I’m just stranded off in my hotel. Going out for some culture and recreation is out of the question, while Beijing is a huge city, once you’ve seen the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, walked the Hutongs and went to a bunch of museums, you’re pretty much done. Rest of it is just offices, residential buildings, restaurants, and shops. And there’s only so much of trouble one is willing to take in order to enjoy a dinner alone somewhere.

I did the gym, that was OK. I met with Tanya briefly, discussed future scheduling and what-not, that was fine. Went to a Japanese restaurant for an overpriced dinner, that was pretty OK, and watched a handful of The Americans shows, rattled some sables with some idiot on the Internet for a bit and eventually fell asleep for a few hours, waking up to a thumping headache. Must’ve been that one Asahi I had with the dinner…

Anyway, one more day – tomorrow – and then I’m headed back to Europe. The work will continue with The Ark online, and while I don’t know when I should be coming back, probably sometime later in the autumn.

China Diary

Day 224: So many people in the same device


No Comments

Okay, now it’s getting ridiculous; I managed to catch sleep at 11:30 am, meaning when I woke up at 3:30, I had only slept four hours and was both totally wiped out and dead tired. Nevertheless, I had to scramble myself up from the bed and head downtown to work with Tuomas, as it was his last day in Beijing.

Work was good, though. The additional footage we had shot a few weeks ago has found its’ way into the cut in a very nice way, and while it’s definitely not as well shot and lit as Mika’s material, add music, work the cut and focus on characters, it’ll go nicely. And watching Tuomas laying tracks on every emotional beat there made it look better and better every time.

We went for a cup of coffee across the street to the library café and discussed the importance of places like this, where the intelligentsia – counting us out, of course – would meet, compare thoughts and exchange information between countries and nationalities… We saw Beethoven’s notebooks, Tolkien’s writings, philosophy, Chinese literature, a Lithuanian professor prepping for a presentation… “All fit together, nice, nice, very nice… “, as the 53rd Calypso of Bokonon teaches us in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”.

I read today a sad story in the news. A Finnish clown jumper – I’m not sure if that’s the right English term, but what I mean is a person dressed up as a clown and making a show of jumping down to water while clowning about – was found dead in his apartment. He had been dead for two weeks, actually.

This guy was known for a failed attempt at clown jump, which he botched by landing sideways on the water, falling 50 meters. He didn’t die, but went to a coma for weeks. I started thinking about this person’s life, what brought him up there, making that jump. Devoting your life on something as dangerous as clown jumps just escapes my understanding, just to entertain a bunch of people. I mean yeah, he was a professional at his line of work, a really dangerous one, too, and one which is definitely not very popular. It started to scratch something in the back of my head, like a story forming, and I did get flashes of interesting scenes in my head, and this character forming in my head.

Back at the hotel I started writing down some ideas while Tuomas was doing the music. We worked for good 5-6 hours and headed to the Libanese restaurant for some skewers and hummus, which I will definitely miss here, since we don’t have proper Libanese in Helsinki that I know of. Coming back home I turned on The Americans, but found myself dozing off halfway through the show. And then, lo and behold, I slept.

PS. Since we have had some pretty good progress with Chris, I decided to head home a bit earlier – on Tuesday, to be exact. The plan was to stay until Saturday next week, but why waste production’s money for a hotel room and driving me around, when there’s nothing really here for me to do at this stage. And it makes sense, I have a chance to catch a breather before heading over to Tokyo with Annika next week’s Sunday.

 

China Diary

Day 223: Rainy day


No Comments

There are a gazillion different kind of taxis in Beijing – the regular green-and-yellow ones that run on the meter; the ex-Uber now-Didi black sedans, the unmarked ones that try to hustle you for your money, the rickshas that try to hustle you for your money and so on and so on. From what I’ve heard is that the system has gotten much better these days than it used to be – if you book a Didi or a regular taxi, it’s pretty safe – the rest of the options are a bit questionable. But one thing is clear: when it rains, there are no taxis, anywhere.

I got stuck at VHQ for about an hour trying to get a ride out of there because suddenly Beijing went all dark and rain came down the sky. The whole city turned into a  one big Blade Runnerian dream with people swarming under their umbrellas, neon lights flashing above, reflecting from the wet street surface. When I finally made it to Tuomas’ hotel, it was already quite late, and he had left for another meeting.

So I wandered around Sanlitun – it was hopeless to get a taxi home anyway – and ended up into a small café, where I had a cider (only place in China I know that serves cider!) and a coffee (not an amazing combo) and chatted a bit with a student who was interested in studying in Finland.

