Tampere, the new science fiction capital of Finland
Iron Sky Premiere Gala in Tampere
Zoinks! I was invited to the mega event of the year, premiere gala for Iron Sky in Tampere. The one person reading this who doesn’t know what Iron Sky is, welcome out of your barrel. Here’s twenty euros for the movie ticket and a bucket of popcorn. Go see the new epic Finnish science fiction extravaganza where the Nazis attack from the dark side of the Moon.
I may have been invited twice, actually. I can’t be sure. All I know is Timo Vuorensola, the director, hero of the hour, the Man himself, extended an invitation to a bunch of us outside Kinopalatsi movie theatre after the Iron Sky on Tour event last Friday. After I had filled in the webforms and got the ticket PDF I also got an email invitation which may have been due to my bottom of the barrel end credit status as a special extra. Yeah, I’m now officially the third stormtrooper on the right. Or the fourteenth.
Sometimes things fall in place neatly. Well, it depends on your friends, really, and I happen to have such a darn gosh great gang of friends that I claim global bragging rights for it. Tero Ykspetäjä who also was on his way to the gala offered a ride. I thanked him by droning on all the way to Tampere about all sorts of Nazi Wunderwaffen trivia that I have scored in recent years. Regardless I was not thrown out of the car around Humppila, for which I’m thankful.
It’s irritating when you stop at the red light and you fumble and the engine dies. You try to restart quickly again but in all likelihood it’s green already and even if no one is yet blowing the horn at you, you have this distinct feeling that you’re in their way. Even if you’re on the passenger seat. Well, how about if the car kills its own engine, makes you sort of panic, and restarts it again when the light becomes green? Tero’s spaceship is like that. Exactly like that.
The pinball machine was a shy one but you can see the plunger on the left.
First we went to Plevna to see the movie, then to Pakkahuone for the gala. Outside Plevna there was a red mat and the whole shebang. The production team meant business. As if not reserving the whole theatre and every one of its ten stages wasn’t indication enough. Our seats were on stage eight so up to the second floor we went. And I saw something beautiful. Not that I’d under any circumstance dis the uniformed girls dealing out caffeine chocolate, my favourite drug, but there was a pinball machine. They are quite hard to come by these days, folks. The great man of pinball design Steve Kordek
just died this year, but not before his inventions did. Tragically, I realized shortly, I had no coins. It was a tough situation as me and those silver balls go a long way. But alas, our reunion was not to be.
On Friday in Turku me and my spouse Arren had tried to be early to get good seats the Iron Sky On Tour event. Even so many more had had the same idea and beat us to it. This time around there was something like five people sitting there when me and Tero claimed our seats, plus one. Conveniently close to the door since Arren was arriving from Helsinki with about half a minute to spare, depending on the brashness of the taxi driver. He made it, just in the nick of time.
The movie rocked not one quanta less than the first time. This one is for the history books, I bet my molars on it. Big, polished production which differs from Hollywood stuff in all the right places. Groundbreaking method of garnering funds through dedicated fans, solid production values imbued special effects for a fraction of what big studios would have paid to achieve the same. A revolutionary way to make a film.
The first time I had just been watching the film. Everything was new and the pace was never-relenting. In one scene I thought I saw a familiar, odd-looking skull shape, and sort of familiar profile, but then it was gone. Was that me? I couldn’t tell, and neither could anyone else. This time around I was prepared. There! Yes! It’s me! Or, wait, is it? Actually, can’t really say. Nah, probably wasn’t. And now I can only conclude that if the man himself after two times can’t be sure if he appears during one scene in the background, it doesn’t matter at all if he does or not. I know I’m there in a gas mask sieg heiling the Moon Führer and that’s cool enough. Actually, the cool part was doing all that stuff. Seeing it later comes well second to that.
Even though the place was under heavy guard, Batman was not caught.
Back on the ground floor a guy with a camera pushed a mike at me, asking for my impressions about the film. I can, believe it or not, be a tad shy on occasion, but that day was not one of them. I grabbed the mike and told how damn excellent Iron Sky
had been, one of my most favourite films of all time. I handed the mike to Arren who gave similar praise and then we bolted. I have still no idea who my impressions were going to reach but Arren though the guy had said something about Poland. A good thing then that I didn’t crack a joke about Lech Walesa
. Not that I have such habit, but it would have been so like me to do it for the first time ever, live on Polish national news.
After Plevna the three of us drove to Pakkahuone, got rid of our jackets and dived in. Music, people, drinks, food. Several hundred people talking. Tero had spotted Julia Dietze but I didn’t. We saw Götz Otto towering at least one head taller than most, tho I did see a few other skyscraping guys as well. He was easy to recognize despite the civvies. A good thing, because I had been sort of worried that I’d just walk past all of the stars not noticing them because I have a dastardly combination of bad eyesight and a way of not paying attention to details. But there I was, sipping some grapefruit based hard lemonade, chatting just a tiny bit with two girls, offering them both a sip from my bottle since one of them was curious how it tasted, and looking at the Moon Nazi officer several meters away.
The official part of the night started with some people talking on stage. I missed part of it due to the aforementioned lack of noticing details, like words, and wondering where Arren had gone to. To talk to Götz, it turned out. Pretty soon after that Timo and Tero Kaukomaa, the producer, got on stage and started to invite people over. The big stars, production crew, special effects guys, in a word the folks who had busted their chops for so long to make it all happen. A really shame Janos could not be there due to bad case of flu. I feel for you mate, you deserved to be there.
Tero pointed at one woman up there and noted that she was the president of the United States in the film. And she was also the girl who had taken a sip out of my bottle a bit earlier. I wouldn’t have minded being wrong about my own dimwittedness even once, but hey, everyone’s gotta do it their own way. My way is the Way of the Wooden Eye.
The Bald and the Beautiful also starring Johanna Sinisalo
I got to talk to some interesting folks during the evening, some others I knew were there but didn’t manage to chat with. Among the people I talked to was Johanna Sinisalo
, the Queen of Chili and perhaps the
professional Finnish writer idol of mine. Strangely we have inhabited the same fandom for over fifteen years and the most we’ve ever talked about anything has been on Facebook. So it was extra nice to have a few minutes and hear from her about writing the movie and also how the script had lived after her involvement.
Another interesting person was Ken Moffat(t), Australian gaffer (or I think he’s Australian, me and details, we’ve been there already) whose name I had noticed in the credits already during the Turku show. I later realized it was because of the family name – Steven Moffat is a writer I’m a big fan of, and in pretty much the only LARP I ever played in I was a dirty cop called Ben Moffat. Talk about cocktail party effect. Maybe my attention is not totally crap, it just focuses on weird details. And thus I miss every president I ever meet. Ken talked a bit about shooting the scenes, the weather and how close it had been that they did get all the shots before the climate went all medieval on the script. We talked about visuals, how the imagery was diesel punk or steampunk. That’s when Arren coined the term Helium-3 punk. It’s one of those occasions when someone says something that just pops in their head and it takes off. In this case Ken took off and rushed to Götz Otto to tell him about it. I wanted to hang around a bit more but it looked like the line between overstaying our welcome not not doing so was right there. Me and Arren slipped away. I’m pretty sure no one noticed.
Two stars, a fan and a gala place
I did get to tell Götz how I found his physical presence and sheer intimidation fantastic. Or I blabbed about something physical and shook his hand. Can’t really say. My bet is on the latter. I also scored a photo with Julia but I don’t recall really saying anything intelligible at all. I would have loved to chat even for a minute but she really looked like she was wanting to leave the scene. Plenty of fans with cameras and boring stories. That got me thinking how stressful it all must be, and how frustrating. There you are, in a party, trying to talk to a few people you find interesting and probably know from before. Your mates and the like. And then there is the endless swarm of fans begging, demanding and competing for your attention. Every single second of the entire evening. Try to drink a sip and there is someone tugging your arm, wanting something. I felt ashamed for wanting a picture.
