This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 288: Crowdfunding The Sci-Fi Epic Feature Film With Writer/Director Timo Vuorensola.
SYS Podcast Episode #289: Timo Vuorensola.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #289 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screen writer and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing writer- director Timo Vuorensola. And I apologize in advance for butchering the pronunciation of his name. I know I did not pronounce it right so I apologize. He just did a Sci-fi film called Iron Sky The Coming Race. He’s got a great story about he and his partners built an audience for their first film including the prequel to the new Iron Sky film and crowd sourced the second one. It’s a very ambitious project for something that’s independent so stay tuned for that interview. If you find this episode valuable please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes, or leaving a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook.
These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and then just look for Episode Number #289. If you want my free guide-How To Sell A Screenplay In Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus lessons.
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Now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing writer-director Timo Vuorensola. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Timo to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Timo: Thank you for having me. It is a great honor.
Ashley: To start out maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Timo: Well, I grew up in Finland in a small city called Tampere which is about 200 kms north from Helsinki which is… as a country Finland is not known to be a big film country but I was obviously… I grew up with video games and watching American and Japanese movies, whichever I could get my hands on, reading all the comic books and all that stuff. Books and reading a lot. And that was sort of the whole thing that I grew up with, and yeah, I got interested in film industry because somebody hired me to play a cling-on in the Star Trek parody and I was watching how things were happening on the set and I was like, “This is actually interesting and fun.” And then eventually I was asked if I’d be interested in trying out directing something and I said, “Absolutely yeah!” without any idea what directing really means.
But then I went to the library, lent a lot of books about directing and sort of self-studied what it means to direct a movie.
Ashley: Yeah. And how did you even get in the position that someone was offering you a director job? What did you do to get that offer?
Timo: Because I had a loud voice. I’m very tall and I have a very loud voice and this person, his name is Samuli Torssonen by the way, he thought that to be a director you have to be very loud because you have to shout, “Cut!” and, “Action!” and all that stuff.
Timo: And as you can say, all of us we were very armature at that point. But he said that he wants to make a feature length science fiction action movie in the parody world of Star Trek called Star Wreck and I said, “This sounds great. Yeah, let’s do it.” It was a long process and of course we learned everything during the making of that film but originally it was because I have a loud voice.
Ashley: Yeah, sure. Okay, let’s dig into your latest film, Iron Sky the Coming Race. To start out maybe you can give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is this film all about?
Timo: Well, Iron Sky the Coming Race is a science fiction action film about… the first one is about Nazis on the moon, the second one which is called The Coming Race is, this time we go into the hollow earth in search for an energy source which should give basically infinite power supply for the remains of human planet. The story begins after the nuclear war has ravaged the earth in 2018 and only a small group of people are still living on the dark side of the moon in the former Nazi moon base. Things start rolling out when an old enemy comes to the moon base and says that he wants us to find this power source from the center of the earth and then our main heroes they head up on a journey into the hollow earth.
They find a lush beautiful green world filled with dinosaurs and lions and everything that they didn’t know that exist and also all the crazy maniacs of the history as reptilians running the whole place and they have to steal the power source from them. And that’s the basic pitch.
Ashley: I got you. And so this is a sequel for the 2012 film, correct?
Timo: That’s exactly what it is.
Ashley: And so where did this idea come from? What’s the genesis of this story idea?
Timo: Well, the first Iron Sky the idea of Nazis on the dark side of the moon was an idea which a friend of mine brought up in a sauna and said that he thinks that that would turn into a great movie and of course we felt that he was crazy and everybody thought that later on we were crazy when we started to talk about Nazis on the moon. But years went and we were able to build the movie and eventually make the movie and release that. But at the same time around the same time when we started to research Nazis on the moon, I also started to research other conspiracy theories and one of the stories took me into the hollow earth and the idea, which is very old science fiction idea, that the earth is hollow and there lives some sort of creatures in the hollow earth.
