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Ulla Simonen

Produce on the Move 2008 – Finland


- Produce on the Move 2008 – Finland

Ulla Simonen

Ulla Simonen graduated from the Lahti Polytechnics Department of Film in 1994. In 1997, she joined Kinotar, for whom she produced Virpi Suutari and Susanna Helke’s documentary The Idle Ones, winner of the Best Documentary Jussi award in 2002. Simomen also co-produced Swedish documentary Don’t You Worry, It Will Probably Pass by Cecilia Neant-Falk (2003). In 2004, Simonen joined AVEK (Finland’s Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture) as Shorts and Documentary films consultant. She is now preparing to jump back into independent production with two feature film projects.

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Why and how did you end up working in film production?
I studied film editing to improve my work with video art. I then took part in a competition with an installation project involving many collaborators. It was while going through the whole process that I realised I was quite good at organising and managing things. I found that producing was more satisfactory than doing my own “art”. It was also a way to reach a greater audience and provide better conditions for others to do and show their work.

What did your experience at Finland's public organisation AVEK bring you?
My experience there provided me with a very good understanding of the whole political aspects of film financing and of film financing systems in the Nordic countries and in Europe. It also confirmed that I was good at making difficult decisions. Most importantly, the time has made me better understand what producing is all about and improve my collaboration with filmmakers.

You've produced mostly documentaries so far. Will you continue specialising in this genre or will you get into fiction as well?
I find documentary filmmaking, and in particular creative documentary filmmaking, very interesting. There is a trend these days of documentaries approaching fiction and vice versa, of fiction films re-enacting reality. For me, what's important is not the genre in itself but the stories, the issues that filmmakers want to tell. I think that some ethical issues raised in documentary films would perhaps be better told within fictional stories and be easier to finance. I definitely want to explore different fields of filmmaking.

What projects are you are working on?
I am very excited to be working on a feature film project by Auli Mantila, based on her original screenplay about Finnish immigrants in Sweden, plus a book adaptation that would be perfect for the German market. These projects are in the very early stages of development, which is great moment for a producer to step in.

What does it mean for you to be Finland's Producer on the Move 2008?
I feel like I've been offered a present. It's really wonderful and helpful for me as I am on the verge of re-orientating my career as a producer and re-creating myself. It was a beautiful idea from the Finnish Film Foundation, which selected me. When I was at the Berlinale Talent Campus last February, talking to young filmmakers, I thought to myself I definitely want to get back into production. This nomination has now hurried my decision. It will also be very interesting to network with other European producers. My experience in documentary filmmaking is very handy as I've been used to looking for foreign financial partners. Now I'm really motivated to look for new partners for my feature film projects.

Last year Finnish producers obtained more support from the government and Finnish films have been doing better at home. Is this an exciting moment in Finland?
The atmosphere is very good indeed, and although the increase in film subsidies is still not enough, changes are coming for the good. There is a very positive momentum in Finland with local audiences looking up to Finnish films – not down the way it used to be.

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