ART, SCIENCE AND SPIRIT

 

Dr. Professor’s Thesis of Evil got its Hollywood premiere.

THESIS OF EVIL

The Finnish trio from Oulu, Jukka Vidgren, Juuso Laatio and Petteri Staven recently visited Hollywood, where their 35-minute short film Dr. Professor’s Thesis of Evil was shown at the L.A. Short Film Festival. I sat down with the men to discuss their movie, which they describe as a dark comedy.

All the men hail from the northern city of Oulu, which in the last decade has emerged as a high tech hub. Petteri works at Nokia as a motion designer. Juuso and Jukka have a production company – they make commercials and music videos.

 

Jukka Vidgren, Juuso Laatio, Petteri Staven, Juha Nieminen

Where did you meet each other?

“Juuso and I were media students at Oulu University. Juuso is more into graphics design, photography and I am more into producing. We knew each other way back from school. This film actually started as our final thesis for the university, but it grew from there to a full-blown indie production” director Jukka Vidgren, 29, says.

“We made it with a technique called “motion novel”. We took photographs of our actors, made backgrounds with computer graphics and then blended them together, added sound effects, voiceover and music. It’s a new kind of a narrative technique,” Vidgren explains.

In other words, the actors in the film are presented as still images and the movement is limited to other elements, such as smoke, fire and other special effects.

Do you have to be an actor in a motion novel?

“Yes, it’s a still image, in which you have to convey a specific emotion. You only get one frame to cover a whole lot of dialogue.”

Where did you find your actors?

“Here and there. We had to use actors whom we knew. The villain is played by Pentti Korhonen. He is an actor in the Theater of Oulu. The others were students and other people we knew.”

 

The voice actors were cast in Canada and the U.S.. They were compensated for their work with a grant from the Finnish Film Foundation. In addition to that, they collected 8,000 euros from crowd funding.

 

Director Jukka Vidgren in front of the Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

What is your movie about?

“It’s like a superhero story with a super villain. The film is about a super villain, who is the most successful and known super villain in the world – Dr. Professor. He is trying to take over the world. Our hero is Alphaman, a superman kind of a figure, who is trying to destroy Dr. Professor’s plans.”

The idea reminds me of another new Finnish sci-fi movie, Iron Sky – why is that genre so popular in Finland right now?

“Genre films in general are getting big in Finland. Sci-fi is one of them. I don’t know if I would categorize our film as a sci-fi movie – it’s a fantasy film. We have had very few genre movies of any kind in the past – action, sci-fi or fantasy. They appeal to our generation of filmmakers, who were born in the early 1980’s,” Jukka Vidgren believes.

How long did it take you to make this movie?

“About two and a half years. We had a small team of ten people and only ten days to shoot in the studio with actors. The post-production took about a year and a half.”

The title Dr. Professor’s Thesis of Evil was Juuso Laatio’s idea. He also served as the director of photography.

“I took all the pictures and did about 95% of the photoshop –keying the characters from backgrounds and doing all the color work and stuff. Petteri did the moving parts and there were many other people involved as well,” Laatio, 31, specifies.

Petteri Staven’s job title is motion visualist.

“I took the layers of the photoshop, which Juuso did and processed them in the after effects, which is also an Adobe product, so it was easy. The movement was not based on characters but smoke, fire and gunshots,” Staven, 27, explains.

How did you get to the LA Short Film Festival?

“We submitted our movie and it was accepted. It was pretty awesome, because we get to attend the opening night with some pretty big names and studios, like Marvel. We had conversations with other filmmakers and industry insiders,” Jukka Vidgren reveals.

 

Thesis of Evil is available on iTunes.

The filmmakers are already working on their next film, which is going to be a feature film. You can buy Thesis of Evil on iTunes for $1.99.

For more info go to: http://www.thesisofevil.com/

 

Juha Nieminen started his space studies at USC.

SPACEMAN

32-year-old M.Sc. Juha Nieminen was inspired by space after reading the recently deceased Neil Armstrong’s memoirs. This fall he began to study for a space technology Master’s degree in Space Technology at the prestigious University of Southern California, USC. He immediately joined the university’s hockey team. Thus, the first Finnish person whom he met in LA was the hockey player Saku Koivu. So far, the students have been lectured by Virgin Galactic’s president and an Apollo astronaut. About 1,500 foreign students at USC study space technology – the vast majority of them Chinese and Indian. Juha’s focus is the design of a new generation rocket engine. After graduation, Juha is allowed to work in the U.S. for a year. He would like to get a job in his field in Southern California, a hub for start-up space companies. Juha dreams of being able to travel in space one day. Meanwhile, the rocket man gets around on his bicycle, as he doesn’t have a car yet.

 

Juha Nieminen at USC

ACTING COACH

Beautiful, slim, dark and fiery Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä is a Karelian girl from  Lappeenranta, Eastern Finland. She studied drama in Århus, Denmark, as well as in Moscow and Amsterdam. MR arrived in the United States in 2004. Five years ago she graduated from Long Beach State University with a Master’s in Drama.  She was married for a while but has since divorced. At school actor-colleagues used to turn to her for help in different scenes, for she was able to shed tears at command and live each part to the fullest. So teaching came to her naturally. Today, Marjo-Riikka, 41, teaches in two drama schools in Los Angeles. She also has private students, and occasionally gives drama courses at various universities. Each week, she teaches about a hundred actors.

 

Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä teaches acting at the Chekhov Studio International.

The average person might think it is enough when an actor learns his lines, puts on a costume and then tries to bring the character alive. But as any professional, an actor needs tools to accomplish this. According to Marjo-Riikka, an actor is an explorer of humanity. She teaches Michael (Mikhail), Chekhov’s acting technique. This Chekhov was Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s nephew, who moved to the U.S. after the Russian revolution. Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, and Robert Stack used his technique. Clint Eastwood is one of the living disciples of it. In short, the technique stresses empathizing with the character and learning different emotions kinetically. As a result, the learning process is physical.

 

Marjo-Riikka takes a physical approach to drama coaching.

On a recent Sunday I got to attend a rehearsal Marjo-Riikka gave at the Chekhov Studio International. There were 10 students attending – seven women and three men – the vast majority of them young adults in their twenties and thirties. The venue was a dance studio with mirrored walls and bars. The students wore track suits and and were working bare-footed.  A random visitor could well have mistaken these for dance rehearsals. The session was very physical indeed – breathing exercises, throwing a ball back and forth with one’s acting partner and taking steps back and forth while reciting lines. The students were rehearsing a new play about Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedy clan. I even saw a Spanish-speaking Marilyn! She was played by a  Chilean girl, who spoke her lines in Spanish. Middle-aged Roxette Wilson is already a successful actor in her native Australia. She is taking lessons from Marjo-Riikka in order to keep her skills sharp. Marjo-Riikka’s courses last for four to ten weeks.  This was an intensive course and she was preparing to start a master class. Next January Marjo-Riikka Mäkelä will take a breather from teaching to appear in a movie that will be shot in Brazil called the Star and the Cross.

 

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki is formally installed as the new pastor of the Finnish Lutheran congregation in the Western United States.

FINNISH PASTOR’S INSTALLATION

The Lutheran Church of California and Texas invite you to the installation service of Pastor Jarmo Tarkki, PhD. The service takes place at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 958 Lincoln Blvd,Santa Monica, on Sunday, October 21, at 2:00pm.