Depending on the story what kind of creature it is, aliens or dinosaurs or whatever and we sort of just said, “Okay, let’s build a story around that idea.” And the more we started to look into the hollow earth mythology or the conspiracy theory the more we started to find connections into old science fiction because that’s basically where science fiction started. It didn’t start with space travels and moon travels, it started in the 1800’s of people telling stories about flying into the hollow earth or going under the ocean [inaudible 00:07:07] stuff and all that. So in that way it was relatively easy to jump into that world and start developing the story from there.
Ashley: I get you. Let’s talk just about the writing credit on The Coming Race. I just did a quick look at it on IMDb. You share writing credit with a Dalan Musson and then the three other people who share a based on story by credit. Can you kind of unravel that for us and tell us what exactly did everyone do in terms of the writing of the screenplay?
Timo: Right. Basically the basic idea we came up with a small group of people in, who were actually involved in the first Iron Sky, we developed the story idea of the basic. We basically wrote I think it was like a 20 page, “This is what I think that should happen in this movie.” And I was sort of running that group and then I contacted a friend of mine who’s a screenwriter in the USA Dalan Musson who’s actually an LA based writer whom I was working with on another project at that time and I liked his work. And I said, “Okay, we have a crazy story for you. Would you be interested in looking at it?” Then I sent these 20 pages to him and he said, “That’s fantastic, I’d love to give a stab at it.”
Then I think what happened was that he started to write and he wrote the first draft of the film in about a month’s time and sent it to me and from there on we started this sort of back and forth dialogue bouncing back and forth the ideas, changing the story characters elements here and there throughout the whole thing and eventually we just came up with what turned out to be the final story of the movie. But yeah, that was basically the evolution of that.
Ashley: I got you. At the top of the interview you mentioned that you did these science fiction parodies, Star Wreck and stuff. Why did you then, for your first feature, why did you decide to do Sci-fi The Iron Sky in 2012? And I’m curious about this because it’s an expensive film so for like your first film the very traditional advice is do something low-budget, a Horror, Thriller, something that can be done. This seems like a very, very ambitious project for new filmmakers.
Timo: Absolutely. And it was definitely not a clever decision I mean. But like I said I did my first feature film which was the Star Wreck film which was 105 minute-long full on space battle Star Trek film and I got a lot of experience through that in working with visual effects and I really fell in love with the way of the possibilities that visual effects can affect you. Then when we started to work on the first proper feature film sort of more, how would I say it, like the first professional feature film which is Iron Sky, well, definitely a lot of people were saying that it doesn’t make any sense for you to start even dreaming of making anything like this. But also we had this experience with visual effects and we knew that we can tell a big story and if we are clever with the way that we do these visual effects and all this, create these worlds, we will be able expand it much bigger than necessarily it would be possible with if we were just didn’t have any experience [inaudible 00:10:42] and didn’t know what we were doing.
We kinda decided that okay, let’s do this challenge. Let’s create a big story and then we’ll just have to figure out how to make these elements in the most cost-effective way. And it took time so that’s one thing which is for sure hardest because if you don’t have money that you can throw at the problems and solve them then you have to have time. It took a lot of time for us to do things and figure it out and make it work, but eventually it did and actually worked pretty well. But yeah, it was just a very long seven years process so it was not a quick movie to make.
Ashley: And so let’s talk about your development process a little bit. I understand the LA writer he writes the first draft then you guys start developing it. Did these other people that you’re involved with, are they giving you guys notes as you go along? Did you work to do a second draft and then get notes? Maybe just describe your development process a little bit and how you were able to get through that.
Timo: Right. Definitely, this group of people they were not that much involved in the after we had the first draft done. So basically what we did was that because of the first Iron Sky we had created a big fan base. This fan base was very interested and keen on helping us out with the story through that whole film actually through all the elements. And what we did was we were doing crowd funding and one of the ways to support us was to do crowd funding and in exchange for whatever money, I can’t remember what but it was maybe €100, you are added on a list of people who will get the first draft of the script as soon as we get it and you have a chance to read that and then throw comments and give feedback to us. And what we did was we eventually, I think we sent it out to 1,000 or maybe two hundred or 1,800 fans.