Stephanie Paul looking exactly like herself
I know, it’s also part of their job description. You meet the fans, you smile, you offer yourself and your image and a few words. But it can go on for hours. The horde just never lets up, one fan is replaced by two more and personal space or the most basic social conventions mean simply nothing. Either you step back for a breath or you go bonkers. Sorry for being part of the horde, Julia.
I did meet Stephanie Paul, the prez, again, asked if I could quickly take a photo while she was having a smoke which might sound as if I had learned nothing, but the situation seemed way more relaxed. She said yes and asked if I wanted to have a picture taken with her. Well, does a hammer fall down on a planet with positive gravity? I once again managed to sound like a deranged lunatic. I’m not sure what I said but I meant that she was a great actress since she looked nothing like her character in the movie. But writing things in English that sound logical is for me helluva lot easier than saying it aloud, so I probably embarrassed myself yet again by saying she didn’t look like herself, or something. But just as with the scenario of a tree falling down in a forest and nobody seeing it, should I feel ashamed if I can’t recall how exactly I goofed up?
Industrial and pretty lights
The original reason for how and why we ended up at the premiere gala in the first place was Laibach
. We talked with Timo about Laibach and gigs when he said that they were playing in the gala and we should come. I rarely if ever listen to Laibach on my own, their new Iron Sky theme
notwithstanding, but Arren is a huge, huge fan. I’m more into power metal where men scream like little girls and everyone wears leather pants. When they started Arren went for the front spots while me and Tero hung back. While they didn’t sound exactly like pouring a bucket of bolts onto a ship deck and then tossing the bucket against the wall, it sounded a tad similar and it was loud. I’m not into the habit of wearing ear plugs at gigs even though I should and Tero didn’t feel like being in some fan’s way. But we wanted to take a picture or two a bit closer and soon found ourselves being quite close to the stage, maybe two meters away from Arren. There was plenty people but no crowding at all. We stayed there the entire gig, the pain in my ears went away due to numbness and I caught myself swinging, yelling and rocking to the music. How did that happen? But they were effing great! The theme especially was to die for, hard and heavy, all industrial. Music has power it you can feel it vibrating your nasal cavities, your lungs and your testicles. Arren later pointed out that during a song they had been showing a clip from the movie with troopers marching in line. It was a scene I’d said I was in, so now I was part of Laibach background material. A small thing I know, but with this face and talent I better claim the fame whenever possible.
I found the most appropriate sticker on a restroom wall. "Against nazis". If I don't see Care Bears whacking the hell out of Pedobear in the director's cut I'll be bummed.
Sometime around the gig I ran into Timo and thanked him briefly for the invite and congratulated him about the movie. Quite original, I know. I work hard on my material. But I did mean every bit of it. It had been an honor to be a small part of the movie as an extra, it made me uplifted just seeing the movie become real and It was really cool to have been invited to the gala. Around then I fully formed the thought in my head what it all meant to me. I mean Iron Sky
. It was an example.
You see, I’m quite a lazy man. Let me have my way and I’ll watch telly twenty hours a week, taping it all. All the comedies and scifi that comes out. That’s me, not graduating and having abandoned all hopes of it a decade ago. I do want to do stuff, though. I used to run quite a few societies and fanzines in my time, I did lead two successful MMORPG communities after my fandom stint and now I want to write. I’m creative, but lazy, and I need all the kicks to my butt to achieve stuff. Iron Sky is a massive kick.
Turku Science Fiction Society gives head once a year. Namely the Atorox head.
