Friday, February 08, 2013

How My Films Were Made: Canned Dreams (a lecture)

Miten elokuvani ovat syntyneet? Lecture series organized by the HYY:n Elokuvaryhmä / The Film Society of The Student Union of the University of Helsinki. Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2013.

The director of Canned Dreams, Katja Gauriloff, was unable to attend, and four men were needed to replace her: the producer Joonas Berghäll, the cinematographer Heikki Färm, and the editor Timo Peltoja, all interviewed by Jari Sedergren.

The documentary film Canned Dreams is one of the most acclaimed Finnish films of 2012.

Joonas Berghäll, the producer told how the idea was found as a can of conserved food was opened at the office of the production company, and the question arose how such an amount of food can be sold at such a low price. There must be something wrong. It took two years to find out.

The detective work was very complicated. Canadian grain in a French harbour becomes French grain, and so on. But it was Katja Gauriloff's concept that the film would be about people's dreams. She had been working in a sausage factory. Once every hour there was a break of seven minutes, and those were the finest moments because they were the opportunity to listen to the stories of older women.

The film was shot in ten countries, which is more than for any other Finnish film.

We called it "the mammoth". It was our burden for four years, and it was a special challenge for Katja Gauriloff as her first feature film. She had a tremendous pressure to succeed.

After Canned Dreams making a film in Finland is a visit to the sauna.

There was no pressure from the financers.

We needed pre-production in ten countries. We became sensitive to hoodwinking attempts, and one co-producer was fired. Our adviser in Brazil was Mika Kaurismäki, and his preparations were so good that the experience in Brazil was the best.

The film was an international co-production. The composer and the sound designer came from Denmark.

International co-production was also strived at. The subject is international, since the original products stem from different countries. The tomatoes are from Portugal, and the Portuguese were interested in participation.

Canned Dreams has been shown at 22 festivals, and the number would have been doubled if the director had been available more often. [She has had a baby recently.] Festival visibility is essential for distribution.

Heikki Färm, the cinematographer, told that the difference between shooting fiction and documentary is great. The cinematographer pays attention to lighting continuities, but in a documentary you have to go with the moment. The impact of the coincidence is big. There are happy surprises.

Canned Dreams was shot on 16 mm.

Shooting digitally costs in a way nothing. I keep the camera switched on as much as possible.

Katja has a very precise visual concept. She banned panning and favoured shots from a fixed position.

Models we did have, such as Glawogger's Our Daily Bread, but our film is different. It is not a film about the production process but the people.

There are strong images such as the focus on the dead animal. Slaughterhouses are beautiful and visually interesting.

We kept meeting people who are proud of their work. The crew and the people we record were on the same level.

We spent about a week for every target location. Katja had spent a week or two in every location in advance.

The people were not shy for the camera. There are ways to do it. Pirjo Honkasalo always keep the camera on her shoulder in order to make the people get used to it.

Timo Peltoja, the editor, told that his career started early by doing demo reels. Jouko Aaltonen says that a documentary film is born in the editing room. I don't think that the camera should be running incessantly. In Canned Dreams it was a blessing that so little had been shot.

You do not need a three hour rough cut. Here the first rough cut was maybe two hours.

With Katja we shared a way of thinking, a common approach.

A screenplay I don't think I saw. A screenplay in documentary film production is something with which you apply for money.

How the rhythm is selected? I am a composer, myself. In this case it was a struggle, and it did not help that the composer was in Denmark.

What about the style of the music? It is difficult to verbalize music. The possibility of using local music we soon dismissed. It would have been just repeating in music what we see on screen.

What about the digital transition? There is no big change, I edit like I have been editing before.

The effect of shooting on film is that the image is more thought out, it has been conceived during a long period of time. Digital cinematography is often just räiskimistä, blasting about. The camera is on all the time, which gives more possibilities. The rec button is always on.

The subject dictates the style.

With Arto Halonen the work process is quite different.

JS: Some documentarists shoot 20 kilometers of film and spend a year watching it.

TP: With me, the worst case was that I had 300 tapes, or, actually we were two editors to work with them. It was really heavy.

An editor does not learn all shots by heart. After the film is finished I forget all. Maybe it is a defensive mechanism. It is painful to watch any film. In each case I always think what I should have done differently.

The size of the crew was usually four in this film. There were Katja Gauriloff, the cinematographer, the sound recorder, and sometimes Joonas Berghäll, and local people, such as the camera assistant, a soundman, and a local arranger.

We spent some 40-50 days on location.

The lighting equipment? Usually we shot with available light, but in factories and butcheries we had also lamps.

No comments: