Thursday, July 30, 2015

Confessions of a Distracted Production Designer

I really had no idea what I was getting into when Laura asked me to join this new project of hers. My instant answer was 'yes', of course. Giving always that answer is both a perk and curse - it makes me an opportunist, I see possibilities where others fail to find them - but can also drive me nuts with myself. I've sometimes driven myself over a stress line I shouldn't pass, just because there were many projects going on at the time, and I always put my full heart and energy to the cause I find interesting. Sometimes even if I wouldn't because I feel like I should do my best anyway.
     This spring and summer have been crazy. Good crazy and sometimes bit of tiresome crazy. Filming every weekend, making logos, posters, posting on social media - and then there's this thing called life. I've loved working with this group of people. Among people I already knew, I made new friends and working with them never feels too hard because there's this beautiful atmosphere of doing this thing together.

This summer I have been such a professional designer & PR person that I haven't had a computer to use for most of days. I've been working out of town, at a summer camp with children that needed and deserved all of my energy, abilities and maturity. At home on days off I wanted to lie down on my bed and stare at the ceiling, do absolutely nothing productive.
    But I'm a dreamer, and a fighter. If I could dream it I could make it, putting these visuals into place so the whole production would be easy on eye - even if that meant shorter sleep or less time to relax. And no, I don't have to do it on my own. We do it together. We have been such a close team, everybody's doing everything that helps Project Green Gables to be the show we are all here for.

I feel blessed. During recent times I've really seen how hard work pays off, both regarding Project Green Gables and my 'real' summer job. The positive comments we have gotten this far are giving us all so warm feels in our tummies that we might burst into fire some day. And working with the kids at the camp - I've learned so much about this human experience, about myself, authority, belonging, seeing and feeling. I've been quite confident most of my life but I've learned that my self appreciation is not just myself trying to make me like myself but also something others can see and feel.
    I'm overwhelmed by the number of the kind words said about Project Green Gables. When it was just us, even though we did our best and aimed high, it felt like we were doing it for ourselves. Now it's also you, our kindred spirits, that we are so grateful for. Our hard work has brought to us all these people and that pays off all the short nights and the little stress. We are together in this with you. We love you.

Sorry, I'm a bit sentimental. It was my last day at my fantastic job. The summer is almost over - it's a bit melancholic thought but the autumn brings a lot with it. I'm so excited to share this journey with Anne with you. I'm excited for the future.


P.S. It's also my birthday!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

PGG Origin Story

About a year ago I sat in front of my computer in my host family’s kitchen in New Zealand, where I was an exchange student for a year. I had just finished re-watching all of Lizzie Bennet Diaries for the second time, and I just sort of sat there feeling a familiar burn of wanting, needing to do something, write, act, dance express myself. And I sort of had this melancholic thought, sort of like prayer that went: “I wish I could do that”. And then I had a revelation: Why don’t I?
  Partly the thought came to me thanks to Candle Wasters, creators of the web series Nothing Much to Do that I had met, and briefly talked to at the Sheila Winn Shakespeare festival in Wellington. They were a group of students doing their own show from scratch, and if they could do it, why on earth couldn’t I? I mean home in Finland I attended a school literally filled with people, who aspire to do exactly that.
   So essentially Project Green Gables started from a place of severe need for self expression, but also as an attempt to create a space for ourselves. The entertainment business is very selective and almost impossible to get into. With the current economical situation it’s hard to get a job from anywhere, let alone the most competitive industry in the world, so I wanted to create a space for myself to do, what the guidance counsellors always tell us to do - employ myself. Nobody is going to make it happen for us, unless we try to make it happen for ourselves, and with the internet, one doesn’t have to be restricted by tv channels, or any kind of authority to get to the audience.
    Basically I decided to just go for it. Nothing was gonna stop me! The next step was to decide on a book. I mean, the whole aspect of modernizing an old classic was half the charm, and at the time I didn’t really feel ready to write something of my own. I pondered on a suitable book for a while, but when the answer popped into my head, it was the most natural choice ever: Anne of Green Gables has been a story that’s followed me all my life. My grandmother started reading it to me when I was 6, and L. M. Montgomery means the world to me. The books are simply my childhood. Therefore it’s also a story I know well, so I thought it would be a good basis for my creative work. So there it was, the perfect book.
   I was also fully going to exploit the fact that this being a project I started, I could pick and choose which ever role I wanted. I mean, when do you ever get that chance? After going through pretty much all the central females, and not being really satisfied with any of them, I realized that what I really wanted was to play Anne. Since I was a kid I felt I had a connection with her, and I felt like out of all the characters, I would be able to do the best job with her. I also realized what a different tone and depth Anne being black would bring to our show, making her struggles with her looks and her hear more up to date, more interesting, and more realistic. From this point on I was set on the idea of a black Anne, and that idea was what eventually separated that book from the others we were thinking of. I was more than willing to audition other actors for the role, I just wanted her to be dark and have natural hair. In the end no-one looking like that showed up, so I got to keep my role as Anne.
    After this idea struck me, I immediately messaged my buddy Janika, probably all in caps lock telling her about this idea. She was the natural choice for my partner in crime, simply for the reason that we work well together. We have the same values, same humour and a similar style of writing. She could immediately see my vision, and  that was it, we had officially started something.
     She read the book, we spent an all-nighter figuring out the episodes, and then we started casting. We’ve managed to gather an awesome group of such talented people. That is probably the biggest cliché ever, but I’m telling you every day I am amazed of what these people are capable of, and how hard they’re willing to work. It’s hard in the middle of all our studies, graduations and personal lives. It means a world to me to have such people trust an idea I came up with enough to stand by it till the end.
     The closer we get to the premiere we get, the more emotional I seem to get as well. We are doing it. We are creating that space, employing ourselves, expressing ourselves.

Welcome on board!