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Making Movies – Shooting Iron Sky in Frankfurt

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“If your life for the last year or so has felt like you are a character in a William Gibson novel, you have done something right with your life.”

That’s what I was thinking when I boarded the plane to Frankfurt in early November. I was loaded up with cameras and gadgets, and on my way to document the making of a multi million euro sci-fi movie Iron Sky, and to kick up as much dust in the media and internet about it as possible. I spent my flight reading Zero History from my brand new Kindle, and background processing my plans for the next month.

So, Iron Sky has started filming. It will take about four weeks in Germany, after that there’s a short pause, and then six weeks in Warner Roadshow Studios in Gold Coast, Australia. My job on the location is to be the publicist and the  ”making of” producer, which essentially means that I go everywhere with my video camera documenting what happens and interviewing the cast and crew, and at the same time handle the press contacts, interviews, events and all that.

On a rooftop in Frankfurt, casing out a shoot location.

In Frankfurt we have a production office, which is our base of operations, and also the accommodation for a big chunk of the crew. The area around the office is charming – I saw the first junkies shooting up before I got out of the taxi, and later it turned out that apparently the ratio of brothels, drug dealers and late night grocery stores in downtown Frankfurt is about 30:5:1. Weirdly enough, everybody says that the area is completely safe, and that’s how it really feels. There’s an invisible wall of teflon between the junkies and the office workers, both going about with their business.

The Shoot

I arrived to Frankfurt about a week before the shoot started, and the first few days just flew past. I spent my time getting to know the ropes, which included familiarizing myself with the shooting schedule and the crew, finding out where different people lived and worked, trying to hammer together a media day with my local counterpart, and documenting everything I could with my videocamera.

We had a very nice kick-off party, which we started in our costume department and continued around the town, tearing it up with our crew, actors and other members of the project. After that the days just stumbled over each other on their way to the first day of the shoot, which took place under a big railway bridge.

A whole lot of preparation starting before the dawn, Timo barking “ACTION” and that was it – we were finally fucking filming Iron Sky.

This was a weird moment, since although I’ve been officially working for the project from since January, I have been of course involved in it for ages in some small capacity or other. When Timo and the others were looking for an idea for the next movie after Star Wreck, Susi and I sent them our own movie idea, and when the guys chose Iron Sky as their next project, we did some rewrite work for the original script, which got completely reworked later. The first one would have been a whole lot more of an weird arthouse movie than what Iron Sky is now. Whenever have arranged band stuff or other such time consuming things, Iron Sky has “always” been there as this massive monolith to be scheduled around – but now it was alive and active, a movie project progressing in full speed.

Just one of those moments in life, you know.

Timo directing Götz Otto on the set

Since then we have been filming in a castle, filling it with our movie equipment, tacky amount of mounted animals and other props, gathered a hundred Iron Sky fans in downtown Frankfurt to run from a huge fireball, which we set of in the night of Totensonntag, a Catholic celebration when everybody is supposed to be quiet and remembering the dead; the art department had turned a room in Opel factory into a really incredibly kick ass Moon Nazi laboratory, we’ve been filming with a couple of dozen of kids, and so on and so forth. Still to come are at least an interesting rooftop scene and destroying a classy meeting room with special effects  (which means things that actually go BANG!, not CGI).

Untethered Life

I’m not going to go into blow-by-blow of what has happened during the shoot. Most of it is documented far better in Iron Sky’s blogTimo’s director’s diaries and Iron Sky Signals, which have been done by me this year. So, how have these weeks been from the point of view of one dude?

My life during the shoot has been pleasantly simple in many ways. I’m living in a single room, with one suitcase full of stuff, and that’s it. I wake up in the morning and either have a healthy breakfast and saunter down into my office to work, or get dressed hastily, jump into a car and end up in the shooting location with my camera, where I do my best to catch all the awesome moments without trying to get into peoples’ way too much. In addition to communicating with the media, the job entails chatting with our fans and followers, and producing interesting stuff for them to watch and read.  As a job, this is pure pleasure. I’ve been working with net communities for nearly a decade, and on average they have a rather high whiny bitch quotient.  It’s always great to find exceptions, and without hyperbole I can say I’ve never run into as positive, fun and constructive fan community online as we have with Iron Sky.

