Katéa in Hollywood.

Katéa in Hollywood.

Finnish singer Katéa was introduced to the Hollywood music professionals at the annual Musexpo music convention held at the Roosevelt Hotel across TCL Chinese Theatre. She made a splash at a showcase, in which she performed five of her songs to music moguls. Finntimes met with the singer at Musexpo for an exclusive interview.

The singer and the manager - Katéa and Sami Peura on Hollywood Boulevard.

The singer and the manager – Katéa and Sami Peura in Hollywood.

Katéa is escorted to the Rosevelt lobby by her manager Sami Peura. The experienced manager has been working toward this event for the past year and a half. There’s a badge that says ”artist” hanging on the singer’s chest.

Katéa’s real name is Katja Pihlainen. She was born in Vaasa, Finland 21 years ago. Since then she has lived in many places – Joensuu, Häneenlinna, Turku and nowadays she resides in Helsinki.

“I’ve always made music and sung since I was a child. I started writing music at nine. Since then, I have written and sung even more. This has been an interesting journey”, Katéa describes.


She studied jazz under Taina Lehto in Hämeenlinna and classical music in Montana, where she spent a year as an exchange student at 15 some six years ago. Other than that, she is self-taught.

How did you end up in Montana?

“I looked at brochures with people running with surfboards on the beach, but I found myself in Polson, Montana, living on an Indian reservation (Her host family however, were not indigenous people). It was a really interesting experience. American culture opened to me there in a new way. It was also interesting to go to the Polson High School with my peers. It helped my career and I learned English there.”

Her host family were the Mattsons. The wife as working in a bank and the husband owned a mechanic shop. Their children had already flown the coop but there was another exchange student, a Norwegian boy also staying with the family.

“My ‘host-brother’ was a year older than myself. It was nice to have another Scandinavian in the family. Together we were able to discuss the things that were strange to us. It helped the culture shock.”

Speaking of which:

“People are quite different in Finland and America. Here, people are really social. I had to practice small talk at the beginning, so that it would come naturally. That year taught me to be a lot more independent. I learned to appreciate many things from Finland, and started to see the country with different eyes.”


Polson High School was accommodating to her music.

“They had a serious work ethic. They allowed me to take singing lessons. I got a room at my disposal for an hour a day in which I was able to write and rehearse”, the singer reminisces.

A local school teacher taught her classical singing.

“He advised you should hang out with more talented people than yourself. If you play with musicians, make sure they are better than yourself. It has been a good piece of advice, which could be recommended for everyone.”

Although not a classical musician, she admires the genre.

“I admire the discipline and perfection. It cannot be done half-baked. I also like the work ethic. I like classical music, even though I would not do it myself for a living. I could practice it more. Classical training has taught me about voice and vocalization in many different ways.”


After returning to Finland, Katéa enrolled in Juhana Herttua’s Performing Arts School in Turku.

“I composed a lot of music there. I got acquainted with musician and mixer Timo Haanpää, who owns a studio in Turku. We started collaborating, performing cover songs to gain experience in performing.”

Together they played at local clubs and rehearsed in a studio built in a bomb shelter.

“I started to bring my own songs to the studio. We discussed them and began to produce them together. Timo taught me about producing and technology. I spent a lot of time in there. I learned how to use a microphone, and what happens in the mixing process. I am a perfectionist and want to understand the whole palette. It was a fruitful time for me as a musician.”

At 18 Katéa moved to The Netherlands for six months.

“I worked, composed and got to know some rappers in Rotterdam.”


She plays the piano and the guitar ‘sufficiently’, as she puts it in her own words. Her work method in the beginning was quite unusual.

“The text is terribly important to me. So, I wrote the lyrics first and then started to think about what kind of world it is musically. I didn’t realize that it’s a strange way to make music, but it suited me back then.”

Her process has since changed as producers and other professionals have entered the picture. Katéa has purposefully kept a low profile, finessing her art, fine tuning her songs. In fact the world had not heard of her until a song called ‘That Ain’t Love’ came about.

“It was born last December in Stockholm. I was in the studio with three Swedish producers and a New Zealand lyricist. The song was created in collaboration with this young production team called Money Bridge.”


