Joona Tena • Director
by Annika Pham
Film director and architect by education, Joona Tena has directed several award winning TV dramas and short films such as The Good Ship in 2004. FC Venus is his first feature film. Produced by Jarkko Hentula at Talent House (a division of MRP Matila Röhr Productions), the football comedy starring Minna Haapkylä (seen most recently in Nicole Garcia’s Selon Charlie [+see also:
film profile]) and Petteri Summaren (Frozen Land), is this year’s biggest hit in Finland with over 235,600 admissions. The film was released domestically last December by Columbia TriStar/Nordisk Film and is sold internationally by Nordisk Film International Sales.
Cineuropa: Hard to concentrate on film when the world cup is on…but your film has a very topical subject matter: football fever, male/female differences and understanding each other. Is the story very personal?
Joona Tena : The background is very personal. The men's team in the film, HeMan, is a real team in the sixth division in Finland. I have played in this team for fifteen years myself, and one of the producers joined the team about a decade ago. And these problems about preferring football matches over wives, girlfriends or family occasions have been a common thing. Whenever a team mate misses a game for something more important, there's a usual joke about him having his priorities up side down. Well, perhaps we have exaggerated some things a bit to emphasize the comedy. At least I never lost an actual relationship because of football. But I know about a guy who got divorced because of his sport fanaticism, although that didn't happen in our team. Actually, nowadays most of the guys seem to be pretty decent family men. However, it's very different when a match starts.
What were the biggest challenges for you as a first time director on this film?
In this particular film the main challenge was directing two football teams at the same time. The story had over 20 essential characters present from the first scene to the last. But after a few short films I have directed so many hours of prime time television drama in studio and on location, so nothing was really that strange on a feature film set. With the big screen you naturally have to attend to more details, and maybe I felt a heavier pressure to keep up the visual and dramatic tension. Also media shows a lot more interest when you're making a feature film, and there is certainly more commercial pressure than on TV productions.
The actors in FC Venus are all rising stars in Finland. What kind of a coach were you with them and how good were they on the green field?
We looked for some sporting background in casting. All of the guys have played before. The ladies needed some serious coaching, and we started with a pro coach six months before shooting. This actually served as a way of breaking the ice, and the girls developed a great team spirit for themselves well before the shooting started. On the set, I had basically planned the shots according to what they were able to do, and I choreographed most football scenes with drawings, some 2D, some 3D. Naturally, it wasn't necessary to have them play well for the duration of a football match, just to make it look like they do. All you need is a few brilliant seconds here and there. A talented, well motivated actor is always able to give you that.
The film was made as an instant remake in Germany. Have you seen the German version and what do you think about it?
I'm sorry to say I haven't seen it yet. I was busy when they had their premiere, and I'd rather see it on big screen. We're planning a party for the Finnish crew and cast and screen the German remake then, all together.
What other types of films do you want to make in the future?
The next one won't be comedy, I think. The goal for FC Venus was to make a feel good film, to keep the audience laughing and amused. But now I need some change after that. I'll continue developing different scripts as usual. They may have a bit darker and heavier premises, but there's a lighter side shining through from the cracks, still.