OSCARS – THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN –HOLLYWOOD

DATE: Feb. 26th, 2012

The Academy Awards will be handed out today for the 84th time. The scene of the Oscars, the Hollywood and Highland Center has been buzzing all week as thousands of people have prepared for the big show.

Tomi Hinkkanen at the 84th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood

It takes carpenters, electricians, publicists, cameramen, directors, producers, presenters and numerous other people to create the Oscar experience. Early last week the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between LaBrea and Highland Avenues was closed. The first thing to go up: the media bridge.

The media bridge, from where the network anchors bring you the Oscars.

This is where the star network anchors have been reporting for days leading to the gala tonight. It is an expensive piece of real estate. Networks pay premium for each little booth on the bridge. Reporters and photographers from all over the world have flown in to cover Hollywood’s biggest night.

Moments before the gala begins, last minute preparations are made.

This years’ contenders for the best foreign language movie come from Belgium, Canada, Iran, Israel and Poland.  At the foreign directors’ press conference Friday, four out of five countries vying for the best foreign film were present –Iran was absent. Its’ entry, A Separation, is a story of a middle class Iranian couple headed for a divorce.

Belgian director Michaël Roskam

Belgium’s entry, Bullhead, is a story of a cattle farmer, who is lured into dubious dealings with a shady businessman.

“I wanted to make a movie, which would evoke a sense of redemption instead of judgment in the end,” director Michaël Roskam explains. This is his second feature and there’s more to come – he plans to start writing his next script in the near future. He says that just to be nominated for an Oscar is an honor.

“It’s almost like a title given to a nobleman – an Oscar contender. For the rest of your life you will be known as such.”

Canadian director Philippe Falardeau

Canada’s entry, Monsieur Lazhar, is a story about an Algerian immigrant, who is hired a teacher after the former teacher has committed suicide. But as he assumes his new post, he must also deal with dramatic events unwinding in his own life. Director Philippe Falardeau believes the nomination will also shed light to other indie productions. He comes from the French speaking Quebec. The language drives the French speaking Canadians to create art.

“We are struggling to maintain our language, our identity. This pushes us to write books, make movies, plays and dance performances.”

His advice to young filmmakers is to be authentic.

“Think from the heart. Don’t imitate big Hollywood productions and don’t give any thought to Oscars.”

Israeli actor Shlomo Bar Aba

Israel’s Oscar-nominated film, Footnote, is a family drama about a father and a son with unresolved issues. The star of the film, Shlomo Bar Aba, is a veteran stage actor from Tel Aviv, known mainly for comedies and musical extravaganzas. This is his first movie role in 30 years. The success of Footnote from Cannes to Hollywood came to him as a surprise, but he believes it is due to the personal nature of the story.

“Everything revolves around the family. If we cane resolve our intimate family issues, we can also deal with global problems affecting relations between countries,” Bar Aba says through an interpreter.

“I myself had no chance to come to terms with my own father. My advice is: If your parents are still alive and you have unresolved issues with them, resolve them. If you don’t it’s going to haunt you for the rest of your life,” the actor concludes.

Agnieszka Holland, one of the top directors from Poland

Agnieszka Holland is one of the premier filmmakers of Poland. She is best known for her war time drama, Europa, Europa. Her current Oscar entry is called In Darkness. This film also takes place during WW2. In the Nazi-occupied Warsaw, a sewer worker and a thief helps the local Jews hide from the Nazis utilizing his knowledge of the sewer system.

“I wanted to point out with this story that the line between good and bad is blurry. It is easy for a person to step on each side of the line,” Agnieszka explains.

Since she has lived and worked through the Communist era, I ask her, what is it like to make movies in the post cold warPoland.

“Funny enough, when I look at my Iranian colleagues, I feel that somehow they have it easier. To be under oppression makes movie-making more meaningful. But I enjoy my freedom, even if the movies were less powerful as  a result.”

A German TV reporter is doing her stand-up on the red carpet.

A handful of Los Angeles Finns work in the entertainment industry.

