Interview with Timo Vuorensola, Director of Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning

It took seven years for Finnish director Timo Vuorensola to make his first feature, Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, an epic sci-fi comedy that has evoked a huge online following. Relying on volunteer fans to help create the film, Timo was able to include astonishing high-tech special effects in his low-budget movie. First released in 2005, the film continues to reach new audiences through online portals and traditional outlets. Hear Timo explain how the process evolved in his presentation, Distribution Case Study: Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, at the Conference on Wednesday, 22 October at 3 pm.

What inspired you to make Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning?
The key sources of inspiration for the team were definitely the Star Trek and Babylon 5 TV series, as well as our earlier experiences with net distribution. But, as the director, I had never watched Star Trek, and so my main motivation was just the desire to make some good use of my time.

How were you able to create all the special effects cheaply?
Our producer, Samuli Torssonen, was very talented that field, so his enthusiasm provided a good start, plus we had plenty of time to do everything. More importantly, we received a lot of help from our online community, which had around 3000 members. Many of these people helped with aspects of the production by donating their skills, 3D models, and time to the project. That was very important. We also had help from Samuli’s school, which gave us the software and video equipment, and Samuli’s mother, who offered us a nice basement where we could shoot.

What was your distribution plan?
It was always our goal to put the film out there, on the Internet, for free. It was only later that we decided to sell it on DVD, and then after that Universal Pictures contacted us distribute the DVD. There was no actual plan, everything just worked out bit by bit. We made back the money we invested (15,000€) and more through selling our DVD, distribution rights, TV rights, and merchandise. Also, to date, the film has been downloaded about 8 million times.

Why have you decided to continue allowing people to download the film for free?
We had a community that helped us to create the film for free, so it was a natural decision to distribute the film for free as well. Also, we knew that nobody would watch a Finnish language amateur science fiction parody if they had to pay for it. They would only be willing to pay for it after they had seen that a Finnish-language amateur science fiction parody was actually worth it!

What advice would you offer a filmmaker who wants to follow in your footsteps and make a low-budget epic parody?
Do it, but don’t imitate others – try to create something original. Also, include a director or producer who doesn’t like or doesn’t understand the world you are parodying – that will force the story out of just a fan flick and into true, stand-alone parody.

What one thing would you like to see happen or developed to increase the efficiency of the independent film business?
I would like to see Internet filmmaking services join forces to create an alternative to traditional film production. There are loads of ways you can work more efficiently on the Internet, but as long as all the service providers are competing with each others, there’s little possibility of this happening.