Kimmo Kuusniemi tells more about his 'behind-the-scene' experiences on this project.
4 YEAR RELENTLESS JOURNEY THROUGH RUSSIA AND SIBERIA TO JAPAN - NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER
With these documentaries I broke several rules of professional filmmaking.
RULES OF FILMMAKING: The first rule: “Never get involved in films that don’t have a budget.”
BEGINNING OF THE 4 YEAR STRUGGLE, THE EASY PART
I didn’t realise the mad journey I was about to sign up for when I met Jonne at my brothers garden in 2016. Jonne asked me if I wanted to make documentary about Korpiklaani. When I heard that Korpiklaani were going to have a long extended tour through Russia and Siberia I was sold.
There was no budget, so according to rule number one, walk away. Which of course I didn’t as the excitement of the road trip overpowered the sensibility, which is a common problem with creative people
After unsuccessfully trying to get the record label to fund the film etc. the only way I could see to do this was by Crowdfunding. I had never done this before so even this sounded exciting. The band didn’t want to take the risk of crowdfunding so as well as everything else I decided I would do the crowdfunding myself.
So I broke the second important RULE OF FILMMAKING: “Never take personal risk financing a film”.
CROWDFUNDING THAT FUNDED THE CROWDFUNDING ADVERTISEMENT
Eugene (Co Producer) and I did a very extensive advertising campaign for the documentaries. When the crowdfunding ended we realised that the money raised didn’t even cover the work and time we put into the Crowdfunding advertisement.
We did not get the money to finish the film but instead we did find some very loyal and supportive Crowdfunders who believed in the films as much as we did. Not everything is measured in money.
JAPAN, YOU LIVE AND DON’T LEARN AND MORE RULES OF FILMMAKING BROKEN
During post production on the Live in Russia film the band were going on tour in Japan and the plan was to get me there to film another documentary. Japan has alway’s been my top ten list of destinations to visit. I have made commercial films for Japanese markets before but never had chance to visit. So very tempting.
RULES OF FILMMAKING: “Never make the same mistake again”
Once again I broke the first rule of film making: “Never get involved with films that don’t have a budget.” So now I have done it twice in one project.
As planned with Jonne I again set up a crowdfunding project for Japan. Just when the campaign was online I was forced to cancel it for reasons which are most bizarre.
Against all the odds I still ended up on tour in Japan with Korpiklaani and Waltari. In Osaka I also met Piotr from Polish Death Metal band VADER. Last time we met was in Poland 25 years ago, when I made their first music video for MTV Europe.
HOW TO FINISH DOCUMENTARIES WITHOUT BUDGET; DOCUMENTARIES ARE ALL CONSUMING BEASTS TO FINISH
Then the hard work of editing all this footage together began. I spent a lot of time to editing the Russia film into a loose three hour version. At the same time I was trying in vain to find extra funding through sponsors etc. At this point I had to stop as I had already used all my rainy day savings and needed to work on commercial films to balance the accounts.
Then film editor/musician Sophia LA stepped in to save the day.
Sophia was really excited about the material and wanted to trim my 3 hour version into the final documentary. She spent a long time editing and did a fantastically brilliant job on it but the film was still in it’s first finished version two hours 47 minutes long. She also had reached her limits on working with the film.
JAPAN, WHAT TO DO WITH JAPAN? CROWDFUNDERS STEP UP!
MADE IN RUSSIA was now finished to a long version and could be shown to the Crowdfunders who liked it so much that some of them were willing to donate to help funding so we could start work on the Japanese film.
This gave us a much needed moral boost to get the “LIVE IN JAPAN” edited.
Making films and music is a very lonely place; you don’t get much support until you have finished. Here we are talking about projects that took 4 years to get published. So the support from Crowdfunders was very important and gave me a reason to finish my films, while all the time I was working on the commercial side of filmmaking to balance my books.
DVD FORMAT IS DEAD, TV DISTRIBUTION IS DYING, WE LIVE IN THE MATRIX
The next problem is how to release these films.