If you consider the origins, how it all turned out in the end is a miracle. It’s not magic, it’s not a mystery. It’s actually quite plain, how it happened, how project like Star Wreck
gave birth to a blockbuster like Iron Sky
. It’s hard work, it’s dedication, it’s people putting their foot down and saying I’m damn well doing this, you just watch me. I’ll never make anything like Iron Sky,
I know. But I can put in hard work, and I’ll do my own thing. It’s something I know, but it’s also something that ceases to affect me on a regular basis. I need booster shots like friends getting the coveted Atorox
prize for the best SF short story of the year or someone I know getting the Finlandia
for the best damn novel of the entire year. It’s seeing Iron Sky
taking form, become real.
From all that I gather my own strength to write the stuff I write and pour my creativity into my work. And I’m grateful for all of those magnificent examples, and none of them is as huge as Iron Sky. That’s what it all means to me. I may be a damn fanboy, but beside being a fan of the movie I’m a fan of all the actual work that went into it.
So when Timo, already going ahead turned around and said something about my project to write one drabble each day for a year, it was a shock. Again, me, details, we all know the drill, but I recall it like Timo actually follows my progress at times, like he occasionally reads what I write. Gosh, talk about a rush! I’m still in the mode of thinking that pretty much only my friends ever click the daily link in Facebook to catch my latest yarn. I know this sort of inferiority complex is something I really should shake but it’s somewhere real deep inside and I’m too lazy to do yoga to get in touch with it. I’ll settle for thinking it’s cool that people read what I write, be it people I know from since before the time began to directors of gigantic scifi epics.
As the evening had turned into the night and it was still some two hour drive back to Turku we started to consider leaving. First we had to hunt Timo down to thank him one final time, but the man was nowhere to be seen. Eventually we spotted him and he courteously invited us to the backstage to meet Laibach. If we wanted. It was not such a huge deal to Tero or me, but I knew Arren just might want to take the offer and I scouted him up. Turns out I was right and we did go to see the band briefly.
I also ran to Samuli Torssonen, the man behind the special effects, and said to him he did good work. The look on his face told quite clearly that he had no idea whatsoever who I was and why I was addressing him by the first name. And really, he had no reason to recognize me. But, he might remember me, at least if reminded. Back in the late 90’s when I was the editor-in-chief of Finland’s oldest SF fanzine Spin I learned of Star Wreck movies. It was well before it became evident that In the Pirkinning would stretch into the next millennium. It was possible to order, for money, the cds with all the Star Wrecks so far, but I went and asked for them for free since I’d write about them in Spin. Samuli sent me the movies. And I didn’t write about them.
Temptation has many faces. There's caffeine chocolate behind her back.
Back then, and even now, I tend to take on projects I eventually don’t finish. Can’t finish. It’s not laziness, it’s like all of my strength vanishes when I even think about doing the thing and it leads only to not doing it. Try as I may, even if the task is really simple and takes just half an hour, it can paralyze me for months whenever I even think about it. Writing a review of Star Wrecks
fell into that trap. So, after something like thirteen, fourteen years, sorry about breaking my promise, Samuli. It was me, the bald guy you had no reason to recognize.
All in all, it was a huge blast. The stars, the crew, the people, the band. I wore a suit like protocol demanded, I even had a tie. Not a black one but one with skulls on it. Orange, purple and ocean blue skulls, the tie I wore when I graduated from high school. I played the part of a well dressed man, acted like a doofus forgetting basic vocabulary whenever I was closer than three meters from anyone in a film and enjoyed it all immensely. Thank you Timo, thank you Tero, your party rocked! And also thanks to the other Tero for driving my carcass from Turku and back. Thank you Arren for sharing the evening with me. Thank you gorgeous ladies from Varusteleka for all the spiked chocolate you doled out to a caffeine junkie. And apologies if what I said to someone made no sense. Take my word, it sounded better in my head. Smiles all around! I’d say hugs, but I’m not drunk any more.
This is the third trooper from the right, signing out.