Make-up artist Kristina Duff and CNN anchor Piers Morgan at Hollywood Reporter's pre-Oscar party in Hancock Park

I asked make-up artist Riku Campo, what goes into making a filmstar ready for the Oscars. As it turns out, it is a major operation.

Riku Campo - a Finnish make-up artist of the stars by Jonny Kahleyn

Riku Campo - a Finnish make-up artist of the stars

“A week or two before the show, the star goes to the teeth cleaning at the dentist. Then a week before he or she has a microdermabrasion and a facial deep cleansing. A couple of days before the gala, many of the stars take a spray tan. It takes a day or two to even out the tone”, Riku explains.

On the morning of the awards show, Riku Campo shows up at the star’s dressing room.

“They usually check into a hotel a night before, even if they live inL.A.It’s just easier to do all the preparations in a hotel than at home. As I arrive around 10.30 am, the room is already buzzing of people. There’s the star’s publicist, agent, manager, pedicurist, hairstylist, fashion stylist and sometimes family members – about ten people altogether.”

Campo has been given a picture of the star’s gown earlier, so that he can plan for an appropriate make-up.

“Pedicure and manicure are done first. At the same time, the hair stylist works on the actor’s hair. Once the hair has been blow-dried and rolled up, I create the make-up foundation and after that the whole make-up. After that the hair is opened up and finishes, the star is dressed and body make-up applied.”

The whole process costs thousands of dollars, but is worth every penny, as the limousine door opens and the star steps onto the red carpet. The TV lights are so bright and the high definition cameras so brutally sharp that without a perfect make-up the star would look horrible. Riku Campo’s books, containing make-up tips is called Best in Beauty and is available on Amazon.

Costume designer Susanna Puisto by Jonny Kahleyn

Costume designer Susanna Puisto

Costume designer Susanna Puisto has created outfits for the A-listers Faye Dunaway, Michael Douglas and Leonardo DiCaprio among others. She is currently working on the procedural show Body of Proof, starring Dana Delaney.

“The Academy Awards are the most elegant of all the awards ceremonies. The gown has to look at the same time classy and stunning. There’s the body contouring mermaid gown and the princess look, with a wider skirt,” Susanna characterizes.

 

Gigantic Oscar statuettes welcome the audience at the Hollywood and Highland center.Since the Oscars end the long awards season, most of the stars have already been to at least half a dozen galas. Each require a different gown. While the star is not reimbursed for her time it takes her to pick and choose and fit all the outfits, the clothes are given to her free by the fashion designers wanting exposure for their creations. Susanna anticipates a colorful Oscar gala.A Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley designed the Oscar statue back in 1929. It has endured and remains the symbol of the Academy Awards even today.

“I believe we will see a lot of color. The trend colors for this spring are cobalt blue, orange, yellow, green, even neon colors. This reminds me of the 80’s. Peplums are is fashion. They are like double-decked skirts that can be worn over slacks or as a blouse.”

The last minute preparations in dressing a star include attaching the gown carefully with tape to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions.

“If the designer fails, the critique the next day is murderous.”

She will ring in the Oscars at home with friends, sipping champagne and eating little nibbles, paying special attention to the red carpet arrivals.

“There’s always surprises – and hopefully some catastrophes!”

Producer Joni Labaqui at the Golden Age Theater gives Oscar themed walking tours in Hollywood.

At the eve of the Oscars, I took a walking tour of the Oscars past and present, given by producer Joni Labaquin of the Golden Age Theater.

We visited the Roosevelt Hotel, the site of the very first Academy Awards ceremony in May of 1929.

“Douglas Fairbanks hosted. The dinner tickets cost five dollars. There were only 15 Oscar categories, whereas there are 24 today. Two best picture Oscars were given – one for a drama and another for a comedy. That first years’ winners included Clara Bow and Charlie Chaplin. The best drama picture was the Wings. It was the only silent film to ever win a best picture Oscar,” Labaquin says.

Finnish actress Anna Easteden, appearing at the Golden Age theater, took the walking tour before her performance.