One thing I’m running out of is underwear and shirts. I bought 20 pair of undies when I came here so when I wear the last ones, I know I need to be heading for the airport. But shirts I’m running out of, so I picked up a few from H&M (they are everywhere) when Tuomas finally called. I wasn’t anymore really feeling like working, so we went for a burger at a big chain restaurant. It wasn’t really good, I must admit…

By the time we were done, it had cleared out a bit and anyway it was way past the rush hour, so the taxi wasn’t that much of an issue. Back home, and ready for bed after 4 hours of sleep last night…

…yeah, right. One hour of restless tossing and turning, and here I am, up and awake again. This is not very nice…

China Diary

Day 222: All bullshit, moving on…


No Comments

35 degrees of celsius during the day here in Beijing, it’s truly steaming hot out there. Luckily, I only have to step in a car, get whisked to a nice cool office and only emerge after sundown – to yet another car, then well-air-conditioned luxury hotel, and only walk the streets at night, but even then it’s way above 25 degrees.

rbsh
This is Seven. 

Funny enough, my sleeping is only getting worse. I managed to go to bed at 10am this morning, not a minute earlier. The night went past by watching The Americans and talking to Annika – we do these marathon Whatsapp calls, if VPN allows, and speak probably more than we would if we were face to face.

I hate the fact that I’m not much of a writer. I wish I was. Watching the show makes me feel like I could easily write all that, and then when I get all inspired, pull up my Final Draft, only shit comes out. I’ve never written a full script in my life – I mean, a full feature film script, shorter things for sure but I just can’t get the story flowing. I have one script that’s really written all by me, and it’s at page 13 and actually reads very well. All I need is another 100 pages and I’d have my first feature script.

But maybe I’ll make that my goal: by 40, I’ve written one full script. A bad one, mind you, but at least I’ve done the job. From the scratch to the bitter end.

Work at VHQ is getting tedious. I don’t know what else there is to do than go through the film shot by shot and explain – once more – what the shots are going to be like. Chris is also bored at it, he’s mostly on his phone going through things for the millionth time, but we kinda have to do that.

Then, off to work with Tuomas. The hotel he’s staying it is a fancy one. Altogether, working with him is an adventure. He’s a great creator when he puts his mind to it, but sometimes his mind jumps to million places and if he’s not playing ping-pong, he’s assassinating people with an umbrella or dancing around the room, and then back to work. It’s fun for few hours, but I must say I’m used to maybe more calm work, it’s sometimes hard to follow his moods and feelings. But when he works, he’s terrific.

I’ve missed the gym now two days because of my sleep schedule. 10am-3pm is not a good sleep cycle, since after that I go to work from 3:30-22:00 and coming back home the gym is already closed. I’m starting to feel like a worthless slob…

As you probably can deduct from all this: it’s pretty damn boring here. No sleep and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Oh, and it doesn’t help that everyone’s in Cannes right now. I mean, it kinda helps. I’ve been going there for the last 11 years in a row, acting all important with my projects but truth be told, it’s bullshit the whole festival, and I’m not missing it one bit. All the same people with same projects in the same street corners, cafes and bars doing talking about exactly same stuff, plus you end up losing 1000€ every time, no matter how hard you try to pinch your wallet. But really, the self-importance of everyone there… “ooh, I’m In Cannes, I have so much to do, ooh so important projects and meetings, ooh sorry gotta go are you going to the boat party today ooh i don’t know maybe i go home ooh i hate this festival blaa blaa blaa blaaa-di-daa-didaa-di-daa. Same shit, different year.

At least I’m doing something here in Beijing, instead of just soaking my brain with rose and bullshit.

China Diary

Day 221: Adventures of Roope the Robber


No Comments

These long nights are really dull, so I decided to dig into the long list of TV shows I haven’t seen, starting with The Americans. The story is quite interesting, two Russian agents living in the 80’s USA, portraying as a couple. They have kids and everything, so it’s real family life, only with murders and espionage and what have you. At least something to pass the time on.

Working today with VHQ, we sketched out a pile of shots for one of the segments of the film which has been a huge headache for us, but didn’t really come up with anything remarkably great. Well, I did come up with an awesome shot, but it was quite clear it’s way out of our budget to create, so I had to bury that one. Other ideas were not that cool after finding something you really, really love.

cof

After VHQ, I went to see Tuomas. There was a bit of a hiccup in getting into the room, and Tuomas was pretty furious to the staff since they hadn’t let me in the room since I didn’t have my passport with me. I was fine with it, but he was scolding the staff for a while, and the manager of the hotel later on came by and brought us some free ice cream, so it was all water under the bridge.

We worked for quite a bit, going through scenes with Tuomas composing and me explaining the deeper thoughts behind it all. It wasn’t half bad, although very fragmented work. It’s hard to keep a complete picture especially since I’m no composer, but Tuomas has a clear method in his head and he’s very creative when he’s working. Afterward, we headed out for some more of the Lebanese dinner, discussing the lyrics of Finnish music, pointing out that many Finnish songs tell the same story of giving up a life of adventure and love for a much more settled lifestyle, which then slowly grinds you down, but neither is a good choice, so all we are left with is a life that’s running before our eyes and before you know it you are – as this one song says, a ferry guard somewhere by the river, being slowly hanged by your domesticated life.

