Solar Films is also the master of wild and outrageous partying
Jorma Sairanen has worked as a program director in various TV channels 1986-2014; his latest employer was MTV3. Now he is the CEO of his own company, Carmel Ltd.
I met Markus Selin first time in the late 80’s, after the movie “Born American” was already out. I had started as a program director at MTV3 and was trying to get to know the film-making circles better.
Selin (much skinnier in those days) and Renny Harlin were sitting quietly on the couch of Ilkka Jalarmo, a seemingly tight CFO of MTV3. The boys needed money; it seemed like the box office revenues of Born American didn’t quite match the production costs. Jalarmo was known for his habit of teasing the film-makers-in-trouble; this was the case also then. He said that the boys seem to need the contract more than us. I intervened – I guess I wanted to be the junior godfather of the trade – and said that we should take the film, it is a reasonable attempt. Really; I don’t think it’s much of a movie, but I was aiming to please. Good for all of us – but we really had no idea then, where we all would be in 25 years time.
From that time on, Selin has stayed in touch with me in a friendly manner. Renny was very full of himself already back then – and the only way to reach him was a phone call via three secretaries. In a professional capacity, the next time I heard from them was when the project “Gladiators” came up. The program was a novelty in Finland and probably the production standards would still stand up, even by today’s criteria. Although it is best remembered from Tony Halme (later a parliament member) and two female contenders who were later convicted to a lifetime sentence for murder.
I was trying to understand the debauchery and the noisy partying that Solar seemed to have a monopoly in.
Renny stayed in Los Angeles and became the quintessential Hollywood cliché with his Ferraris. Markus set out to manage the Solar Films. The company is known for its numerous movies, especially for its blockbusters – but I think the significance of Solar in maintaining the overall concept of show business in Helsinki and in Finland should be recognized. Those were the days, many of you will think. But for us elderly, 40 and plus, the magnificent events of Solar, the gala premieres and the VIP areas of various restaurants and the attending stars were an unforgettable experience. With a tiny touch of danger involved. I have always been a bit on the reserved, dullish side in my behavior – but as an insider of the show business, I was trying to understand the debauchery and the noisy partying that Solar seemed to have a monopoly in. Most likely, this particular type of energy is envied and missed by many younger moviemakers of today. Maybe it’s a good thing that Markus has slowed down a bit – because the old ways were not healthy-conscious and we need him to produce more good programs.
On the television side, Solar Films productions have always been very professional. In my opinion; Solar was extremely strong in the drama department, which is not blooming at the moment, for profitability reasons. “In Cold Blood” and “Fragments” will stay in TV history forever; both were marvelous programs. Solar must have made a fair amount of money with its multiple-season game shows, such as “The Weakest Link” – but there were a few real pearls also in that department. My personal favorite is of course “Joe Millionaire”; still the best reality show of all times. The production had to be put together in an insane schedule; the program could only be made once, because the joke was revealed after the first episode and the show could not have be taken seriously after that. Solar Films had the production up and running in southern France in 3-4 weeks after the first briefing. No other production company could have accomplished that. I was amazed back then – and still am – how motivated the Solar bunch is to make hit programs. It is not just a job for them – we can still use the phrase genuine showbusinessmanship. The essential parts are the ability to take risks, the willingness to work for long hours and the burning desire to attract audiences. A lot of audiences.
I said that we should take the film, it is a reasonable attempt. Really; I don’t think it’s much of a movie, but I was aiming to please.
The economical success is vital to any company – but I’ve noticed that during the years also the quality standards have been increasing in the Solar Films productions, despite the risks. “Home, Sweet Home”, “Summertime”, “Village People” and “The Midwife” could not have been considered as surefire hits – but nevertheless, those endeavours were undertaken with enthusiasm and passion. That is great and that will leave a mark. Who can even predict now what’s the most remembered and appreciated production, twenty years down the line? It can well be one of the less popular ones.
Solar has always been known as the company of Markus. Of course, those who are in the film business, have always known that behind him there is a big bunch of well-known and not-so-well-known professionals, very carefully chosen by Markus. Personification in a production company is an asset – and the word of Markus has always been his bond. It was more than once I had to call him, to make sure the production was running smoothly. To find a man you can trust in a Finnish production company – sometimes it’s easier said than done. But what lies in the future? What happens to Solar when Markus retires? Nothing happened to MTV3 when I left – but that’s a different story altogether. Stay tuned and think about the perpetuity, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to see at least the 30th anniversary of Solar. And I’m going to attend that party as well!