Antti J Jokinen • Director of Omerta 6/12 and Omerta 7/12
“I am humanising special forces”
by Marta Bałaga
- Cineuropa talked to Finnish director Antti J Jokinen about his planned action franchise, starting with two features, Omerta 6/12 and Omerta 7/12
In Omerta 6/12 and Omerta 7/12, Finnish filmmaker and founder of Cinematic Antti J Jokinen will tackle the immensely popular novels by Ilkka Remes with the help of Jasper Pääkkönen, post-Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and pre-Da 5 Bloods, this time cast as agent Max Tanner. The first part of the planned series will start shooting in April, with the premiere slated for autumn 2021.
Cineuropa: During the SF Studios conference at the recent Berlinale, Omerta was compared to the “international version of James Bond”. But from what has been seen so far, it looks more like Tom Clancy!
Antti J Jokinen: It’s definitely nothing like James Bond. I think that Tom Clancy is a good example – he might actually be Ilkka Remes’ favourite writer! I have changed some things from the books and made it more character-driven, but everything in the film could actually happen. And hopefully, we can still keep the entertainment value intact, as it’s a dynamic kidnapping story.
How do you see Jasper’s character, Tanner? Will he be fashionably troubled?
I have never tried my hand at this genre before. I have only done dramas, but these films can be so plot-orientated sometimes that, personally, I don’t give a shit if anyone dies or not. Here, I am trying to provide enough background information for you to care, but without turning my main characters into alcoholics or insomniacs. I just want to make them human. Actually, I am humanising them more than I am trying to burden them with flaws, I think – mostly by having them deal with the kinds of problems we can all relate to, as obviously not everyone can relate to being a raging alcoholic. We don’t have the same budgets as the Americans do, so I need to bring human nature into this action-thriller for it to be successful.
There is so much international content now, especially on streaming platforms. Do you think it’s getting easier to develop this kind of project with a lead actor that’s not British or American?
One of the greatest things to come out of Netflix or HBO is that they put everything on a global map. There are popular international shows on all of these platforms, so we know they can travel. You don’t have to pretend any more; you don’t have to look for an American celebrity to play some stupid role for five days and then do international sales based on that. Now, you can do what’s best for your project. The main characters are Finnish and Swedish, so of course we are looking at Scandinavia. But almost 90% of all the dialogues will be spoken in English, so we are definitely hoping to go further abroad. In Omerta, we will have more recognisable names, ones that have featured in big Hollywood productions as well, but our budget doesn’t rely on that. I can cast anybody I want.
The ones you already have are A-listers in Finland, but they tend to do more arthouse-related projects. Pekka Strang was in Tom of Finland [+see also:
interview: Dome Karukoski
film profile] and Eero Milonoff in Border [+see also:
interview: Ali Abbasi
I am in a similar situation: I have a background in music videos, so I am no stranger to entertainment, but then I have only done dramas. What we all share is our love for film and all its genres. The way I work is that I cast the movie, and then I completely re-write the script, already thinking about the actors. Sometimes, I do interviews and people ask: “What’s the most important thing when directing actors?” I say: “To write something for them to act.” That’s the thing. But you are right – I surrounded myself with Ferraris. Which is why we created all of these complex backstories and it looks like I am humanising special forces. I don’t know if I will succeed, but that’s what I am trying to do.
It’s funny how we associate certain genres with specific territories, like Nordic noir for example. Do you think there is some potential for, say, Nordic action?
I am hoping for that. I am betting the next three years of my life on it! If we can crack it, I’ll be very happy. Parasite has won the Best Picture Oscar now, so maybe there is this shift happening, and streaming giants have been a huge help. But first you have to make a good film.
Remes’ 6/12 came out 14 years ago, so the reality described there, as well as the political landscape, was a bit different. Are you planning to update it?
Everything has been transported into modern life, as with fake news, cyber attacks and the technology changing, these are interesting times we’re living in. When I took Sofi Oksanen’s book [for Purge [+see also:
film profile]], I knew I wasn’t going to change too much – it’s a drama, and it works with the same wheels. Here, of course there was an option to set it at the same time as the novels, but that didn’t interest me so much. Even though there is a huge existing fan base, as Remes has sold 4 million books in Finland alone, I would be an idiot not to think about it at all. I was trying to figure out what the core of these stories is and why people love them so much. Once you open them, you just can’t put them down – it’s like with Jo Nesbø!
You can see a promo image for Omerta 6/12 and Omerta 7/12 below:
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