From a steamy sauna to the world screen
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
20/03/2012 - Until Iron Sky [trailer, film focus] was world-premiered as a Panorama Special at the recent Berlin International Film Festival, Niko and His Flying Reindeer [trailer] was the closest Finnish cinema had come to outer space. But the €7.5 million dark, sci-fi comedy about Nazi survivors attacking the earth from the dark side of the moon is now touring the world through the UK's Stealth Media Group, which handles foreign sales.
Cineuropa : From black metal to science-fiction films – what went wrong with rock?
Timo Vuorensola: Music has been a hobby, I am still singing with the Älymystö, I never stopped dreaming of becoming a rock star, but it didn't happen, I tell yah. I have always enjoyed all aspects of story-telling - role-playing, writing - and filming was just a further stop forward. I found myself enjoying it.
But Moon Nazis? Sounds like a boozy night at Helsinki's Corona Bar?
The idea of Iron Sky actually came up in a steamy sauna evening somewhere in Tampere, where my writer friend Jarmo Puskala began talking about Moon Nazis. We looked into the subject and found it extremely interesting, so we decided to give it a proper treatment.
Did you aim for pure comedy, or was there a more serious undertone?
Iron Sky is screen entertainment, but I also wanted to comment on a development in Europe which I find alarming – the increasing number of right-wing supporters during times of financial crisis. It is an issue that needs to be talked out.
Science fiction has never been a prominent genre in Finnish cinema?
The special-effects industry has never been big in Finland - we basically had to invent everything from scratch, but had an excellent team headed by VFX supervisor-CGI producer Samuli Torssonen. I do hope that Iron Sky will inspire other Scandinavian filmmakers to work with science fiction, now it is possible.
Was Tero Kautomaa, the producer, involved in the project from the beginning?
Not from 2006, but soon after. With Johanna Sinisalo we drafted a story for Energia Productions which we presented to Tero; he found it totally hilarious and thought it would be too expensive, still went ahead and instigated the production.
In spring 2010, we were still missing part of the budget; we decided to raise it from crowd funding and investment, and it actually saved the picture. We managed to raise €800,000 from more than 200 fan investors, ten of whom have producer credits.
We eventually shot the film 50/50 in Frankfurt and Australia – location scenes in Germany, green screen studio sequences in Australia. Obviously there were many complicated CGI takes, but the most difficult was the live-action explosion in Frankfurt's main street.
Your production schedule was 2006-2011; when did you do the casting, and how did you keep the actors on board?
The process was long and complicated - in Germany we collaborated with casting agent Uwe Bünker in Berlin, in Australia with New Holland Pictures. We signed Götz Otto, Julia Dietze and Tilo Prückner as early as 2008 - two-and-a-half years before we began to shoot - but they believed in the project and stuck with us although we had to postpone the production several times.
And you are 100% happy with the result?
Iron Sky became much better than I had dared hope for - it was such a big puzzle, and it could have gone terribly wrong, but we managed keep the pieces together and make them fit in the end. The film really works, so I couldn't ask for anything more. I hope I can continue in science-fiction, both with a television series and another movie, probably on a more international scale.