FAN FILM FRIDAY: Jarmo Puskala talks to us about "Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning" and "Iron Sky"

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Jarmo Interview

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. today we’ve got a huge treat for any fans of fan films: We’re talking with Jarmo Puskala ( http://www.jarmopuskala.com/ ), the co-writer of the first truly epic Fan Film, “Star Wreck: In The Pirkinning.” Jarmo, thank you very much for taking the time to be here today.

JARMO:
Thank you. Being Finnish I'm not quite sure what to say to such compliments :D I'm happy you enjoyed the film, for us that's the big idea behind making movies.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
“In The Pirkinning” is pretty much the holy grail of Fan Films: It’s feature length, it’s got very high production values, the visuals pop. There’s a lot of gee-gosh-wow space battles, and on top of that, it’s funny as hell. I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t like it, and of course, a huge part of that credit goes to you. How did you get involved in the project

JARMO:
The Star Wreck series of films was started by a guy called Samuli Torssonen. By the time of "In the Pirkinning" he had made five short films and released them online. It was in 1999 when he send a message to Usenet looking for people to give some fresh feedback on his next Star Wreck film. So, having loved the previous films I volunteered. And they still haven't gotten rid of me!

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Had you been involved in any of the previous Star Wreck films?

JARMO:
No, I was just a fan.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
The writer is generally the most overlooked guy in the Fan Film community over here. Everyone seems to want to assume as long as they’ve got some sets and some costumes, they can just make it up as they go along, and it shows. Your film was *extremely* tight and structured, however; it actually *feels* like a real feature film. How did you approach writing that script?

JARMO:
It was not very organized at first. Originally the film was supposed to be 15 to 20 minutes long and making a feature length film was just a dream. Then I came aboard and we got feedback some other people who had answered Samuli's call for comments, the story started to grow and eventually it was decided this should be that feature length film of our dreams.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Was the initial idea yours, or was it the product of a whole lot of brainstorming sessions? How much input did the others in the team have for the finished story?

JARMO:
The basic story of Captain Pirk taking over the world and going into the Babel 13 universe was there when I joined. But back then it just turned into one big space battle and ended. That basic outline came from Samuli and his friend Rudi Airisto who had already been writing the previous Star Wrecks.

Then when I joined we started to flesh out the Babel 13 side of the story with much of my contributions being there. We used email and IRC to brainstorm. Often it would go that Samuli had an idea and Rudi would write something based on that. Then I would write my own version and Rudi would then write his own version of that and then Samuli would come in and write what Pirk would _really_ say. And then when it was time to film the scene the director Timo Vuorensola would have his own comments and we'd polish the scene some more.

So it was very much a group effort.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
How long did it take to write the whole thing? How long was the finished script?

JARMO:
Either three months or seven years. It depends how you define ‘writing.’ We kept adding things and re-writing scenes during all the filming and even during the editing, trying to find alternative ways to do the scene with the video we had. But in the end the end result was very similar to how the script had been during the summer of 2000.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
So how close was the first draft of the script to the version we finally got to see? Was it pretty close to your original vision, or was there a lot of thinking and re-thinking your way through the story?

JARMO:
After that version from the summer of 2000 much of the writing was polishing what we had and adding new scenes. And in the end a lot of those new scenes were cut because the film had become way too long. At one point we had a film that was close to 3 hours...

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Were there any scenes or sequences that you just loved, but that you had to chop out of the finished draft? Anything you just hated to get rid of, but had to? Tell us about them.

JARMO:
In retrospect cutting the stuff we did made it a lot better film. There was one scene in the end of the film that didn't fit the flow, but that I really liked. It was the final moments of Sherrypie and Ivanovitsa who spent their final moments bickering about whose fault it all was.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
What’s your favorite bit of the film - the part that you, personally are proudest of?

JARMO:
It has to be the propaganda video about the P-Fleet conquering the world (You can see a fan remix version with a heavy metal soundtrack on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAE3QBk2wLs ). For a long time it was just one line in the script "Pirk takes over the world" and we had no idea how we'd do it. In the end we decided to go for a 40's propaganda style and I wrote the narration overnight. And then someone, I don't remember who, had the idea of cutting to the "real world" straight from the end of the video that I really love.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
It’s pretty hilarious. Watching it the first time, I thought, “Man, what a great way to sidestep all the tedious stuff that goes along with any ‘taking over the world’ story.

For me, personally, the aspect of “In The Pirkinning” that just totally put it over the top for me was the Babylon 5 stuff. Up until that point, I was thinking “Wow, this is really good, “ but when B5 turned up - man - it just went over the top into “Eternally Brilliant.” I have to say - on a personal level - thank you, thank you, thank you for that massive battle royal at the end. I’ve always loved the Omega Class Destroyers, and I’m always annoyed that we don’t get to see more of them in action in the series. Seeing them in a raging full-on battle just overjoyed me. Are you guys big Babylon 5 fans?

JARMO:
I'm quite a big fan. Everyone watched Babylon 5, but Samuli - for example - was more of a Star Trek guy. Rudi didn't much like either, and Timo's favorite sci-fi was Tarkovsky's Stalker.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Was Babylon 5 popular in Finland? I hear vague rumors that it was more popular abroad than it was here in the states, but no one I meet from overseas ever seems to have heard of it.

JARMO:
It was pretty big here. More popular than Star Trek ever was! There was a great fan community with active discussions and even some parties. The ratings weren't huge, but in the sci-fi community it was huge.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Is there much of a Fan Film community in Europe?

