“This is an anarchic comedy on a Finnish heavy rock band on their way to a Norwegian metal festival. The lead singer Turo, 25, tries to overcome his fears by leading his band, Impaled Rektum, to the hottest metal festival of Norway. Their journey includes metal music, vomiting, grave robbings, fake vikings and the first ever armed conflict between Finland and Norway.” Producer Kai Nordberg on HEAVY TRIP which screens at SxSW 2018. Directors Jukka Vidgren & Juuso Laatio also join us for this interview.
So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.
Jukka Vidgren: I’ve been really into films since a was a kid. Me and my friends used to do all kind of films all through my teenage years. I knew from a pretty young age what I wanted to do. Although I had no idea how to get there. I got into a media school where I met with Juuso and we hit it off and have been doing all kinds of projects together. Some of these projects have included doing music videos for metal bands. And this was a big inspiration for HEAVY TRIP later on.
Juuso Laatio: I’ve always liked movies, who doesn’t right? Watching the same VHS tapes over and over again in the 80s. We used to do lots of crappy action films and sketch comedy as kids, then when I grew up I sort of felt like I needed to get a “real job” and the dream of doing film was put on the background. Luckily, in my late twenties, I realised that you actually can make a real job out of stuff that you actually love and enjoy doing, so I enrolled in a media school, befriended Jukka the first week I was there, and the rest is history!
How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!
Kai Nordberg: Jukka and Jusso pitched it to us like four years ago. It felt very authentic from the beginning on. They really know their subject and their humour was good. We were struggling with the financing we had a very short preparation time in spring 2017. We shot it in Summer 2017 in 32 days. Due to difficult circumstances we needed to do most of the “Norway” in the post. All effects were done in Belgium with Umedia but it came together really nicely.
The whole film has a kind of oldish look. This was important also for the visual effects.
Juuso: The idea for the band and the characters came actually really early on. It was about five years ago when we decided that lets try to make this in to a feature. Since then it’s been years of screenwriting and doing versions of the script back and forth. The time getting the funding together was really long but once we got that confirmed we actually had a huge rush to get everything ready in about three months.
Luckily we had done the casting for the main parts in good time so we had time to rehearse with the actors and the guys from the band had the opportunity to hang out together. They also had to learn to play their instruments so that gave them a lot to adjust to the characters. We also had to do last minute revisions to the script while in pre-production. I think the last script version was done just couple of weeks before the shoot.
In the production we didn’t have a huge amount of shooting days so we had to be really effective. But we had a great and experienced crew so we got all the support needed. All in all the production was one of the best summers in my life. And one of the coldest in decades in Finland! The post-production took about five months. We had a pretty tight schedule so the editing got started while we were shooting. There was also a lot of visual effects involved so they took their time as well.
The film just opened in Finland last week and was received very well. And the premiere at SXSW was also a great experience. The audience jumped right in to the film and the laughter didn’’t stop.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
Juuso: I smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank a gallon of coffee while we were filming. I usually don’t eat alot on shooting days, mainly because I’m always on the move and pressed for time, but I think I also work better when I’m a little hungry, some primal survival instinct kicks in and decisions are made faster when you’re starving.
Jukka: And the complete opposite for me. If I get hungry there’s no good coming out of that. But a lot of coffee and cigarettes were consumed doing this film. But the driving force is the love to do this work and be able to work on something that is just silly or weird.
Kai: Passion for it. I´ve produced nearly 100 films, documentaries, shorts and features. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Every time it is a hell of a roller coaster to get through a it all. It is so sides in it. Creating something out of nothing is the most inspiring thing one can do in life.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
Juuso: My biggest challenge in this project was to accept that you can’t do everything, even if you want to and think you could. It’s a team effort. And you can’t make the movie just for yourself, there’s a business side to movies that I had a hard time accepting. Sometimes, a lot of times, you just have to kill your darlings for the greater good.
Getting the script to work and staying true to the things that we wanted to bring out with this movie was the biggest challenge. There are a lot of different views and opinions where you have to try to navigate and think what’s best for the film. Now that the film is playing and I have been there in the screenings and see how the people react has been really rewarding. With comedy you really see and what works and what doesn’t.
Kai: For me, getting the script right. Editing the material down to 90 min and realizing that it works! When doing comedy the killer question is always…is this funny? You don’t really know and the further you go with processing the film the blinder you get. You just have to trust your original feeling of it and hang into it. It’s really just in the premiere when you´ll get to know if it went the right way.
I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with and all that fun techie stuff.
Juuso: We worked on Arri Alexa and Cooke lenses. We had a great relationship with Harri Räty our director of photography. As two directors we have a pretty clear working relationship where I work with the actors and Juuso works with all the departments from camera to art directing. The budget and shooting schedule was tight, so we made a conscious decision to keep the visuals simple, lots of fixed camera shots, and making the most of that. More with less.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
Jukka: For our earlier screening here at SxSW I just can’t get over how well it went. I had a lot of doubts how will American audience take our film as it is a Finnish film and some of the aspects in comedy are so culturally bound that they might not open up here. But it seems that we have a lot in common between Finland and US.
Kai: Reactions from the trade. We have not attached a sales company yet. There are so many ways the distribute a film like this. Metal community is very global and they are easy to reach. We need to reach out to them as directly as possible.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?
Kai: Just do it. Film making is still a trade you learn by just starting to do it. It goes for all the aspects of it. Just get started with your own films and put them into Youtube.
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
Jukka: I think that at least the most memorable if not best was an Indian sci-fi action film thats name I’ve forgotten. But I haven’t laughed so much in movie ever. And it lasted for three and half hours.
Juuso: It was called ROBOT! Another good festival movie was a rather small budget comedy called WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS. We went in with no expectations, and it was a great surprise! It was directed by Taika Waititi, and he went on to direct the latest Thor movie for Marvel, so you know, go see HEAVY TRIP, people at Marvel!
HEAVY TRIP is playing at the 2018 edition of SxSW Film. For more information point your browser to www.sxsw.com!