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The Finnish Film Affair zooms in on audience identification


- “I am impressed to see how Finnish films have increased in quality, scope and ambition,” said US veteran producer Adam Leipzig at Helsinki’s Finnish Film Affair

The Finnish Film Affair zooms in on audience identification
The industry panel discussing “How to Find Concepts and Stories That Travel”

“A filmmaker has to be true to his creative best – it is his unique vision that attracts the discerning audience. We do not want to see things we have seen before; we want to be touched in a new and special way,” said US veteran producer Adam Leipzig – founder and CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, and publisher and CEO of Cultural Weekly – at the Finnish Film Affair, the industry sidebar of the Helsinki International Film Festival, which ended yesterday (25 September). 

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A former senior VP at Walt Disney Studios and president of National Geographic Films, whose movies have been nominated for or won ten Oscars, two Emmys and two Golden Globes, among other accolades, Leipzig knew nothing about Finland or Finnish cinema until three years ago, when the Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles organised a Finnish showcase to celebrate his tenth year in the US. 

“Many of the Finnish filmmakers I am meeting here I am seeing for the second or third time because they were there in LA,” Leipzig explained. “And I am really impressed to learn how Finnish films over the last few years have increased in quality, scope and ambition. The event here is intimate and well run, people are highly engaged, and since the filmmaking community is so small, everybody is here.

“Two days ago, I saw Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s feature debut, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki [+see also:
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, which is just wonderful. I am sure that if you had introduced its original perspective to a group of international sales agents, they would have run out of the room, screaming – it is a period piece, it is in black and white, and it is in Finnish, all reasons why it shouldn’t work. But it does. I understood later that the filmmakers had not decided to shoot in black and white until after they had received their state support, and the commissioning editor was not sure whether to accept it, but he decided to let them do what they thought would be best for the film. And they have done a brilliant job. That film is as good as any movie; it works so well, it is so specific, so cultural, and it feels so real. It was completely the right choice.”

In Helsinki, Leipzig was also moderating the industry panel discussing “How to Find Concepts and Stories That Travel” with former US Fox Searchlight president of production Claudia Lewis, the UK’s Mike Goodridge (CEO of Protagonist Pictures), Mike Runagall (CEO of Altitude Film Sales) and talent agent Laura Munsterhjelm (Actors in Scandinavia).

“It is all about identifying your audience, and making your films for it. There is nothing wrong with shooting a film targeted purely at a Finnish audience, but if you are heading for a larger audience, you have to do what it wants, in some cases speaking their language. Very few movies work for everyone, and they usually come from the major studios; but audiences also love authenticity. The pitches of both the works in progress and the works in development here were of surprisingly high standards. I am sure that the prize-winners, Dome Karukoski’s Tom of Finland and Jukka Kärkkäinen’s documentary Post Punk Disorder (read the news), will find international audiences. In the independent film world, it is always a question of whether you are able to address the tribe that supports your movie. Although it is 70% in Finnish, Tom of Finland will definitely find its public, and Post Punk Disorder – as a documentary – will have a smaller following, but its audience is also identifiable,” Leipzig concluded.

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