This past week at the start of SXSW, a little (big) film from Finland had its world premiere. That film was the infectiously joyous Heavy Trip. The story centers on a Death Metal band…..sorry, sorry, that mean’t to read “A Symphonic Post-Apocalyptic Reindeer-Grinding Christ-Abusing Extreme War Pagan Fennoscandian Metal Band”, their life in a small town and the adventure they go on to a play a gig at a music festival in Norway. There’s been a lot of great buzz since it first showed and can attest to how much fun it is first hand, having gotten to catch a chowing, the review of which you should check out here. Part of what makes SXSW such a great experience though is that most films send alone some of the talent behind the projects for both post-screening Q&A’s, as well as off-site interviews. Due to the craziness of scheduling, I missed out on the opportunity, but as luck should have it, I was able to conduct an email with one of the film’s directors, Jukka Vidgren, via email.
This is your directorial feature debut, what does it mean to you to have the film have it’s world premiere at a festival as big as SXSW?
Jukka Vidgren: When I heard that Heavy trip was selected to SXSW I couldn’t believe it. This is pretty much the best festival to have our film out there at. I’m just overwhelmed by the great feedback we’ve got here at the festival. People seem to really connect with film. I couldn’t be happier.
For a story about a Death Metal band, the film has a refreshingly jovial core. Is that reflective of your personal style of humor, something that developed through the writing process, or did you set out to make a film that never relies on overt crassness, to be funny?
I think that at least for me the idea of making a film that is very sympathetic towards the main characters was something that was always there. And as the project went on it just became more important. I think that the times we are all living in now need a story that has a very pure heart and is about these guys, who are genuine.
Another aspect to the film is a feeling of timeless-ness. While there are cell phones in the film, they’re of the early variety flip phones. Tapes & CDs rule the day. Was it important to you for this film to feel like it took place in another time?
This was very much an aesthetic decision. To (specifically) have a look and feel of the 80’s and early 90’s. We felt that the nostalgia of our own youths would serve the film well. This was the time when heavy metal was very important for us. And also I think that this kind of distancing from this day, gives the film even more freedom to be silly.
Are you yourselves big Death Metal/Heavy metal fans? How important was it to make the film seem like it never belittles the band’s passion?[Co-director] Juuso Laatio is the metalhead out of the two of us and it was really important for him to have the music and the feel of the film be very authentic. We are really doing this from one metal fan to another.
As events of Heavy Trip enter its 2nd half [centering on the road trip aspect] the film steadily gets more and more absurd. How difficult was it to keep the initial portion relatively grounded? Was there ever a desire just to make the entire film entirely over-the-top, instead of gradually?
This was something we thought a lot about while writing the film. There was a lot of discussion on how over-the-top you can go and at what point. I think that the decision came easy, as we chose the band as the center of the film. We had to have the audience believe in these guys before we could start the madness.
Upon first meeting them, the members of Impaled Rektum have been practicing for 12 years, but never played a gig. When did you first become interested in movies and did you spend years making small movies with friends you never intended to show anyone else?
Heh, yeah there is definitely some aspects of our life’s in the story as well. I became interested in films when I was about 9. After that we shot short films with my friends all the way to college. I do remember that we never showed the films to anyone for a long time. And when we started doing that I do remember how nerving that was.
Much has been made about the fact that this is the most expensive Finnish comedy ever made. Were there ever times when working on the production where you dreaded having that fact hanging over your head?
I don’t know if there really was any time to think about that while doing the shoot. We had a bigger budget compared to earlier films, but also our film was a big film in terms of shooting locations, stunts, SXF and VFX. So I didn’t really think “damn, how do we spent all this money?”, because we actually had to be really inventive on how to make the film look big than it was.
Also concerning the budget: your previous film, the short “Dr. Professor’s Thesis of Evil”, sought financing assistance through indiegogo. What was the process of securing funding for Heavy Trip?
Kudos on checking that out! Yeah, that was a interesting thing we worked on, a while back. Dr. Professor was actually our thesis project from Uni, so we had to be pretty creative on getting the budget together with that one. Heavy trip was a pretty usual Finnish/European film production, financing wise. We have government funding for films, which is a big chunk. Then we have movie grants from distributors and a TV channel. We also had a co-production deal with Norway, as we shot there, as well as another one with Belgium, as the films VFX work was done there. And then there was also some private investments for the film.
How much time elapsed from when the script was first written to the final edit of the film?
Six years. It was a long way to get it done. Most of the time we either worked on the script or getting the funding. It’s a hard job to get people to trust you their money, on your first film.
Is there any desire to revisit any of the characters seen in this film, in future projects?
I do love those characters and I believe it would be great to be back with them one day. We don’t really have a plan yet where to go but I hope people will find this film and really like it.
Now that Heavy Trip has had it’s premiere at SXSW are there plans to tour the film at other festivals in the US or around the globe?
There has been a lot of interest all over the US and I’m sure that we will have a festival circuit run. Can’t say which ones yet, though.
Thank you so much for your time. Heavy Trip is utterly delightful and a film I hope a lot of people around the world get to see, as it’s easy to recommend to so may different types of moviegoers.