Antti Jokinen was found from a basketball team
Markus Selin, the founder of Solar Films and the executive producer since 1995
Solar Films was a natural continuation to Harlin & Selin Productions. The company never really worked out as Renny was stuck with his own affairs in the US and I had to run the firm in Finland by my lonesome. We decided to take the mutual company down.
We had an office in Mikonkatu, adjacent to the Ateneum Art Museum, on the premises of Planet Hollywood. Taina Saikkonen was there from the beginning; she was a natural choice to bring in to the new company.
I was involved in restaurant business already back then. Mika Karttunen had worked in television productions and feature films of Harlin & Selin and managed my restaurants Kaivohuone and Colorado. Taina and I hired Mika to be our first employee.
My burden was the bankrupted Nintendo business, which had left marks on my credit reports. So, I couldn’t (and didn’t want) to be the managing director. Via Harlin & Selin, I was the co-owner of the basketball club “Tapiolan Honka”, along with a few other businessmen. The team had a meet-and-greet occasion at the Kaivohuone restaurant; the players appeared in their sports uniforms. A curly-haired blonde man caught my attention immediately. He was Antti Jokinen.
It took Antti a couple of years to find out that the duties of a CEO included a bit more than only making TV programs and movies.
I was surprised to find out that he had graduated from a film school of The University of North Carolina. He told me he had worked for MTV music channel in New York, as a director. I invited him to be a partner and the CEO of Solar Films very soon after our first encounter.
It took Antti a couple of years to find out that the duties of a CEO included a bit more than only making TV programs and movies. Finally, we managed to talk Jukka Helle to come to us, from Fantasia Filmi.
1996 we moved to Lauttasaari. Taina designed our new office space; previously a warehouse of a company that imported Russian cars. Our landlord was the rock / show band Leningrad Cowboys; they had taken over the whole block.
The office was pretty fancy – but there was no air conditioning and climbing to the top floor gave filmmakers occasional palpitations. I was lucky enough to figure out a back entrance; trough the warehouse of RB Foods. That route had an elevator. We shared the premises with Jari Komulainen (export company Solo International) and Pequ Nieminen (public relations).
One of our first dream-come-true moments was, when the Finnish Film Foundation gave production support to our movie “Häjyt” (The Tough Ones). The movie was a critical and commercial success and it cemented the position of Solar Films on the Finnish cinema map.
2004 we moved to our office house in Veneentekijäntie. The reconstruction took almost a year and Jukka Helle spent a lot of time and energy supervising the project.
We do this until we die. At least.
The road has had lot of bumps. During the early years, we only managed to produce one feature film annually – which wasn’t enough to create a steady cashflow and we had to survive through some really critical times.
Jukka Ylitalo, Jussi Salonoja and Sedu Koskinen jumped aboard, as shareholders and board members. With their investments and sound advise, we managed to move on. Then Mikael Ritto reached out; he was running Nordisk Film, the movie branch of the Danish media conglomerate Egmont. Ritto was a visionary, with his roots deep in the music and advertising world. I liked him immediately and against all my plans, Nordisk bought 50 per cent of Solar Films. We had great plans, but soon Ritto stepped out. He was replaced by Allan Hansen, who still runs Nordisk, the oldest operational film studio in the world.
Despite the cultural differences, the co-operation with the Danes has gone well. They have allowed us to do our work in peace – and when we’ve had cashflow problems, the big brother has usually given us a hand.
Our present speed is 3-5 movies a year. Unfortunately the paradox of this industry is that the budgets can’t grow, despite the continuous increase in the production costs. Producing movies right now is harder than ever before.
Internationalization is not our primary goal – but should it happen, we wouldn’t say no. But one thing we’ll never do, is giving up. We do this until we die. At least.