Monday, 26 September 2011

15 Questions & Answers

01 How did you get into the movie business? 

American Quilts: a useful art (1991)
I wanted to make a short video: “American Quilts: a useful art.” The audio/visual department at Helsinki University recommended Eki. He was a 25 year old hippie with long hair. He asked me what I had in mind. I said I´d like to make a 20 minute documentary. Without blinking he said, “Make it 10.” After we finished, I told him making movies was my kind of madness and I wanted to do another. We´ve been working together for 17 years and he still cuts everything in half. Or more. 

02 How did you name your company? 

After Eki and I finished our first project, I told my husband Klaus,“I haven´t had this much fun since I´ve been five years old.” He said, “Well you better call it little Margie (my name before I became a designer). I thought it was brilliant. But got a bit of a shock when a guy I met told me he thought it was a porno film company. 

03 Where does LMP get ideas for new projects? 

Werner Herzog tells students at his Rogue Film School, they have to read newspapers and magazines. An article in the Economist about Oaksterdam University (the trade school for the study of cannabis) caught our attention. Then we read a second article about the founder, Richard Lee, in the same publication a couple of weeks later. He was responsible for getting Proposition 19 on the California November 2010 ballot. If it had passed it would have made small amounts of pot legal for recreational use. We thought the idea of presenting medical marihuana in a calm, business-like way and the excitement of the election had legs and decided to go for it. 

04. What LMP project had the most pitfalls and setbacks?

“Chasing Esa-Pekka” without a doubt. It took us three years. Our commissioning editor changed in the development stage, we got turned down on our first application for funding from EU Media Programme Development and had to re-apply. And although Esa-Pekka Salonen couldn´t have been more congenial, his PR people fought for him to have access and approval of all the footage. We finally said “Enough!” and they calmed down. But we were inundated with emails with long lists of “requests for changes.”  Unless they were legitimate errors we stuck to our guns and the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) supported us. The shoots, on location in different countries were great. But the post went on and on (we had 51 hours of footage). Eki and I were both done-in by the time we said that´s it, and turned in the final cut. 

05 What project has had the biggest impact on LMP? 

“10 Finnish Architects” (10 X 10´). When we pitched this project to the Finnish Broadcasting Company, one of our commissioning editors said, “But Maggy, that´s a 100 minutes of film.” We told her, “No. It´s just ten ten minute films.”  She laughed and signed the contract. Altogether it took more than two years. About a third of the way through my husband Klaus died.  I called Eki a week later and told him I wanted to come back and start again. It was an especially cold dark blizzardy winter in Finland. Eki saw me through the worst. He was tough as an old boot. We slogged away and wondered if we would ever get to the end the series. But 10 FA was a hit. It has played (and still re-plays) on Finnish TV and was sold internationally to countries as diverse as Norway and Brazil.  It was our breakthrough project and became our calling card. As far as personal commitment, a close second and even an equal, is our latest project: “marihuanaland.” 

Lesson 20: when a project is in post have at least one in development.

PS: Last week I wrote about my favorite locations and left out one of the best shoots of all. 

El Gaucho de Högsåra (2000)
Högsåra, Finland (“El Gaucho de Högsåra”): It was high summer in Finland – light until eleven. We shot a doc about a young guy from Argentina who lived with a family (our friends the Örnells) on this island in the archipelago. We filmed all over the place for a week. The tall ships were in port and the Mexican captain put up his sails coming in, especially for us. The place was jam-packed with sailors and celebrators. We stayed up late every night, ate huge quantities of delicious food, drank cases of beer and laughed a lot. Eki played the guitar till all hours and was grumpy in the morning when we had to start shooting at 8:00. That´s when I learned never to talk to him until 10:00. I thought, if this is making movies then I found the right kind of job. We were sad when the week was over. And vowed to come back and make “The Return of El Gaucho de Högsåra.”

Littlemargiedoc-blog will take a three week break while on the road.

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