On the set there’s a ton of great people to meet with and chat with, guys who have done movies since the 80′s, people who are familiar from stuff like Lord of the Rings making of, and all that – and whenever you go out with professional actors, it’s not you who has to fill the gap in the conversation. I haven’t been hitting the town that much, though. Mostly I’ve just worked late and then come up to my room to read, listen to music (Tin Hat has been the hit band of the trip) and maybe play a little Echo Bazaar, before falling asleep and waking up to another interesting and fulfilling work day.

My comfortable little room for the month.

Working and living like his has been very liberating. Since moving into my first apartment at the age of 18, I’ve known that  I don’t want to live surrounded and tethered down by stuff, staying in one place. Nevertheless, because of how things played out, for far too long I managed to do just that, and to travel far too little (well, at least according to my preferences). Luckily, for the last few years I’ve been abroad with an increasing frequency, at times almost every month. I’ve also spent most of this year getting rid of all the stuff I don’t need – even my books, which are now on the shelves only one row deep.

Right now my life consists of one room, one suitcase, one laptop and a pocket full of comics and books in my iPhone and Kindle  - and this feels absolutely heavenly. The only things I will start missing from home are my scuba gear, my winter sports gear & clothes, and my consoles (well, X360 anyway). Everything else could burn down, for all I care.

I’ve always been happiest on the road, and now I think I’m addicted.

A nice little hangover lunch in a German pub that's 500 years old. The menu has probably been the same all that time, but then again - why change a winning recipe.

Cyberpunk Moments

This whole trip has been one low key cyberpunk moment for me, in a very amusing yet cool way. It’s probably due to the fact that I’m working an extended time outside of any kind of stabile office or work place, my work relies totally on technology, and more to the point the kind of technology which I can rather trivially carry around with me.

The future has crept around us and we are just now starting to notice it. There’s the whole WikiLeaks net vigilante thing, Stuxnet-virus being the first thing that can be called a cyberweapon, and then all the small everyday things I keep running into. A few days ago we were on a set, in front of this massive skyscraper, when something work related came up. I just sat down on the asphalt, leaned on a metal pylon, whipped out my laptop and cellphone, and started contacting members of the international press while following the feeds about what people are talking about Iron Sky. After a moment I realized how the situation would have looked like to a 15 year old me, who considered cellphone to be something which has a carrying handle. In this job I go around with a laptop and a video camera, routinely work with colleagues who are in different countries or continents, edit video on the go and send it straight to the net, and try to rouse fans and media around the world, from Finland through Australia to US and Far East. I could very well ask for photos from Finland, bounce them from an agent in Australia and send them off to US, all this sitting on my ass on a street in Frankfurt. The office is where the laptop and cellphone is.

Dr Richter of Iron Sky (photo: Tarja Jakunaho)

A couple of days later I found myself in a bit classier Turkish restaurant, drinking tea from a small glass, eating baclava and reading a book from this datapad gadget that can contain a damn library – skyscrapers looming outside and this total mix of cultures going on around me. After I got back to my room, hopping over junkies and dodging brothel touts on the way, I found out that someone is going to crowdfund a communications satellite owned by a bankrupt company, and try to move it to the other side of the planet to bring internet to developing countries.

When you stop to look at all this, savour all these little moments as they are and how they would have felt 20 years ago, it’s actually pretty goddamn cool.