If the modern silent film the Artist wins this year, that bit of history has to be rewritten. The tour then takes us to this year’s Oscar preparations. Peaking from the second floor balcony of theHollywoodandHighlandCenter, we are greeted by a peculiar sight: On the ground level there are people walking on the red carpet , carrying signs on their neck saying Jonah Hill, Natalie Portman, Cameron Diaz, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt ja Angelina Jolie. However, “Angelina Jolie” is a man and “Brad Pitt” an African-American woman. “Meryl Streep” looks surprisingly youthful, about 25, wearing jeans and a sleeveless hirt.

Stand-ins for the stars rehearsed on the red carpet saturday.

“Those are stars’ stand-ins. They rehearse the actual stars’ every move in sequence on the red carpet for the director and the cameramen,” Joni Joni Labaquin tells.

Nothing is left to chance at the Oscars. Enjoy the gala!

Tomi Hinkkanen at the 84th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood

For the complete listing of all the nominees, events and winners, go to www.oscars.org

SUSANNA PUISTO: HOLLYWOOD’S FINNISH COSTUME DESIGNER

COMING SOON:
The fascinating story of John Hauli: a mysterious man who left his small eastern Finland town of Kuusjärvi at the turn of the century in search of a better life in America and whose legacy lives on in a little piece of paradise called Hauli Huvila.

John Hauli's Hauli Huvila

SUSANNA PUISTO: HOLLYWOOD’S FINNISH COSTUME DESIGNER

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES
PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN

Susanna Puisto by Jonny Kahleyn

Costume designer Susanna Puisto is one of the very few Finns working in Hollywood film industry. Susanna works as a freelancer and is hired separately for each film production. A costume designer creates the clothes actors wear in movies and leads the costume department in any given production. The costumes for a movie are planned weeks before the cameras start rolling. The work requires an artistic eye and a healthy dose of diplomacy.

Susan receives the journalist and photographer at her home in Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. She lives on a hill in a detached house with stunning views of downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers. The home is warmly decorated in pastel colors. The living-room bookshelf is full of costume-design art books. Susanna plays one of the lastest films, MacGruber, from a dvd as a sample of her work. The film is a comedy, based on Saturday Night Live skits and a parody of the TV series MacGyver. It is set in the present time, but the main characters played by Will Forte and Kristen Wiig have remained stylistically in the 80′s.

– Some of the clothing was pre-determined, since they were based on well-established skits, so we had to use them. But there was only one piece of each garment and we needed a dozen. So, we had to have them taylor-made at a high price.

A common misconception is that a costume designer creates each and every piece of clothing by him or herself. In reality, they are obtained from all possible places – department stores, used clothing stores, from other designers, and from costume rental facilities. Only those clothes that are not available anywhere else are planned from scratch. A costume designer is a foreman with a budget and team. A typical studio film has a a costume budget that equals to about one percent of the total budget  i.e., in a 10 million dollar movie, it is one hundred thousand dollars.

Susanna_Puisto_by Jonny Kahleyn

Susanna Puisto by Jonny Kahleyn

Susanna’s workdays are busy:

– I go to the office at eight o’clock in the morning. I start by having a meeting with my team, and give them their tasks which  include shopping for clothes and making returns. We also do product placement, that is, we will contact clothing manufacturers and designers who want visibility for their clothes. The background actors need costumes as well. My principal assistant and I go to the first fitting at 10 o’clock.  Afterwards, we upload images of the cast wearing their costumes and email them to the director. Then we go shopping for future fittings.

One of Susanna’s latest works include a drama based on a true story called “From the Rough”. She began designing outfits for it six weeks before the filming started.

– The film is about golf, so we had to learn quickly about everything related to golf. I did not have any previous experience of the subject, but that’s only a matter of studying.  My motto is: there is no need to go to the outer space in order to make outfits for a space movie. You learn something new from each assignment.

A good costume designer understands and highlights the thematic content of the scene.

– I was costuming Josh Lucas for a movie “A Year in the Mooring”. He wanted to wear a colorful t-shirt in a very dramatic scene. Isn’t that an awfully happy-looking t-shirt for such a dramatic scene, I asked him. Bad things happen to people who wear happy-looking clothes, he responded.

