THIS ‘N’ THAT 2

Costume designer Susanna Puisto at Disney Studios in Burbank

SUSANNA PUISTO & DANA DELANY

Our Hollywood costume designer in residence, Susanna Puisto, is busy these days working her…um, behind off at the Disney Studios in Burbank. The hit series Body of Proof started shooting its third season there in August. The show stars Dana Delany, whom viewers may remember from the series Desperate Housewives and before that China Beach some 20 years ago. Dana and Susanna met on the set of The Right Temptation – a thriller that was shot in Utah 12 years ago. At that time Susanna was working for another star, Rebecca De Mornay, but ended up helping Dana Delany as well. Dana never forgot the sexy but stylish outfits Susanna created for her in that movie. So, when Body of Proof moved production from Rhode Island to LA, Dana remembered Susanna and invited her to become the costume designer for the show.

The star of Body of Proof, Dana Delany, tailor Syros Roshandel and costume designer Susanna Puisto at a wrap up party of Body of Proof in Hollywood.

Body of Proof is a procedural crime drama. The lead character, played by Delany, is a coroner, who used to be a neurosurgeon but after an accident that injured her hands, had to change careers. An eerily similar accident happened to Delany just as Body of Proof was about to start production of its first season. Dana was driving in Santa Monica. She came to an intersection. There was a car behind her. The female driver kept honking her horn at her, urging Dana to make a left turn. She finally relented and tried to turn left, but a bus crashed right into her car. The lady driver behind Dana fled the scene, leaving Delany in her smashed up car. They never caught the driver. But Dana says she believes in karma. She injured her hand in the accident just as the character she plays in Body of Proof. Dana believes there is a lesson in the accident – never to let anybody push you into doing anything you don’t want to do. Now Dana’s hand is better.

Dana Delany as Dr. Megan Hunt in Body of Proof

Susanna Puisto is the head of the costume department for the show. There are tailors, seamstresses, shoppers and other assistants working under her. Some clothes are purchased at the best boutiques of Beverly Hills, others are made from scratch. She and Susanna are the same size, so Susanna personally tries on clothes designed for Dana and emails the pictures to her. Susanna then supervises the first shot of each scene to make sure the new costume works out OK. She has to be constantly a few steps ahead of production schedule. Dozens of outfits are created for each episode. Many a woman might envy Susanna – she gets to shop Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. But make no mistake – the working hours on the set are long and she also has to design less glamorous items, such as lab coats… Hey, who are we kidding – Susanna Puisto is in her dream job and just loves every minute of it!

Susanna Puisto on the set of Body of Proof

GAP

Finnish companies have been participating in gap – the Global Access Program at UCLA for 12 years now. In the program, MBA students create business plans for Finnish companies.

The executives of Vianova Systems Finland Ltd. The company creates visual models of large infrastructure projects, such as the subway extension to the city of Espoo.

The way it works is this: The Finnish technology agency Tekes collaborates with UCLA Anderson School of Management. Tekes and UCLA staff scour Finland and look for high tech companies that have a potential to expand their businesses beyond their country borders. They then gather up suitable and willing companies and bring their executives to LA to meet with the UCLA Anderson’s fully employed MBA students. Each company gets a team of five students to work for them. Together the executives and students discuss the needs of the company. Then the students start their research. They talk to at least a hundred people in the field – competitors, distributors, potential customers and the like. Then the students prepare a 30 page, investor quality business plan. It contains detailed recommendations on what to do and not to do – how to expand the business and where. It will be unveiled to each participating company executives and outside judges in a formal presentation in December. This year 12 Finnish companies are participating in the program. There are 53 companies in GAP 2012 altogether from all over the world. The Finnish GAP companies have revolutionary inventions ready to be monetized. One company makes bone out of a patient’s own stem cells, the other has come up with a gadget that recharges your cell phone cordlessly and the third turns you into a press photographer who can make money out of your pictures. The GAP program has been an enormous success. Over the years it has helped 133 Finnish companies grow and expand their businesses to the U.S.and elsewhere. For more information, go to: http://www.tekes.fi/gap

Kristian Tornivaara, CEO of Surma – a ship design company, with a member of his MBA team on the UCLA campus.