Home for Christmas

Three week down in Germany and two weeks to go. I have my biggest job hurdle ahead of me in here, but happily Susi will be joining me next week for the rest of the shoot. After the big work thing there’s a wrap up party for the German shoot, and then it’s back to home for a couple of weeks. I’m also facing one of those big, potentially life altering choices, where one option would be somewhat more sensible in the long run, and the other one has the potential to be very interesting, albeit somewhat risky. Usually I automatically opt for the risky and interesting, a tendency which just has to bite me on the ass sooner or later. So far it’s pointed me towards the awesome every time – even though it hasn’t always looked or felt like it initially. This time the choice is far, far tougher than usually, but looks like the sensible choice will lose once again.

I hear that in Finland it’s cold as hell, and there’s plenty of snow. If I play my cards right with my timetable, I might manage to pop in to the cabin for a couple of days to ski and do other winter stuff, before it’s time to leave for Australian heat. Our original plan was to go to Australia a week earlier and spend the Christmas diving in the Great Barrier Reef, but that plan and its backups fell through financially. Oh well, this has been a fucking awesome year already, can’t have everything and I really can’t complain.

Spending the Christmas in Finland and visiting some family and friends doesn’t sound all bad after the all the positive and the pinch of negative insanity of the Awesome Year of 2010.

6 Comments

  1. This is so awesome, Janos!

  2. Pingback: The Awesome Year of 2010 : Vornasblogi

  3. Janos, I follow you on Twitter, read your blog, and appreciate your sense of humor! You remind me how I used to be a few years ago. Of all the crew, I admire you the most. My life really sucks now, and I’ve come so close to packing my shit, and board a Finair flight to Helsinki to apply for any work at Iron Sky, and start a life amongst new friends. Girlfriend left me, Dad dying, and much worse. I want to be a “Science Gangster” like you, build props, and live like the artist I used to be. Sorry about the rambling, Mate. Just had to say how cool I think you are! Keep it up! Would you follow me back on Twitter? Just asking.
    Thanks!
    Robb
    RJM1138 on Twitter

  4. Hello Robb and thanks for your kind words. Sorry to hear about all the adversity in your life right now, sounds like things are a little bit in the crapper for you currently. For what it’s worth, keep in mind that it won’t last and things will get better. I’ve had some righteously, heinously horrible times during the last decade and earlier too, so I sympathize with you. Those times are why I remember to keep all the good and cool things in high value.

    In my opinion the key is to not stop and lie down in the fire, as the Finnish proverb goes. The key is to keep trying and doing new things, even silly and stupid things. Finding new chances, distracting yourself, figuring out who your friends are and remembering to appreciate them. There are of course situations where this doesn’t help, like when a person close to you is sick or dying, or when a long time relationship goes bust. It’s okay to grieve and to be down, but it’s also all right to remember that eventually life will go on – one shouldn’t guilt himself to being sad in perpetuity.

    The world is full of interesting and wonderful things, when you just dare to try them and step out of your comfort zone. it doesn’t really matter what one does, be it a pottery class, dance lessons or hunting boars with throwing axes – all this is food for life, an open door to something new and interesting happening, a chance to meet new interesting people and get new friends, and so forth. You never know what can come out of something new you try – even though trying it may feel pointless or silly at the time. Another thing is that people shouldn’t be afraid of seeming a bit silly at times – getting rid of that hang-up makes life so much more fun.

    It’s very easy to focus on the negative, and the fact is that by choosing your point of view, you can make everything sound like shit. I could’ve written this blog post about the long work days and the crap weather, which would have made this sound like a totally different kind of a trip. It may sound corny “glass is half full” hippie bullshit, but really – everybody should stop for a moment in the end of the day and think what was somehow good, positive or beautiful about the day. It doesn’t have to be anything bloody massive: a good peaceful moment drinking coffee and reading a book, a pretty girl/boy you saw on the street, a nice conversation with a friend, small good moments.

    Even the crappiest day has something good in it, and focusing on those things isn’t hippie bullshit or somehow fake (what makes the crap stuff more real and genuine, I have to wonder) – what is bullshit is thinking that those moments don’t matter. That’s utter crap. Those are the moments life is made out of.

  5. Pingback: Leap Into Unknown – Farewell to Moon Nazis | Vornasblogi

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