Evelin Penttilä • Producer, Stellar Film
"Producers always have to be ready for the unknown and unaccounted challenges"
- Selected as one of this year’s Producers on the Move, the producer confides in the potential of her local film industry and shares the challenges and delights of her job
Cineuropa caught up with Evelin Penttilä, producer at Tallinn-based studio Stellar Film. Selected as one of this year’s Producers on the Move (an initiative sponsored by European Film Promotion), Penttilä shared some takes on her career, the Estonian film industry and the raft of future projects she is involved in.
Cineuropa: What pushed you to enter this industry?
Evelin Penttilä: I ended up in the film industry by coincidence, but the decision to stay many years later was because I was able to feel how much the first feature film I produced, Zero Point [+see also:
film profile], offered to its audience. It’s very important that films are able to reach their audiences, otherwise making them does not make sense. It is important for me that the films in which I’m involved find their way to their viewers both locally and internationally. Over the years, I have also learned how to have more impact on their journey.
What is the most challenging aspect of a producer's job? Which is the most rewarding?
The creative process is both the most challenging and rewarding part. Yes, sometimes it’s also complicated to make sure that the idea does not get lost in the translation processes of the production and to try to explain to the world what is special about the film you are currently working on. And sometimes, it’s just sad to understand how everyone has given their best, but because of wrong timing or something else and bigger, the film will not get the chances it deserves. But then, it’s important to turn this experience into a learning curve, get up and go on to make the next films.
What are the main challenges and advantages of producing in Estonia? How would you judge the current state of its film scene?
I think Estonia has a very active film scene. Our public financing systems are solid and function in a smooth and straightforward way. We also have a pool of well-skilled film professionals. Of course, EFI should get more money to invest into films, but another obvious obstacle is the size of the market. However, it also means that in order to make successful films, they should also aim for international distribution. Another current obstacle is the lack of interest of local TV channels to invest into the development and production of high-quality TV dramas. Local TV channels are the cornerstone of any financial plan for this type of undertaking and it stops many great ideas from taking off.
How do you think being one of the Producers on the Move will benefit your career?
Our group seems already like a good bunch! Networking is always the key, I’m sure that Producers on the Move 2022 will bring a lot of great new industry friends and colleagues and hopefully some future partnerships for productions. I’m also very grateful to meet some new sales agents and hear some interesting insights within the safe space that the programme is offering.
How has producing changed after two years of the pandemic?
Well, to be honest I do not think the pandemic changed the nature of our job. Producers always have to be ready for the unknown and unaccounted challenges – be they a pandemic, war, death or natural disasters. Anything unimaginable can happen. Always make sure you have proper insurance in place and be kind to people around you, hopefully you will cope with the challenges on the journey [smiles].
What are you up to next?
Our short Weight of Light, directed by Anna Hints, is currently being edited, and there are quite exciting things in development. One of them is the dramedy At Your Service, directed by German Golub and penned by Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman, which I brought with me for Producers on the Move. We just finished The Sleeping Beast with Jaak Kilmi and as the film is finding its place in the international market, we already know we would like to also continue working together. Generally, we are looking for modern stories, often with female leads which have the potential to be great, significant films. We are also excited about playing with genres – horror, musical, sci-fi, thriller – and we would like to do all of them in a way, elevating the idea behind the film. Besides, we are also developing films with Vallo Toomla, Katrin Tegova and some other interesting local talent. Our short horror Bad Hair was a good example of something we are aiming at, and we are working with director Oskar Lehemaa on a story that could turn into a feature. Apart from our own slate, we are also actively co-producing and service producing. We’re happy to be on board of some very cool projects coming from our region, including those helmed by JP Valkeapää and Juris Kursietis.
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