LONG, HOT SUMMER

As Labor Day is upon us, it’s time to glance at this past Summer. I hear it was chilly and rainy in Finland. The same cannot be said about the Summer here in San Fernando Valley. After having lived on the Westside for a few years, we relocated in the valley in June. Within the city limits, the weather in L.A. can vary immensely depending on which part of the city you live. You can have 68 degrees F on the coast and 105 in the Valley at the same time. At first, a fan in every room cooled us down sufficiently. However, come July, the weather started to heat up. When those days of a 100 F (38 Celsius), hit, we had to go and buy an air conditioning unit in the living room. It is a big, bulky thing standing in the corner with the gigantic exhaust pipe propped to the window. Not exactly an attractive conversation piece in the living room – more like a big, white elephant!

AC unit in the living room

That was OK for a while. However, the AC in the living room did nothing to the other rooms. The fan in my bedroom was blasting in full force but it was still too hot to sleep. In my utter desperation, one night I even brought coolers from the freezer to bed with me. The second AC we got is the kind you install on the window. It alleviated the situation considerably. My Summer days started and ended with a cold shower. In the meantime the plants in the garden were suffering in the blazing sun. I had to move some of them in the sun room, where – despite of its name – it is shady.

The ferns like it in the sun room.

The azalea didn’t like that either – it was too hot for it there, so I moved it back out – this time to a shady corner. I started taking our pit bull Monty out for our daily walks early in the morning. After 9 am it was way too hot to venture outside.

Monty the pit bull has made new firends in the neighborhood. His favorite buddy is an all white hybrid wolf named Osso.

I started organizing my other activities, such as going to the store, after sunset. Little by little you learn to live with the heat, just as people in Finland have learned to live with the cold. At least I’m a bit wiser now than some years ago, when I attempted to wash my car in the heat of the day. As I sprayed cold water from the garden hose onto the windshield, it cracked!

El Timo the cat has found a cool place on top of the refrigerator.

FINLAND LURES HOLLYWOOD

Tourists pose with movie character impersonators in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Movie productions bring money and work to the filming locations. Therefore many states and countries offer incentives for film productions to come and shoot their movies in their turf. So far Finland has remained passive in the matter. But  after the formation of local film commissions a few years ago, plans are being hatched on how to lure Hollywood to make movies in Finland.

Warren Beatty directed and starred in the 1981 movie Reds. Though the film was about the Russian revolution, it was largely shot in Finland.

During the cold war Finland had the dubious honor of playing the Soviet Union in several Hollywood pictures. The Kremlin Letter, Telefon, Reds and Gorky Park were all shot in and around Helsinki. It was a perfect match – Hollywood needed a location that looked like Russia. And since filming in the actual Soviet Union was impossible at the time, Finland, namely Helsinki, filled the void. With its similar architecture, all that was needed were a couple of red banners, a Lenin’s picture, plus a few Russian signs and voilà – you were in Moscow!

Helsinki’s Uspenski Cathedral was used for its Russian style in the 1970 thriller The Kremlin Letter.

This, of course, is no longer the case. Today’s filmmakers can simply go to real Moscow – or any other part of Russia for that matter. That has left Finland cold. International movie shoots rarely film anything but nature documentaries there. And why would anyone want to film there? For its natural beauty? A little doubtful in the case of a feature film – there’s a lot of equally spectacular nature to be found in the United States and Canada – for a lesser price. However, Finland does have some historic sights, such as castles, churches, other old building and European streetscapes totally lacking in North America.

Finland offers splendid nature to enhance the look of a movie. Pictured: Repovesi National Park in Eastern Finland.

Hollywood productions are being lured by various countries with tax exemptions, free shooting permits and tax-free purchases. Hollywood favors low cost and cheap labor countries, such as Bulgaria, Romania and to the lesser extend –  the Czech Republic. However, the much more expensive New Zealand has also managed to enchant Hollywood.  The Lord of the Rings movies, King Kong and the Russell Crowe blockbuster Master and Commander: At World’s End, were all shot there. This summer the Hobbit, the Emperor and the Evil Dead were filmed in New Zealand.

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most famous tourist attractions.