After presenting their demo for the song ‘That Ain’t Love’, the production team got a music publishing contract with BMG Chrysalis. BMG is a big international music company focused on the management of music publishing, recording rights and music distribution. The single came out in April and can be heard here: http://www.clashmusic.com/news/premiere-kat%C3%A9a-that-aint-love


Katéa returned to America for the first time since her exchange student year. This time around she is accompanied by two Finnish musicians, pianist Joni Saukkoriipi and guitarist Antti Merisalo, as well as manager Sami Peura. ‘That Ain’t Love’ could be heard everywhere at Musexpo – at the café, by the swimming pool and in between panel discussions on the hallways. Katéa also performed it for a local LA station Radio Summit.

Katéa and Sami Peura

Katéa and Sami Peura

As the interview took place, manager Peura was preparing for Katéa’s big night – a 20 minute showcase at a studio instruments rental company S.I.R. stage on Sunset Boulevard.

“There will be representatives from record companies, representatives of the American and the international program office, TV, film and game industry people. Some of them have come specifically to watch the Katéa”, Peura, who has been in music business for 20 years, tells.

“I hope to pique people’s interest and to be able to continue to work with these people”, Katéa says before the big night.

Performing at S.I.R. Studios on Sunset.

Performing at S.I.R. Studios on Sunset.

And what a night it was. S.I.R. Studios was teaming with young and hip music people. Katéa’s showcase started promptly at 8.30 pm. First pianist Joni Saukkoriipi and guitarist Antti Merisalo appeared. The strong Southern California sun had taken Antti by surprise – he had painful looking sunburn. Then, dressed in a black top and a yellow skirt, her raven black hair tied in a bun, songstress Katéa took the stage. She performed five original songs – ballads and pop tunes, culminating with ‘That Ain’t Love’. It was a fantastic performance full of emotion, incredible range and interpretation. The material she was working with was also very high class. If one had to compare her with other artists, Björk and Amy Winehouse would come to mind. We will be sure to hear from this singer in the near future. Right now Katéa is back in Europe and making rounds in Scandinavia, but California has left an indelible mark in her heart.


“Los Angeles is an interesting town with interesting people who have lots of stories. It has been interesting to hear them. I’m interested in human psychology and how people  think. It is a big source of inspiration for me and I will use it in my writing”, Katéa sums up.





DATE: SEPT. 3RD, 2013

Cellist Pauliina Haustein has been a part of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra during its 2013 Summer season.

Cellist Pauliina Haustein is a member of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra this Summer.

Hollywood Bowl’s summer season is soon coming to an end. The spectacular outdoor venue again hosted some of the music world’s biggest stars, starting with the opening concert that starred Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Patti Austin, and John Legend. The house orchestra of the bowl is called the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Finnish cellist Pauliina Haustein won the coveted position as a stand-in player in the orchestra. Finntimes met the young cellist to talk about her life and music career.

Pauliina Haustein, neé Pölönen, was born in Klaukkala, Finland 26 years ago. She was a musical child from the very beginning.

– I have been told that I started to sing before talking. In the morning, when my eyes opened, I started singing and continued throughout the day. At five, I knew lyrics of 60 songs – all the verses, Pauliina laughs.

Music was in Pauliina's blood from the very beginning.

Music was in Pauliina’s blood from the very beginning.

When she was four, the family moved to Corvallis, Oregon, where her father Ilpo did his doctorate in sustainable agriculture. Meantime back at the ranch, her mother Jaana took care of the children. In the often rainy Oregon, Pauliina became bilingual. A year and a half later the family returned to Finland. To maintain her language skills, Pauliina was enrolled at the Kaivoksela English language elementary school.

Pauliina's family came to see her perform at the Hollywood Bowl's opening gala. From the left: Mother Jaana, father Ilpo, brother Perttu and husband Martin.

Pauliina’s family came to see her perform at the Hollywood Bowl’s opening gala. From the left: Mother Jaana, father Ilpo, brother Perttu and husband Martin.

The Pölönen family has four children – Pauliina is the oldest. Her siblings are also musically talented. Sister Juulia is studying the 36 -string concert Kantele (harp), and brother Perttu film composing – both at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Though he also has an ear for music, second brother Pietu became an economist. Pauliina studied the cello at the Conservatory and then at the Sibelius Academy, graduating with a BA in music.

In the summer of 2009, Pauliina and her cello headed to Sárospatak Christian music festival in Hungary. On her penultimate day, she met a German man named Martin Haustein, who worked there as a volunteer.

– He is a native of Wilkau-Haßlau of the former East Germany. He was 10 years old when the wall came down, Pauliina tells. The couple hit it off at first glance.