Of course we did all the NDA’s and all that like please don’t share it to anybody. But also we kinda trust our fans, we said, “Okay, this is what you guys paid for,here you go.” We sent out the script for the fans and we got a lot of feedback. Of course out of these 1200 let’s say 1200 people only about, let’s say 300 probably read the script and only 150 actually gave any feedback because people don’t really read scripts once they actually get the script in front of them they’re like, “Aw shit! [crosstalk].
Ashley: Yeah. It’s a lot of work. Yes, paid $100 for a lot of work. Exactly.
Timo: Yeah, at first they wanted to do that. But those who did, they did read and they sent fantastic feedback. Some of the feedback is really very detailed and usable in the film at all, some of the stuff is really just a couple of notes where you find, “Oh! This is a big, big point,” which a lot of people are finding out that this is not working or this is something… and you know, that kind of stuff we used to develop the second draft of the script and that was I think very important lead and that changed a lot of elements. But of course when we do this crowd funding thing and crowd sourcing thing it was very important from the beginning on to say that this is not a democracy. You do not get to say what ends up on the movie but you get to give the feedback. I get the notes from you, I read those notes and I use them if I want to but I’m the dictator, you will not be…
And that’s very important. And that was something that everybody agreed with and that… But that went surprisingly well. I was very nervous from the beginning but I was sure that [inaudible 00:14:30].
Ashley: Yeah. What a great idea. I’ve never heard that people have so much fear of the script leaking out and that stuff and I applaud you for doing that. What a great idea.
Timo: Yeah. I think it worked with us. It worked because we had close fan community and these people were really happy to help with that but that’s definitely not the way that all the filmmakers would… I wouldn’t even suggest that to all the filmmakers because a script is quite secret. And also you can pollute your mind by starting to listen to too much feedback. I’ve seen that happen and I’ve experienced myself and you have to be really strong on that because the feedback is always interesting and always something that’s coming from… You know, people are not giving feedback because they wanna do nasty things to your script. They really believe that it’s coming from a good place so it’s very easy to get also sort of, “Oh! That’s a good point. Maybe blah blah blah, I should change.”
You have to know what you’re actually going after all the time. And it comes with all kind of feedback whether it’s studio feedback, producer feedback, fan feedback, all that stuff, you have to always know that okay, this is great feedback but this is not necessarily the right kind of feedback that fits into the story, and you have to know what fits and what doesn’t.
Ashley: Yeah. For sure. How can people see Iron Sky the Coming Race? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Timo: We’re coming out right now in the States on I hope [inaudible 00:16:08] 17th of July and don’t tell me if it’s 19th of July but I think 17th of July, I’m a little confused. Also we’re coming out in Japan because we’re coming out in Japan today and think later this week, like maybe tomorrow, so the day after tomorrow. And before that we’ve had it released in some territories in Europe and then it’s coming out in Asian territories later on and all that. It’s kind of an independent movie, you know how it is, it’s not like it Day and Date. I wish it was but it is not because you have to fit it into every distributor’s schedule. But it’s rolling out throughout the year.
Ashley: Sure. Perfect.
Timo: But now of course, now I would say now it’s the most important time because it’s the US and the Asian areas that are also coming out.
Ashley: Yeah. What’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing? Just Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing, I will round up for the show notes.
Timo: Sure. I’m on Twitter and we have a Twitter account @ironskyfilm and also personally I’m actually more active there even than on our Twitter account. It’s @LeonBlank L-E-O-N B-L-A-N-K. Don’t ask why that name… it’s from the days when people had to have handles because their names were too weird for internet, but anyway that’s something that stuck. So @LeonBlank is something I use on Twitter and also on Instagram. And we have a very active Facebook community and page for Iron Sky as well. I’m not personally on Facebook so one shouldn’t try to find me there but Iron Sky is definitely there so go and check it out over there.