All my documentaries have been globally distributed through my International TV Distributor. He was basically interested in this these films but was doubtful about the interest from the international TV companies as Korpiklaani are not Metallica or Iron Maiden.
During the 4 years these films took to finish, DVD’s have had a sudden death.
COVID-19 TO RESCUE
Then came COVID-19 which changed everything. Film and Music Businesses grinned to sudden halt.
It was time again to get back to these films and finally get them out. I shortened the “Made In Russia” to 39min. Set up the websites and we were ready.
Now the new exciting option to release documentaries is your own VOD (video on demand) channel. Not the same as Amazon or Netflix but you are your own master.
DID I LEARN ANYTHING FROM THIS PROJECT?
No, I would do the same mistakes again. The journey through Russia and Siberia was life altering, a once in a lifetime experience and something I will never forget. Great memories are worth the pain.
Below are the details of the documentaries, taken from the recent press release.
KORPIKLAANI And KIMMO KUUSNIEMI Joined Forces In Two Rock Documentaries!
Finnish Folk Metal legends KORPIKLAANI and filmmaker KIMMO KUUSNIEMI made an extended and hectic tour of Russia, traveling from St. Petersburg to Siberia and back. On a follow up tour – this time to Japan with Finnish metal legend, Waltari – they had more time to contemplate Japanese lifestyle and history. Filmmaker Kimmo Kuusniemi traveled with the band. His unseen documentaries are now released online.
***MADE IN RUSSIA Documentary
KIMMO KUUSNIEMI: “I did not need to think twice when Jonne (Vocalist, Korpiklaani) asked me if I would like to make a documentary about the Korpiklaani’s extensive Russia/Siberia tour. I knew instantly this would be a one of kind trip. I have travelled the world extensively making films but this journey was completely different from anything else I have experienced. Due to the relentless schedules, all the time on the road on planes, trains and automobiles forced me to re-think the film equipment and filming techniques. This turned out to be great gamble that paid off royally as the look and style to the documentary ended up like something you never seen before.”
TUOMAS ROUNAKARI (Violinist, Korpiklaani): “During the live shows Kimmo blended in with the crowd and was almost un-noticable with his gimbal camera setup. He was able to really deliver the real live show feeling of the packed clubs. When I look at these documentaries they really have captured the essence of the journeys, audiences and the band on stage.”
KIMMO KUUSNIEMI: “The latest development in camera technology has really taken away a lot the limitations of film making. Now I can do things I was dreaming about 10 years ago!”
TUOMAS ROUNAKARI: ”The Russian tour allowed me to visit exceptional places for the first time. I had dreamt of visiting Lake Baikal for decades because of its unique nature and strong shamanism that is still alive among the indigenous peoples. While I was dreaming of seeing these places, our fans had been dreaming of seeing us live. So this tour was full of win-win situations, different dreams coming true. I am very grateful for our fans, who at the end, made this trip possible.”
Kimmo Kuusniemi, himself of heavy metal fame, known as “the godfather of Finnish Heavy Metal”, is a filmmaker by trade. Packing his equipment he set out with Korpiklaani – on an amazing road trip all over Russia. The result was unforeseen footage of Russian heavy metal fandom and the wonders of this huge country of diverse cultures.
TUOMAS ROUNAKARI: “In Khabarovsk, We (me and Kimmo) wanted to visit the Amur river and the Nanai tribe people. I posted this wish on Facebook and that's how one of our fans, Boris, contacted us and arranged everything. It would have been very difficult to do this without local help.”
KIMMO KUUSNIEMI: “Meeting the Nanai people was one of the many highlights of the journey through Siberia. Travelling through Siberian landscapes on a Skidoo in -30 C, hearing the stories about the ancient petroglyphs by the frozen Amur river, eating frozen raw fish with vodka and trying at the same time to film as much as possible before the cameras froze over was an unforgettable experience.”
