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Producer on the Move 2014 – Finland

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Mark Lwoff

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- Cineuropa met up with Finland’s Producer on the Move, Mark Lwoff, of Bufo, to discuss his experience as a producer and his upcoming projects

Mark Lwoff

Finnish producer Mark Lwoff is never short of an answer when audiences leave the cinemas in Helsinki after a screening and ask which restaurant he can recommend. “The Bsmokey Barbecue is simply the best,” he will say, and he should know – he owns it.

He may also have produced the film – with a BA from the University of Aalto’s Film Department, Lwoff instigated Helsinki’s Bufo production shingle in 2007 with fellow producer Misha Jaari and screenwriter Vesa Virtanen. They have since staged five major feature productions by top Finnish directors such as Pirjo Honkasalo (Concrete Night [+see also:
trailer
festival scope
film profile
]
/2013), Zaida Bergroth (The Good Son [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
/2011) and Jörn Donner (The Interrogation/2009). Honkasalo’s film collected no less than six of this year’s Jussis, Finland’s national film prize, while Donner received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Aiming to film “plot-driven and meaningful stories that can also entertain big audiences” – all with a clear artistic vision, a lot of innovation and a high degree of quality – last autumn Bufo set up its own domestic distribution company, B-Plan. 

Cineuropa: What sparked your interest in cinema?
Mark Lwoff:
It was the Terminator 2 poster – I just had to get it after seeing the film. Then I began going to the Film Archive, and the first screenings I saw there (François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player and The 400 BlowsElia Kazan’s On the Waterfront) simply blew my mind.

Do you have any favourites today?
My favourites from the past few years are Sergey Dvortsevoy’s Tulpan [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
Ruben Östlund’s Play [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Ruben Östlund
interview: Ruben Ostlund
film profile
]
Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 and Sergei Loznitsa’s In the Fog [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, all with elements of a very personal and distinctive style, and moving and very well-conveyed stories. They are just pure cinema. 

You have made several films as an assistant director, so why did you choose producing?
Initially I just wanted to take part in shooting films, so I started as an assistant director. As a producer, you choose the productions and when to work with them, instead of waiting most of the time for things to happen – and I wanted to be active, to stay in motion, so that was what I chose.

And what has experience taught you?
I get very easily excited about new ideas and projects, which is a great thing most of the time, but then again you can also end up in a situation where you are attached to too many projects and you don’t have enough time for them all. I guess it is a lifelong learning process to direct myself into the right things, and at the same time be able to move forward and develop.

Why did you start your own company?
We wanted to be able to decide exactly what to do – I do not think any other company in Finland would have been interested in the films we started out with. First, we wanted to make only genre films, but we ended up doing arthouse, and the future looks even more versatile, with arthouse, genre films and TV series coming up.  

You have produced films with some prolific Finnish directors, including Donner and Honkasalo. How did that come about?
It was partly a coincidence that we ended up working with both Donner and Honkasalo. As young film buffs, we had a relatively good understanding of films, their traditions and making them, and I guess we were also easy to talk to and, later, to work with. Anyhow, it’s been a great pleasure and privilege to be able to work with both of them.

Which of your films has presented you with the biggest problems?
Finding funding for films has always been the trickiest part. We know now who to work with and how to make the productions, so it is enjoyable for everybody, but the money part has always been the biggest challenge.

What is on your agenda now?
We are now developing a second film with Akseli Tuomivaara, after his feature debut Korso this year, which will have its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film FestivalWhite Point will be a pure genre film, a car-chase movie in the frozen North of the future. We are preparing Veiko Õunpuu’s The Last One, a ballad of a young man from Lapland. This summer we will shoot Donner’s Armi Alive!, about Armi Ratia, the creator of the iconic Finnish design company Marimekko. We will also film a television series during the summer, so the next few months will be extremely busy. 

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