Susanna is known in Hollywood for her good relations with major stars. Rebecca De Mornay is one her friends who constantly asks Susanna to design her costumes. Even Val Kilmer, who has a reputation of being difficult, succumbed to Susanna’s will.

– We didn’t have any problems. In the first fitting I started to hand him his costumes: ‘this is number one, number two, number three …’, and he just looked at me. Then I started going through the rack and removed the ones which I did not feel right for Val now that I had met him. “I usually do that”, Val blurted out. Oh really, I replied. ‘Doesn’t anyone tell you no’, he asked. I answered, ‘No, do you want to be the first?’ ‘No’, he replied.

Susanna Puisto by Jonny Kahleyn

Susanna Puisto by Jonny Kahleyn

Susan has also worked with Renny Harlin on the film The Cleaner.

– I love Renny, he is absolutely wonderful!

In the thriller “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”, she got to design for Michael Douglas.

– We talked on the phone first. Michael wanted to imitate the Republican politician Mitt Romney who wears tailored suits. I took it as a starting point. Douglas was used to wear specific brands, but I had a contact with the Italian clothing company Canali that makes fabulous suits.

They met for the first time at the Universal Studios.

– Michael is absolutely wonderful – a class act. They don’t make men like that anymore. He drove from his bungalow to my office in a golf cart. Michael was interested in my background. In the middle of the fitting, when my stomach began to rumble from hunger, he offered lunch.

– Once the costumes were tailored, I met Michael again in the Beverly Hills Hotel to make sure everything was ok. His wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones came along. ‘Good job,” she said, ‘Michael could use a change.’

After the filming was over, Douglas wanted and got to keep the outfits Susanna had created.

Once in a blue moon the designer can also influence casting. Susan proposed a Bulgarian-Finnish actress Vera Jordanova for a horror film Hostel II as a villainess.

– I was hired as costume designer on the movie. So, I met with director Eli Roth and producer Dan Frisch. I asked if they have already cast the part of Axelle. They said no. Then I spoke the famous words: I have a friend. They checked out Vera on the internet and called her to come to an audition. She got the part.

One cannot pin Susanna to say anything negative about any star. A large part of the job is to be able to massage big egos.

– They are all demanding. One can never say ‘no’ to anything. One has to be diplomatic. We are called the dream team. We want to please. After all, actors are the ones who have to wear the costumes. If they don’t want to, I cannot force them to do so. My job is to help the actors in their work, not make it more difficult. The costume department is often compared with the art department. I always say that they have nothing in common for walls don’t have opinions.

SUSANNA PUISTO
Born: in Helsinki
Parents: journalist-writer, Tuula Poutasuo and steel industry businessman, Raimo Puisto (divorced)
Background: The family moved to Spain in 1979. Since then, Susan has lived in Monaco, the Bahamas, New York and San Francisco, where she studied acting. Susan moved to Los Angeles in 1990 in order to become an actor. She got a job instead as an assistant costume designer for a TV series. She assisted a costume designer for three years. In order to become a costume designer herself, Susanna had to do free work on indie films and theater to prove herself. A theater play called Big Al spawned her first paid work as a costume designer for a TV pilot, and launched Susanna’s career.
Marital status: Divorced, no children
Hobbies: Traveling, nature hiking, going to galleries and playing with her dogs Misty and Scruffy.

 

SUPERMODEL SUVI’S GREEN HAVEN

SUVI KOPONEN by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb - copyrighted 2011

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES
PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN

SUPERMODEL SUVI’S GREEN HAVEN

Suvi Koponen’s modeling career got started at 16 when she won a Finnish modeling TV show. The top prize was a contract with modeling agency which led to quite a splash at a Prada show in Milan. She then moved to New York City where she fell in love with a tall and handsome model named Tyler Riggs. Last summer the couple moved to Los Angeles and purchased a house in the leafy Sherman Oaks area. Life is smiling at the young couple as they look forward to welcoming their first Christmas in their beautiful new home surrounded by lush green vegetation.

Tall, gorgeous Suvi Koponen, 23, was born in Helsinki and grew up in Vantaa. She is the oldest of three children. Her mother is a kindergarten teacher and her father is the manager of an assisted living facility.

(more…)