May 4, 2015

Solar Films energises the Finnish movie business

Solar Films has sold The Grump’s theatrical rights to nine different countries. The feature film also appeared in the Contemporary World Cinema programme at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Solar Films has sold The Grump’s theatrical rights to nine different countries. The feature film also appeared in the Contemporary World Cinema programme at the Toronto International Film Festival.
SOLAR FILMS / MAREK SABOGAL

Some of the most popular films in Finland’s cinematic history have been released by this Helsinki production company.

When international cinemagoers collectively sit down with a box of popcorn over the next year, at least two significant films made in Finland will be among the global offering. On the one hand is Dome Karukoski’s The Grump. Based on Tuomas Kyrö’s popular novels, the comedy has already become the second-most watched movie in Finland of the past quarter-century. On the other, somewhat scalier, hand is Hevisaurus, the quintet of metal music-loving Jurassic lizards that has evolved into something of a phenomenon. Interest in the band stretches all the way to Australia, and crowds of children eagerly await their recently completed debut feature.

The common link between these two movies is Solar Films, the Finnish production house that is celebrating 20 years in the business this year. The studio has enjoyed unprecedented success over the years, producing the top three most-popular domestic films of all time. This impressive result is in keeping with their straightforward philosophy.

“We are trying to entertain people and produce films that people want to see,” explains Solar Films’ managing director Jukka Helle. “That has been the goal since we started.”

Global reach

Alongside Solar Films’ extraordinary homegrown success, their output has also enjoyed significant international exposure over the past two decades.

Alongside Solar Films’ extraordinary homegrown success, their output has also enjoyed significant international exposure over the past two decades.

© SOLAR FILMS / MAREK SABOGAL

Alongside their extraordinary homegrown success, Solar Films’ output has also enjoyed significant international exposure over the past two decades.

“Most of the films we have produced are sold aboard,” Helle states. “Frozen Land (2005) by Aku Louhimies was sold to UK, Germany and France. Purge (2012) by Antti Jokinen was also successful. Also, the early films of ours, for example, The Restless (2000) – we sold it to at least 25 countries.”

The Grump promises to have a similar reach. Companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Canada, Portugal, Estonia, Lithuania and Turkey have already acquired theatrical rights to the film.

“The humour of The Grump is quite unique, but still the plot and the mentality of the main character is quite global,” Helle says.“Most people outside of Finland know somebody who has that attitude.”

Collaborative change

The international marketplace has become increasingly crowded since Solar Films first emerged. This added competitiveness has seen the studio attempt to differentiate its output in a number of ways. One of these has been bringing some of Finland’s biggest bands to the big screen. Both Dark Floors – The Lordi Motion Picture (2008) and Imaginaerum by Nightwish (2012) were Solar Films productions. The latter was also notable in that is was co-produced with Canadian studio Caramel Films.

The acclaimed adaptation of Sofi Oksanen’s award-winning novel Purge also hit screens the same year, which in turn became one of three Solar Films offerings to have been selected as Finland’s official entry for the Academy Awards. It too was produced in collaboration with a foreign studio, Estonia’s Taska Film.

Solar Films and Canadian studio Caramel Films brought Finnish band Nightwish to the big screen with Imaginaerum by Nightwish in 2012.

Solar Films and Canadian studio Caramel Films brought Finnish band Nightwish to the big screen with Imaginaerum by Nightwish in 2012.

Screenshot from the Nightwish film Imaginaerum / Solar Films

“There are certain ways to go about getting an international audience and one is co-productions,” Helle states. “We actively seek them. It has been our strategy over the last five-to-seven years. We have co-produced seven films with The Icelandic Film Company and we were also a part of Life in a Fishbowl, which was their entry for the Oscars last year.”

The benefit of pooling resources with foreign studios is twofold, providing an increase in funding and international distribution for both production houses. And with the Finnish and Icelandic companies also sharing a producing credit on The Grump, the curtain won’t be going down on such lucrative international collaboration anytime in the near future.

Text: James O’Sullivan

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