An International Homegrown Movie

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HaapalaThe best things are simple: we decided to make a traditional adventure about the friendship between a boy and a wildcat that would touch audiences. But so much for simple things, especially when viewed from the production side: it took three years of hard work to remove all the obstacles and problems that loomed over our beautifully clear central idea.

Ville Suhonen's first one - page synopsis indicated that making the film would require a large - scale production. At the same time, it was also clear that the basic elements of the story offered an immense potential for a great film, which would really touch audiences. When the first more detailed treatment of the story was completed, the producer considered whether one should cut out parts of the story or just go for it, despite the knowledge that one would not get enough financial support from Finland and probably not from the other Nordic countries either. Going by instinct, the producer went for no compromise: the film would either get all the financing it required or else it would not be worth the effort to make.

We followed a highly unorthodox strategy for a Finnish film company: we treaded resolutely but softly. Several versions were made of the script itself, first in story form and then divided into scenes. It took almost a year before the first detailed traditional script was completed. During that process, we had already begun to look for a suitable wildcat and were lucky to find at Ranua wildlife park a young wildcat named Väinö, which had been abandoned by its mother and had to be reared by people.

Arranging the Financing

The training of the wildcat began immediately, shooting locations were agreed upon, a contingency plan for the wildcat was made  -  and all this before we had a clue as to where to find the financing for actually making the film. We roughly estimated a budget of slightly over 10 million Finnish markka: we had already invested hundreds of thousands of markka on researching and working on the production. Fortunately for us, the Finnish Film Foundation and the Nordic Film and TV Fund understood that the project required more time and money than usual to develop.

Before we ventured out to look for international financial support, we made our package as attractive as possible. We had with us film about working with a wildcat and what a wildcat looks like in its natural habitat. We also had footage of the most important locations: unique scenery of the Northern wilderness, which would set the tone for the adventure.

We finally found the right partners through a variety of financing combinations: our final budget was to the tune of 13 million Finnish markka (2.5 mill. USD). Over half of this came from outside Finland. The budget was 2.5 times greater than that of an average Finnish film, but we also knew that we could now offer investors value for their money: we could afford 60 days of shooting, a sufficient film crew, at its best (or worst) the crew numbered over 50  -  a cohort of people, truckloads of technical equipment and in front of the camera there was often only a little boy. It goes without saying that the nucleus of the film crew was made up of the best in their field  -  and this applies to both the Finnish and Danish crews.

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