Kristiina Pervilä has been working as an independent producer since 1988. She has produced or co-produced a wide range of creative multinational documentaries for TV and cinema, international opera and ballet productions for stage and coordinated guest performances of foreign opera houses in Finland and Sweden. Between 1982-83 and 1988-93 she lived and worked outside Finland. In April 1999 she founded Oy Millennium Film Ltd.

Kristiina Pervilä has also been working as tutor, analyst, expert in EDN and Eurodoc training programmes in various countries since 1999 and as a moderator in Nordisk Forum. She was an executive board member of EDN 2003-2005 and started as group leader for Eurodoc 2006.

On her spare time, Kristiina sometimes goes fishing. [1]

We’ve met her on her master class at MakeDox workshop for visual narration and camera work 1 picture, 1000 words”: 

She’s also in the jury for this years Young Onion Award.

For the 8. edition of MakeDox – 8 questions with finish producer Kristiina Pervilä

1. Preparing for this conversation I’ve read somewhere: “A country without documentaries, is like a country without a photo album.” Having a local focus in mind, what is most interesting for you to document about Finland?

  • It’s more complicated than that. For me, it’s more to make a film by a creative way that really delivers something. I don’t go for films by topic, because you can make a film about everything: people, even a peace of stone. For me it’s much more important how you tell the story.

2. Now from the local, moving to the general:  The whole history and experience of documentary film in Finland, does it focus on a certain topic, can we put it in some kind of definition, if that’s possible?

  • We have a long documentary history in Finland, especially filmmakers that only do documentaries, so it depends of the author. It can be about the Finish nature, culture, history, whatever.

3. You are working as an independent producer since 1988. I am a little bit interested about the gender side of it. As a woman in this field, what is your experience?

  • At first I was working outside of Finland, and mostly with ballet and opera performances on stage. And as a woman in this field… maybe 28 years ago there were not so many women producers, but I don’t think that it’s a question of gender, but of knowing what are you doing. But I must say that as in any field where there are women, you must be double as good as the guys to make it, and that would probably also be da case in producing. What has been joy for me, is that today in Finland, not only that there are a lot of woman producers, but in general we have a lot women filmmakers, directors, cinematographers, sound designers, and they are good ones. I have worked even in all-women crews and that brings extra synergy. It’s not a question of are you a male or female producer, you can be good or bad.

4. How did you started out working with documentaries?

  • By accident. I moved back to Finland in ’93 from Italy, I was working there with my previous husband for the festival in Verona, and when I moved to Finland I was unhappy being unemployed, and the only thing I knew about films was probably – Bambi. But producing is not rocket science, you just have to be clear and have organizing skills, you have to know how to work with artistic people and some basics about the creative process. But all that was very familiar for me from my previous work. So then, I slowly started freelancing for couple of companies and in ‘99 I’ve put up my own company.

5. Trough a producers speculum, how can a documentary change local perspectives (ex: can it influence local development, communal work, activism…), having in mind that the production team does a lot of negotiation even with the authorities and there can be a hell of situations?

  • I think that, if it couldn’t make a difference, I would not do my job. I think it’s one of the most important tasks for a documentary to raise discussion, to open the eyes, to make people think, even better if those issues are close to you, happening in your own country. Maybe the most interesting ones are social issues, I’ve been working on films about recycling, climate change, human rights issues, all that told in a creative way that doesn’t preach, I hate preaching, and I hate making statements. I rather want to believe that the viewer has the intelligence and the interest when he hears the story in an interesting way, to decide his own thinking. If we can do that, the documentary has been worth of making. And especially, as I said, if it happens in your own country even better

6. The concept of loneliness in “The bride of the seventh heaven”, and the concept of loneliness in “The Swedish theory of love” (Eric Gandini, 2015). Is independency of an individual a Nordic thing, or is it only my perception of another culture, different then Balkan mentality?

  • To be honest, I don’t know the Balkan mentality enough to make judgement about it. Actually the “Bride…” it’s made in Siberia, on the Yamal Peninsula with the community of nomads, nation known as the Nenets. It just happens that the woman followed in the documentary lives in Finland with the filmmaker – her husband. I was privileged to be invited in the production of that film. About your question – no, independency it’s not a Nordic thing. Actually independency is even more important in countries that have very small resources.

7. “My name is Sabina Spielrein”; “Three rooms for melancholia” “Zavtra – Tomorrow ”… Because they are all different stories, can you pick one, and tell me some special notion left on you, some especially important experience?

  • Again, it depends. Because every single film I’ve worked on, and I think I have co-produced 45 different documentaries more or less creative, in all of them must have been something special, because without them I could never meet so many people around the globe, seen the societies, got to know the ordinary people and their lives and ways of thinking and then noticed that after all we are not that different from each other, no matter what is your religion, your color re county. I find them all special in their own way. That’s why I don’t like competitions, I don’t think that films should be raced as horses. So when I am a jury I take that as a great responsibility: I must watch the films some 3 times, decide what can be good in terms of content, of cinematography, potential, production value, there are so many things that must be taken in consideration.

8. The dreadful side of postmodernism and the politics of corporations and funding hit the documentary world: what about the ethic problem of “social porn” and “humanitarian tourism”, how can we recognize this side effect in documentaries?

  • I would like to be more optimistic and say that we don’t, but we do. You are absolutely wright. I question myself what’s the reason and consequence. I see it like an overall trend in, for example the TV world today. So what do we see: we see competitions in which if your nose is too big – you are in danger to drop out.  Or you are maybe too fat, maybe too something. We are put in constant competition with each other, in many different ways. It is because public broadcasters nowadays are the biggest funders of independent documentaries. They also go for the ratings and they have commercial expectations and power. It’s not simple to say “that’s his/hers problem”, but it’s more of an overall pressure. It’s systematic, and even some people call it “development”. I have a feeling that the human kind is somehow repeating and repeating the same mistakes. Look at the youngsters today – everyone is in a hurry to be efficient and to compeat. I am so lucky that now when I am 60 years old I am not in that place any more. That one of the good things when you are older.

You can read the MKD version here

[1] Info from Millennium Film

[2] Photos – MakeDox photo section

[3] Images – Millennium Film

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