-I was living in Finland and Martin in England, where he was making his doctoral dissertation in Neurobiology. He found me on Facebook and Skype. During the first six months we met a couple of times in both countries. We found out that it was serious enough between us to begin to date, even though we couldn’t live together for the first year, Pauliina chuckles.

They married August 6th, 2011. At the end of the month they moved to Los Angeles, where Martin had gotten a job as a researcher at UCLA. Pauliina began house hunting. In addition to having lived in Oregon as a child, she had toured the United States with the Chamber Ensemble Halo, but had never been to Los Angeles before.

Pauliina practices the cello for several hours a day.

Pauliina practices the cello for several hours a day.

-I got daily panic attacks in the LA traffic. Even the idea of having to ​​leave the house and hit the road kept me awake at nights, she sighs.

Eventually they found a suitable apartment in West LA.

– Two days later I was sitting in the traffic and waiting at a red light. Someone rear-ended me at full speed. As a result, my car crashed into another vehicle.

It was a hit and run – the culprit fled the scene and was never caught.

– We had not yet paid for the car. So, every month we had to make payments on a car, which we didn’t have. Our insurance refused to pay for the damage that incurred to the other car. We had to hire an attorney and fight for almost a year before the insurance company finally agreed to pay, Pauliina fumes.

Pauliina suffered a whiplash injury.

-For several times a week for months I had to see a chiropractor. It took me six months to get back to the rehearsing rhythm, she recounts.

For a year Pauliina biked everywhere and through it learned the traffic patterns in different parts of the city at any given times. As we are driving toward Hollywood, she gives advise on what routes to take to avoid traffic jams as if she had lived here her entire life.

Pauliina has acclimated well to Los Angeles.

Pauliina has acclimated well to Los Angeles.

Haustein is practicing the cello up to four hours a day. She is also taking music lessons. Having recovered from the accident, she began building her musical career in the City of Angels.

-My friend, an Israeli-French pianist Pascal Solomon had married a woman who had a green card in the United States, and they had moved to Santa Barbara. We started putting together a concert program. Then I met local Finns. I got gigs through them, Pauliina gratefully acknowledges.

She then got wind of a TV series looking for musicians. There was no mention of the name of the show in the advert.

-I sent them an application with my picture attached. A month later, I got a call to come to the set of Glee at Paramount Studios. They sent me the song that I was to play the day before shooting. Based on that I wrote the notes for the cello, Pauliina explains.

Matthew Morrison is one of the stars of Glee.

Matthew Morrison is one of the stars of Glee.

The scene in question took place at the school’s gym. A string quartet played a song from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. One of the actresses sang.

-The scene was filmed with four cameras from different angles. We worked on that three minute piece for eight hours. We played for real, but what is heard in the final episode was prerecorded somewhere else, the cellist explains.

-The Actors were nice and interested in the fact that I am from Finland. I had not seen the show before, so I wasn’t star-struck. Only afterwards I realized that the guy I spoke with for 15 minutes was one of the main stars.

The gig paid $320. She has revisited the series twice since.

-The compensation was not great, but how else could I have been involved in a Hollywood TV series, Pauliina asks rhetorically.

Pauliina Haustein has gained success in California in a very short time.

Pauliina Haustein has gained success in California in a very short time.

She has worked at a steady pace – weddings, retirement parties, church concerts, and as an assistant in local orchestras.

Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater that seats 17,000 people.

Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater that seats 17,000 people.

Then, Pauliina heard that the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was seeking musicians. Entrance exams were held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In the first round, 20 musicians played from behind a curtain, so that their appearance would not affect the jury. Pauliina and five others made it to the finals.

– At the end the jury applauded and congratulated us. Then they offered me an assistant position. I am now on  the list as an assistant to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Pauliina smiles.

Pauliina's parents Jaana and Ilpo watching their daughter perform at the Hollywood Bowl.

The orchestra consists of musicians from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as studio musicians. To play with them at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl with 17 thousand people watching is definitely the greatest accomplishment so far in the young musician’s career. Pauliina played in the orchestra during the opening gala with Steve Tyler. The old crooner took a liking to the young statuesque Finn and winked at her. The summer 2013 season at the bowl concludes later in September.

Pauliina Haustein spent the Summer 2013 performing at the Hollywood Bowl.

Pauliina Haustein spent the Summer 2013 performing at the Hollywood Bowl.


Costume designer Susanna Puisto at Disney Studios in Burbank


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


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.


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.


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



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