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HBO Nordic buys series on Finnish coronavirus experiences

The series of seven short films is HBO’s first original Finnish production.

Kuvassa on ohjaaja Alli Haapasalo.
Alli Haapasalo has written and directed one of the short films commissioned by HBO Nordic. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

HBO Nordic has commissioned a series of seven short films called Isolated (Eristyksissä in Finnish), the first original Finnish production in the subscription-based TV network’s history.

Each film in the series is produced by a different Finnish director and all are themed around adapting to life during the coronavirus pandemic. The directors were free to choose their own film’s genre themselves.

The series is currently in production and will premiere on the HBO Nordic platform before it is available on the platform's other European services, encompassing 21 different countries, later in the year.

The exact launch date will be made available shortly.

"The proposal was submitted around May Day, and within a week HBO Nordic received confirmation that the series would be produced," said Alli Haapasalo, one of the seven directors of the film series.

In a press release, HBO Nordic named the other directors as AJ Annila, Mikko Kuparinen, Mika Kurvinen, Teemu Nikki, Marja Pyykkö and Aleksi Salmenperä.

The list includes some famous names in Finnish cinema. Both Annila, for his film The Eternal Road (Ikitie in Finnish) and Salmenperä, for Distractions (Häiriötekijä in Finnish) have won Jussi awards for best director, which is Finland’s equivalent to the Academy Awards.

Coronavirus brought challenges and opportunities

The short films were each made with a flexible approach to the usual production process.

Kuparinen, who has directed a number of internationally acclaimed short films as well as TV series, told Yle that it was motivating to be involved in HBO’s first original Finnish production.

"Due to the circumstances, the format was both limiting and challenging. On the other hand, we were able to do what we wanted within that framework. I got to try things that wouldn’t fit a normal TV story," Kuparinen said.

Meanwhile Haapasalo’s episode was filmed in May with a team of five women in her own apartment building, although mostly in a neighbour’s empty flat.

"They were at their summer cottage because of the coronavirus," Haapasalo said. "I asked them how they would react to three days of filming in their apartment."

The exceptional circumstances brought about by the pandemic had both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, Haapasalo was forced to arrange catering services herself, but on the other, the film crew was relatively easy to assemble because the film industry in Finland was on hiatus -- although coronavirus guidelines were still adhered to on set.

"Disinfectant was used and hands were washed," Haapasalo added. "There were no protective masks though, except for the make-up artist, who had to go close to the actors."

Haapasalo describes her short film as a drama in which human tragedy raises comical points, a theme also present in Kuparinen’s episode.

"I made a satire about a couple, both of whom are frustrated by the pandemic situation," Kuparinen explained. "The story unfolds when they both blame the state of emergency for everything that bothers them in their lives. The story started naturally from myself and my own moments of everyday frustration."

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