As I now approach my 4th decade on this Earth, I feel I’ve had the privilege of seeing quite a lot of the world, having lived/spent a considerable amount of time in Finland, Belgium, Germany, US, Australia, and China. I’ve been to a lot of parties, met a lot of people, loved a lot of amazing people and been quite lucky with the choice of profession I’ve had. Financially, I’ve never been nowhere near being called “rich” or even “well-to-do”, but I’ve always done OK. I’ve never felt trapped in, or locked out of the rest of the world, and for that I can be very happy about. But what’s out there to expect? Watching my son grow, maybe some times winning a recognition for the work I’ve spent my active life doing, traveling to distant places with my wife, getting old together with her, watching as the world moves on. But also, I can’t help but feel that I’ve already been around quite a bit, what’s out there, really, that I’m going to be experiencing in a completely new way? Maybe by this age, I’ve laid the groundwork on how the rest of my life will be? Or then not? Impossible to say, but I don’t feel a noose tightening around my neck, rather feel like a new door opening. Let’s see what’s coming.

And reading this back in 10 and then again 20 years from now will be probably quite a fun experience. So Timo, if you, reading this closing your 5th decade, find it in your heart, please allow me the naivety of a 30-something. I hope you are wiser now.

 

China Diary

Day 220: Who keeps company with the wolves…


No Comments

I’m getting a hang of the Chinese habits again: I’m becoming more rude in the restaurants – shouting for service is perfectly OK here. I burp – if there are gases in my body, they need to be let out. And I push my way through – if that’s where I need to go, there’s no need letting others get there first. All of this is completely fine by Chinese standards, but I must – repeat, MUST – remember to unlearn this stuff when I eventually head back to Europe.

Today was a long, frustrating and dull day, yet another spent in my hotel room waiting for the night to pass so I could get some sleep during the morning and afternoon. After eventually dragging myself out of the bed at 3pm, I headed for the gym for a quick workout, then out of the door and into the streets looking for some food. I ended up choosing a bowl of noodles in a close-by restaurant – not the one I used to frequent before, which had gone under, unfortunately, but another place.

Then there was a meeting with Max. As expected, after four days of editing, 2/3 of my suggestions were thrown out of the window, but hey, at least 1/3 stuck, so I’m OK with it. Not a bad result, I’d say. We had a long and loud discussion about some of the changes, and eventually made up and headed for the hot pot across the street. Tuomas joined us, too. He usually stays in the Sanlitun area in Beijing, so he doesn’t really have any idea about the real Beijing food, so for him, the hot-pots and what-nots are exotic and new.

But yeah, that was it. Day in, day out.

rpt
Max, smiling over hot pot dinner

 

China Diary

Day 219: Stalinism


No Comments

I practiced some Stalinism today, as I was just about to finish the cut of the movie, but suddenly realized I hated to have this one character in the end and then begun a huge cut-erase-and-paste -stitch job, which eventually led to one character who is basically instrumentally in every shot of the last bits of the movie, being there no more, like he never existed. Let’s see if Max thinks my great idea is so great tomorrow, but I was feeling empowered walking out of the editing booth.

There was a proper gym Chinese Gym Chad at the gym today. Muscular, loud and was carrying an admirable-sized water bottle… no, a bucket with him wherever he went. Made me think of that Virgin Sip vs. Chad Quench meme. If those words say nothing to you, don’t bother clicking. He was speaking to his much smaller and weaker friends IN ALL CAPS the whole time, save the moments he was doing his set, which happened with as much huffing, puffing, groaning and existing in every corner of the room as humanely possible. Very untypical behavior for Chinese men, mind you, who are usually pretty subtle and don’t take too much personal or physical space.

Dinner was this time a local Japanese restaurant, where I enjoyed a huge bowl of noodles, some sushi, grilled fish and some rice, and the most amazing service, although nothing, not even menu, was in English. I just randomly chose four items and was positively surprised.

Heading back home, the city felt looming around me with a very special presence tonight. Got me feeling all Blade Runner, so I went back in and slapped the masterpiece-of-a-film on my TV and sunk into the retro-futuristic world of Ridley Scott for the next two hours.

Sometimes, working abroad is dull and lonely, but today, it was just perfect.

dav

PS. It’s 2am as I’m writing this, and I haven’t yet gone to bed, and I’m starting to feel tired now. Let’s see if this rhythm change actually turns out to happen in the end. Crossing fingers, and nighty-night y’all!