The film and TV sector in Finland is blooming
Alli Haapasalo’s third feature film, Girl Picture, has been well received by audiences and critics alike.Ilkka Saastamoinen
The Finnish film and TV industry is thriving. It’s finding new audiences, picking up awards and offering an excellent base for international collaboration, writes Hanna Vuorinen, head of Film in Finland.
The Finnish audiovisual sector has grown and become more international in the past few years. As a result, the total revenue of production companies rose by more than 40per cent from 2017 to 2019. This upward trend continued in 2022 as films like Girl Picture, Hatching and My Sailor, My Love were awarded at several international festivals.
This year looks equally promising. One of the most anticipated Finnish films is Sisu, an action thriller directed by Jalmari Helander (known for Big Game and Rare Exports). The word sisu refers to a combination of resilience and stoic determination. It is found at the very core of Finnishness and the film, where a Finnish gold miner fights the Nazis in the deep wilderness of Lapland.
In September 2022, Sisu premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and a month later won four awards at the prestigious Sitges International Film Festival in Spain. Furthermore, the film already has a distribution deal with Lionsgate and will be released across North America.
Jorma Tommila, the star of Sisu, has already been awarded for his role in the film.Freezing Point / Antti Rastivo
Finnish TV series are also thriving. According to Laura Kuulasmaa, executive director at the producers’ association APFI, Finland released 30 original, high-quality drama and comedy series for domestic audiences in 2022 alone. Many of these exceeded commercial expectations, were sold internationally, and received positive reviews and audience reception.
The same trend is set to continue. Many anticipated Finnish series, such as Estonia and Dance Brothers, will premiere this year. Estonia, a 15 million-euro series about Europe’s deadliest civil maritime disaster, is made in collaboration with creatives from series such as Chernobyl and Bordertown. On the other side, Dance Brothers is a modern story about two brothers who start a dance company. It’s produced by YLE, Finland’s national public broadcasting company, and Netflix.
Another exciting output comes from a new kid in town, Ilkkas’ Creative Studio. The studio has started with a bang and is collaborating with BBC Studios Nordics to create a noir crime spoof Nordic Police Force. The series is produced by the undeniable masters of spoof comedy, David Zucker and Pat Proft, best known for their work on Naked Gun and Airplane!. Currently in development, “NoPoFo”centres on an elite team of special agents who investigate gruesome and overly elaborate murders committed by twisted killers in the Nordic countries. In short, it’s Nordic noir meets Police Squad.
"Finland released 30 original, high-quality drama and comedy series for domestic audiences in 2022 alone."
But Finns aren’t all about tragic stories and melancholy. That is proven by the success of the animation company Gigglebug. Its hit series, Unstoppable Yellow Yeti, was commissioned by Disney Channel in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and the Nordic broadcasters YLE, DR, NRK and SVT.
This is just the start. Anttu Harlin, CEO and founder of Gigglebug, believes there is plenty of more growth potential in the Finnish animation industry. Gigglebug is a good example: Harlin estimates the company’s turnover has grown by 500 per cent in five years and that its productions alone will bring about 45 million euros to Finland between 2019 and 2025.
In addition to original content, Gigglebug is a service provider for industry giants like Disney, Netflix, Nickelodeon and Warner Bros Animation. This is a promising sector also outside animation. Jupe Louhelainen from Film Service Finland has worked with several international big-budget productions and notes that foreign productions are increasingly looking to bring their projects to Finland.
Samuel Kujala and Roderick Kabanga play the lead roles in Dance Brothers, a drama series co-produced by Netflix and YLE.Endemol Shine Finland
According to Louhelainen, in the past year, several productions have spent a total of around 18 million euros in Finland through a Film Service Finland incentive. Foreign capital made up for 100 per cent of this. In 2023, the incentive is estimated to bring in around 21 million euros.
This is partly thanks to Finnish service providers’ reputation as reliable and trustworthy. Lee Kim, a Los Angeles-based producer at Resolute Films and Entertainment, has first-hand experience with that: “any time you go to a new place to shoot and you’re working with new people you have to build trust – and the Finns were very direct and consistently did exactly what they said they would deliver on.”
The above are just some examples of how Finland’s film and TV industry is blooming. It’s finding new audiences internationally, picking up awards and offering a solid base for foreign productions and collaboration. It’s an encouraging way to start the new year.