by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Misha Jaari co-founded his production company, Bufo, in 2007 and has since been involved in a number of successful Finnish films including Armi Alive! and Concrete Night
Since Finnish producer Micha Jaari started his Helsinki-based production company Bufo with producer Mark Lwoff and screenwriter Vesa Virtanen in 2007, his name has frequently appeared on the list of award-winning films. Most recently his production of Finnish legendary writer-director-producer Jörn Donner’s Armi Alive! [+see also:
interview: Jörn Donner
film profile], a biopic about Armi Ratia, founder and CEO of Finnish design company Marimekko, earlier this year received two Jussis, Finland’s national film prize.
Jaari also worked with Donner on The Interrogation, the director’s 2009 feature about the Finnish-born Soviet citizen and spy Kerttu Nuorteva,who operated undercover in Helsinki for a few months in 1942, until she was arrested. And he is currently staging Donner’s Perkele II, a full-length documentary and a sequel to his 1971 film, following up on the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence. “Donner is great. The amount of experience and knowledge he has is staggering, and it is a pure pleasure to work with him. I have to admit it took a while to get to a point were I started to see the man and not the myth, but it has always been fun,” Jaari recalled.
Over the years Jaari has co-produced films with Germany, Estonia, and Russia; his own major titles also include Finnish directors Zaida Bergroth’s The Good Son [+see also:
film profile] (2011), Pirjo Honkasalo’s Concrete Night [+see also:
film profile] (2013), Akseli Tuomivaara’s Korso (2014). In 2013 Bufo added an in-house distribution arm to the operation, both for the company’s own titles and for international pick-ups, such as UK director Peter Greenaway’s Eisenstein in Guanajuato [+see also:
interview: Peter Greenaway
film profile] and Danish director Michael Madsen’s sci-fi documentary, The Visit [+see also:
Cineuropa: How did you get into the film industry in the first place?
Misha Jaari: In the 1990s I was studying at Helsinki’s School of Economics and was kind of unhappy with it. Then a friend who studied law switched universities to study cinematography at the film school, he told me they were also training people to become producers. I thought this was a fantastic idea – why not combine what I am already studying with something I love: films. I never looked back.
Were you inspired by an early film experience?
When I was pretty young I remember seeing a documentary about US producer David O Selznick. I felt that that was the kind of job I would like to have: an early Hollywood executive. The name and the job title stuck to me; I never considered directing nor any other position in the business: it was producer or nothing.
What do you look for in projects to produce?
Well now I feel old enough to admit that my learning curve is falling. I think that if the project has potential to teach me or show me something new it would be great. I am also old enough to admit that something totally new and too different would probably be too scary for me. So I think that now there have to be minor challenges and surprises on all levels, and I am definitely too old to waste time on something I don't feel totally comfortable with.
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
It is difficult to decide on a favourite, but I suppose the greatest achievement was Honkasalo’s Concrete Night, which got recognition everywhere and really looks and feels the way it was supposed to. Admittedly I still get tremendous kick out of someone in the crew coming up to me and saying the catering at a production is the best he has ever had.
What has been your biggest challenge during a production?
I think alcohol has been both a big problem and, at times, a great solution – consumed by different people at different times, of course. Time heals all wounds, and the most troubling things are events you now remember with fondness.
What are your strengths in production?
I think I can get along with most of the people this business comes up with. Most stuff gets done as time goes by. I don't get upset easily, so things rarely get out of hand, and solutions present themselves in a peaceful manner.
Are there any directors or producers you really admire?
Everyone who seems to make a career in this business, such as Finnish directors Aki Kaurismäki, Donner or Honkasalo – energetic people who make the effort to do something extraordinary, and there are plenty of them.
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects?
Oddly enough we have two dystopian films in the line-up, not that this was an intentional decision, but there is something appealing about both of them: Akseli Tuomivaara’s White Point is an original script, Saara Saarela’s Memory of Water is an adaptation. We are also hoping to make a family feature, Tagli & Telle. Donner’s Perkele II is shot 45 years after he made the first, and time has certainly passed – you see it in the cars, the media, the hypermarkets, and faraway holidays; but in part it has the same theme.
What do you hope to get out of Producers on the Move at Cannes?
This is a people’s business, so I hope to meet a lot of film professionals that will become my future partners in crime. And, obviously, to brag to old friends that I am still a rolling stone, constantly moving, going to places and so on and so forth.