Ashley: Well, perfect. I really appreciate it Timo, coming on and talking with me today. Good luck with this film and good luck with your next film.
Timo: Thank you.
Ashley: Thank you.
Timo: Thank you so much. Thank so much for having me.
Ashley: Thank you. We’ll talk to you later.
I just wanna talk quickly about SYS Select. It’s a service for screenwriters to help them sell their screenplays and get writing assignments. The first part of the service is the SYS Select Screenplay database. Screenwriters upload their screenplays along with a logline, synopsis and other pertinent information like budget and genre and then producers search for and hopefully find screenplays they wanna produce. Dozens of producers are in the system looking for screenplays right now. There have been a number of success stories come out of this service. You can find out about all the SYS Select successes by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/success also on SYS podcast Episode #222. I talk with Steve Deering who was the first official success story to come out of the SYS Select database.
When you join SYS Select, you get access to the screenplay database along with all the other services that we’re providing to SYS Select members. These services include the monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of 400 producers who are actively seeking writers and screenplays. Each SYS Select member can pitch one screenplay in this monthly newsletter. We also provide screenwriting leads. We have partnered with one of the premiere paid screenwriting leads so I can syndicate their leads to SYS Select members. There are lots of great paid leads coming in each week from our partner.
Recently, we’ve been getting five to ten high quality paid leads per week. These leads run the gamut. There’s producers looking for a specific type of spec script to producers looking to hire a screenwriter to write up one of their ideas or properties. They’re looking for shorts, features, TV and web series, pilots all types of projects. If you sign up for SYS Select you’ll get these leads emailed directly to you several times per week. Also you get access to the SYS Select forum where we will help you with your logline and query letter and answer any screenwriting related questions that you might have. We also have a number of screenwriting classes that are recorded and available in the SYS Select forum.
These are all the classes that I’ve done over the years so you’ll have access to those whenever you want if you join. The classes cover every part of writing your screenplay from concept to outlining to the first act, second act, third act as well as other topics like writing short films and pitching your projects in person. Once again, if this sounds like something you would like to learn more about, please go to www.sellingyourscreenplayselect.com.
On the next episode of the podcast I’m gonna be interviewing writer-director Cal Barnes. He is an actor and writer-director who’s out there making things happen. He’s got a bunch of short films and features that are coming out over the next few months. He’s one of these guys with a ton of energy who’s really out there making things happen for himself. So keep an eye out for that episode next week.
To wrap things up I just wanna touch on a few things from today’s interview with Timo. I really applaud what Timo and his team have done. They’ve built a base of followers who are now supporting them to produce more films. This isn’t an easy thing to do but if you can swing it it’s fantastic because you’re raising the money yourself and you’re not in a position to have to kowtow to investors or studios and I know too we didn’t really have a lot of time to dig into the specifics of how they built this audience. I only got a few minutes with him so maybe at some point I can have him back on and really dig into that.
But if you go to Google and put in a search for Iron Sky Indiegogo the campaign will come up and you can start to see what he did and you can kinda hopefully learn some of the steps and sort of some of the process of exactly how he put this film together and more importantly his original film so that you know, that was the building of the audience phase. Just do a little research with Google and I think you’ll be able to see a lot of what he’s done. I did that in preparation for the interview and just a moment ago in preparation for this podcast. It’s all out there and we can all learn from it. So much of being a screenwriter is waiting for a director or producer or agent to like your material and give you a call and sometimes that just never happens.
If producers and agents they aren’t calling you get out there and start making things happen for yourself. It really is the best way to build your career. Just always stay busy no matter what. Always be working on stuff, always be pushing stuff forward. And again, one of the best ways to do that is to work to work on your own material.
Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.