New Zealand Film Commission Director Michael Brook says that under certain conditions they reimburse film producers 15 percent of the money spent there. The island’s other attractions  include natural landscapes and opposite seasons compared to the northern hemisphere. So, summer scenes can be filmed there in January. Also, Canada’s Vancouver – a city about the size of Helsinki – has established itself as a Hollywood staple. The city can accommodate 40 big film productions simultaneously. Vancouver will pardon a third of the taxes, if the film crew  uses mostly local talent. Also 40 U.S. states offer incentives. For example, Louisiana and New York give a 30 per cent tax relief to movie productions that shoot there.

Finnish film commissioners Päivi Söderström and Teija Raninen at the Scandinavian Locations event in Los Angeles.

Finland and the other Nordic film commissions have come together under the banner “Scandinavian Locations”. Finnish film commissioners Teija Raninen and Päivi Söderström recently visited Los Angeles in this capacity with their Scandinavian colleagues to market Finnish locations to Hollywood producers. There are four regional film commissions in Finland. Oddly enough, Helsinki does not have one. So any inquiries from Hollywood or other international film producers are directed to the local production companies or the city tourism office.

Consul general of Finland, Kirsti Westphalen and film commissioner Päivi Söderström at the Scandinavian Locations event at Hotel Figueroa, downtown LA.

The Finnish film commissioners advertised Finland in Hollywood as a naturally beautiful country with many industry professionals ready to be hired and eager background actors willing to work for a meal. Other advantages of shooting  in Finland include flexibility and security.

Turku Castle was seen in the 1967 Ken Russell spy thriller Billion Dollar Brain, starring Michael Caine.

Finland cannot boast about low prices or incentives, though. A free three day search for shooting locations hardly counts as a tempting incentive. Finnish film officials have not even considered tax relief. Instead, the film commissioners have proposed a quirky solution: The producers could apply part of  the money back that they used in Finland. The reimbursement would be subject to a scoring system. Criteria would include artistic content, local employment, whether the movie has a Finnish co-producer and whether Finland will retain any intellectual property rights. A jury would then assess each production separately.

Päivi Söderström – a film commissioner from Finland travels once a year to Hollywood to tell film producers about the benefits of shooting in Finland.

Such a system, however, would be highly complicated and impractical to a film producer trying to make his budget. How is he or she to know the outcome of that assessment in advance and be able to accurately calculate the real costs of shooting  in Finland? A simple tax credit would be far better. It could include some conditions – such as having to use a certain number of local talent and crew, just like in Canada.

The 2011 action movie Hanna featured breathtaking Finnish winter sceneries. the movie was partially shot in Kuusamo, North Eastern Finland.

It makes a lot of financial sense to try to get movie productions to come and shoot in Finland. Economic benefits can be sizable – especially in rural areas struggling with recession. Motion Picture Association of America – a lobbying arm for the movie industry – recently published a study on the financial impact of movie shoots. According to the study, film productions and state incentives are a boost to the local film professionals and other industries, such as hotels, restaurants and caterers. Producers go to the cheapest possible locations that meet their artistic and other needs. For example, the TV series Body of Proof moved production from Rhode Island to Los Angeles, because the show got better tax benefits in LA. And this despite the fact that the story is set in Philadelphia!

Costume designer Susanna Puisto works on the set of Body of Proof at Disney Studios in Burbank .The show recently relocated to Los Angeles because of more favorable tax benefits.

In late winter of 2010, an American action movie Hanna shot for five days in Kuusamo. The production left a million dollars to the area suffering from high unemployment. Other economic opportunities film productions provide include product placement, geocaching and film tourism.

The 1965 musical the Sound of Music was shot on location in Austria.

The Sound of Music premiered back in 1965. The musical was shot in the beautiful Austrian locations. Even today, the film still draws tourists to Austria. Therefore, it is important for Finnish officials and politicians to come together and come up with a comprehensive scheme that includes heavy tax advantages to lure Hollywood movies to shoot in Finland. Movie shoots bring money, work, fame and visibility to the shooting locations. They boost tourism and interest in the country and benefit the local economy.

Lake Pielinen in the Koli National Park, Eastern Finland