***LIVE IN JAPAN Documentary
Another trip took Kuusniemi and Korpiklaani to Japan. Here three generations of Finnish Metal; Kimmo, one of the first Finnish metalheads, and Korpiklaani, a furious act of modern folk metal met with another Finnish legend, Kärtsy Hatakka and his band Waltari. The trip proved to be a series of intensive gigs and a journey into the open minds of Japanese metal fans, while on the side Korpiklaani’s shaman violinist Tuomas Rounakari and Kimmo wanted to make acquaintances with the ancient history of the land of the rising sun.
TUOMAS ROUNAKARI: “The Finns and Japanese have a strange connection. We both appreciate silence more than most other cultures. Maybe it is due to the still lasting connection to the nature that is in the center of ancient beliefs of both cultures.”
KIMMO KUUSNIEMI: “In the past I have made some commercial films for Japanese markets but I had never visited before. Japan is a very interesting contradiction of industrial high tech in perfect harmony with the ancient traditions. In between the gigs me and Tuomas tried to see as much as we could of the old traditional side of Japan.”
TUOMAS ROUNAKARI: “We had a hilarious interview in Japan. We found out that most of our songs were very obscurely translated to japanese, mostly in innuendo way. Apparently these curious titles were one aspect of our fame in the country.’
The resulting documentaries are a rare peek into the on-the-road life of grown up men behaving as rockers on stage. But they are also a tribute to the international heavy metal fan family: wherever the bands go, they receive a warm and hearty welcome. The live footage shot by state-of-the-art technology, is enigmatic, and the behind-the-scenes material shows the band exploring local cultures, from the Siberian tundra to cherry orchards in Japan.
KIMMO KUUSNIEMI: “One great thing of making these documentaries was that I met Tuomas. We are very like minded and we already are working on a new project called “SAMPO” that combines music and myths. More about that soon.”
“MADE IN RUSSIA” and “LIVE IN JAPAN” OUT NOW AS VOD (VIDEO ON DEMAND)
KIMMO KUUSNIEMI: “These documentaries were partly funded through Crowdfunding. As the DVD format is now pretty much dead the Filmmakers have the same challenge as musicians: how to finance your work. We need to adapt and this is the first time that I’m trying out the VOD (Video On Demand) to get some revenue in.
Our Split Screen Films production company will be releasing more interesting documentaries soon on VOD.”
MADE IN RUSSIA (39min 22sec)
- VIDEO ON DEMAND LINK: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/madeinrussia
- MADE IN RUSSIA HOME PAGE: www.madeinrussia.uk
LIVE IN JAPAN (31min 22sec)
- VIDEO ON DEMAND LINK: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/liveinjapan
- LIVE IN JAPAN HOME PAGE: www.liveinjapan.co.uk
More information on SPLIT SCREEN FILMS: www.splitscreendocs.com
Korpiklaani are a folk metal band originally from Lahti, Finland, founded by Jonne Järvelä. While other folk metal bands began with metal before adding folk music, Korpiklaani started with folk music before turning metal. Korpiklaani lyrics often originate from ancient Finnish and Sami traditions, and the band mixes tough heavy metal and traditional music played with instruments such as the violin, accordion and even jouhikko and torupill. The band have made twelve full-length albums so far.
About Kimmo Kuusniemi
Kimmo Kuusniemi is a professional film maker and musician based in UK. He has made numerous films from music videos to International TV Series. With his partner in film, Eugene O'Connor, together and separately they have worked with such names as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Madonna, Rush, Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Kimmo’s band Sarcofagus were formed in 1978 and were the first Finnish heavy metal band. He also made probably the first in the world broadcast quality album length music video “Moottorilinnut” in 1980.
In 2008, Kuusniemi made an international TV documentary Promised Land Of Heavy Metal about the Finnish metal scene as a co-production with Finnish Broadcasting company YLE. As he is known the "Godfather of Finnish Metal" he had unlimited access to the Finnish metal scene, which also even helped him to get an interview with Madame President of Finland.