JARMO:
There are some very ambitious fan film makers, especially in Germany with Star Wars & Star Wreck projects that have been in the works for years. But the language barriers kind of isolate people into their own countries. There are some pan-European projects, including the Star Wreck(!) fan film "Twistdrive" (http://www.wreckamovie.com/star-wreck-2pi). The crew and fans visited us couple of months ago and shot a few scenes in our office. It was great meeting all the people, we couldn't have dreamed of such an international co-operation when we were making Star Wreck.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
The Fukov/Festerbester casting gag was hilarious, by the way. I totally didn’t see that one coming, and I was laughing so hard I nearly went incontinent.

JARMO:
It was also very convenient for us, since we were short on actors anyway...

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
As far as I can tell, in the whole world, your team is the only one to have done a Babylon 5 Fan Film. I’ve never quite understood why there are so many Trek and Star Wars and Dr. Who fanfilms, but no B5 once, aside from yours. Why do you think that is?

JARMO:
Well, Star Trek and Doctor Who are absolutely huge. It might not seem like that from the US, but the UK is absolutely nuts for the show - as am I, actually.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Trek - meh - but I’ve always loved Doctor Who.

JARMO:
They've raised several generations of fans, while people who watched B5 when they were young are still young. And I think the B5 universe isn't as inviting for fanfic. The show was very much one big story and the universe exists to tell that story that has already been told.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Hm. That’s kind of what Joe Straczynski said when I asked him that same question a few months ago. ( http://www.republibot.com/content/interview-joe-straczynski ). How does it feel to wake up one morning and realize “I’ve written the most popular, successful movie in the history of my country!” How do you deal with that kind of thing? Where do you go from there?

JARMO:
It never felt like such a big deal, really.

It's strange how fast your brain gets calibrated to deal with things like that. Suddenly one million people have seen your film, but it doesn't actually feel that different than having 1000 people seen it. It's impossible to imagine a million people in a room with you, so it's just a bigger number. What matters more is if people liked it.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
And here we are five years later: You’re working on “Iron Sky.” As I understand it, this is a totally original project, it’s not related to anyone else’s Copyrights. This is something completely original, and you guys own it outright, right?

JARMO:
Yep. It's kind of "based on a real story", since there are a people who believe in the conspiracy theories that Adolf Hitler actually fled to the Moon. Iron Sky basically takes that conspiracy and runs with it.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
So it’s not actually a fan film, per se, it’s more of an *extremely* independent picture. As a writer, is it easier or harder for you to work with a blank slate, rather than having a story that plays off a well-known format? I’ve heard people go both ways on that one - some say “I can’t write when I don’t have 700 episodes of backstory to cull from,” and others love the freedom of being able to do whatever they want without that kind of constraint.

JARMO:
Working on your own story is more satisfying, but it is more difficult. I find it a lot easier to write with constrains. We often get asked to talk about movies and the internet and one of our favorite "party tricks", in lack of a better term, is to write a story with the audience. We brainstorm story ideas with them and while Timo gives a speech I sit in the corner and write a story in the form of a film synopsis. It's actually a lot of fun to do and the audiences seem to like it as well.

When you've got a blank slate the biggest problem is having so many ways you could take the story. In the beginning we did several completely different versions of the basic "Nazis on the moon" story. One had a singing Hitler robot and another had a big sub-plot about Hitler's paintings. Back in 2006 Johanna Sinisalo joined on board as a writer, she's Finland's best known sci-fi writer and has a long history of writing for TV. Having her as the writer has helped us to find the actual story that is "Iron Sky". And no, it doesn't have a Hitler robot.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
So tell us a bit about Iron Sky.

JARMO:
Well, Iron Sky is a science fiction comedy about the return of the Moon Nazis in 2018. It's got a more serious tone than Star Wreck going more for satire than parody. It's an European co-production with a budget of about 5 million Euro.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Wow! That’s huge compared to the Star Wreck budget!

JARMO:
The cast is mainly German with some US actors. You can check out the teaser and read more on our website at http://www.ironsky.net

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Is there any part of the story that you’re extra proud of? Can you tell us about it without giving away spoilers?

JARMO:
Well, I quite liked the singing Hitler robot... But since that's not in the film I can't really say anything :D

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Are you filming currently? In preproduction? Post-production?

JARMO:
We're currently in pre-production with the shooting starting later in the spring.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Do you have a release date in mind? How will it be distributed when it’s done?

JARMO:
It should be out in 2011. And we're working very hard to have the film come to the movie theater near you.

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Well, we’re out of time. Jarmo, thank you again for taking the time to talk with us today, and thank you for writing the best damn Fan Film ever. And thank you for letting me see Omega Class Destroyers pound hell out of Federation ships. And pretty much thanks for everything you’ve done up until now. All of us here at Republibot are very eager to see Iron Sky, and we wish you all the best of luck.

JARMO:
Thank you. It's still a while before Iron Sky comes out, but we're planning on releasing a lot of making of material once the shooting starts. Hope you'll enjoy following the project as well!

REPUBLIBOT 3.0:
Absolutely! For our readers, the site is http://www.ironsky.net/site/ and it’s definitely worth checking out. I’d urge all our readers to check out the Star Wreck site, too http://www.starwreck.com/ and if possible, run by the store http://store.starwreck.com/ and pick up a coffee mug or something.

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