“Great memories are worth the pain”: The Story Of 2 Rockumentaries

A very special year that has forced us to enjoy concerts and festivals via “second hand” digital means. Many people might not realize how much work it is to create a proper live stream or a documentary. Here the story about two rockumentaries which took more than four years to complete:

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 contemplated Japanese lifestyle and history. Filmmaker Kimmo Kuusniemi traveled with the band and released those two Rock Documentaries MADE IN RUSSIA (2016) and LIVE IN JAPAN (2017) now online.

Below Kimmo provides us with special insight into all the hard work behind his two documentaries and why, absurdly, this pandemic situation gave it all a positive twist. Both films are now available as video-on-demand at these websites:

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

A 4 Year Relentless Journey

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.”
I didn’t realise the mad journey I was about to sign up for when I met Jonne at my brother’s 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 🙂

THE RUSSIA / SIBERIA TOUR

As for 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 have never seen before.

NEW TECHNOLOGY

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! Having my camera on a gimbal which was on a pole which allowed me reach into the most unusual angles around and amongst the band and the audience, and it looked quite stunning.
One of the most exciting new technology I used in Russia was the live Facebook streaming.
It was a great rush to see all the hundreds of likes, hearts and emojis flying all over the screen while filming. Over the years I have used all the possible filming techniques there are, but the Facebook streaming was something completely new, I was able to get the instant reaction from the audience around the world, which got me thinking how this could be put to better use in Japan.

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS

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.

CROWDFUNDING LESSON ONE

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”.
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.

 

LIVE IN JAPAN DOCUMENTARY

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 Rounakari (Korpiklaani violinist) tried to see as much as we could of the old traditional side of Japan. 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.

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 always 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.

CROWDFUNDING LESSON TWO

After my successful “Made in Russia” filming trip, I was very interested to see how I could improve on the new camera techniques I had used (gimbal, live streaming).
Live Documentary as a Social Engineering Experiment: I created for the Crowdfunders a private Facebook group that I could post live video clips as we travelled through Japan. The Crowdfunders could send me questions for the band and I could have the band members replies on the Facebook site. So a truly interactive documentary making! The Crowdfunders could actually affect the outcome of the documentary and really be part of it.

TECHNOLOGY

One Man Multicam: I also had more cameras (GoPro’s) with me so that I could do a one man multicamera recording of the live gigs. This One Man Multicamera worked superbly and in many ways was much easier and efficient than working with a big crew. The end results speak for itself.

360 camera: The other new technology I used in Japan was a 360 camera. I used it in some of my commentary sections and while out with the band as a normal camera. As the camera records everything around you in 360 degrees: you can edit the camera movements in the edit later.. You will never miss any moments ever again! I also filmed some songs and made one wacky video of one song with incredible 360 effects. In just 3 years the 360 technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and: the new 360 camera I use now has stunning resolution and has given me a completely new way to make films.
Using this technology and cameras allowed me to film on my own what would normally require a crew of at least 6- 10 people. Of course my years of experience working with big crews and bands are giving me an advantage in applying the new technology.

POST PRODUCTION / EDITING

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.

DOCUMENTARIES ARE ALL-CONSUMING BEASTS

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.

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.

FILM RELEASE: COVID-19 TO THE RESCUE

I find it very interesting that what I did in Japan in 2017, in pre Covid era, was exactly what Covid 19 has made other film makers to follow: Live Streaming and Interaction…
For me the best way to film a band performances is to record them and quickly edit afterwards and then release it as a special event. You have much better control of the quality and the end result is much more engaging than one of streaming with all possible technical hiccups. People are already showing signs of boredom towards straight live streams, more is needed.
I have some ideas for the future of filming as I try to stay one step ahead of the crowd 🙂

WHAT IS VOD?

After finishing the documentary edits, 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, DVDs have had a sudden death.

Then came COVID-19 which changed everything. Film and Music Businesses ground to a 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.

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

CONCLUSION

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.

DIDI LEARN ANYTHING FROM THESE PROJECTS?

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.

KIMMO KUUSNIEMI – SPLITSCREEN FILMS
www.splitscreendocs.com


About the filmmaker:
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, formed in 1978, was one of the first Finnish heavy metal bands. 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.

Klaudia Weber

Klaudia Weber

reckless and merciless dictator, so KNEEL! In other words, editor-in-chief, translator, website and ad admin, "Jane of all trades" - - - addicted to books (everything between Lord Of The Rings & quantum physics) and music, mainly Metal made in Finland. Furthermore, there's painting, drawing, movies, theater... so you can expect some variety on this website too. MA Master of Arts, English and American studies & Media communication = completed two full studies parallel within 5 years; very proud of my achievement - a bit later in life thanks to a scholarship - as a working class girl in a highlyconservative-romancatholic nation...