Meet the Filmmaker: Aleksi Raij – Finnsurf

In his first feature film, Aleksi Raij set out to make a movie about surfing in Finland, but he ended up with so much more. In peeling back the fleecy layers of the lives of a handful of waveriders from one of the world’s most inhospitable surf locations, Aleksi uncovered a fascinating yet touching story.  Finnsurf focuses on five individuals and presents an intimate portrait of life in this Scandinavian state, a place where the surf arrives with huge storm fronts, where white outs blend with wind lashed white water. What is it that attracted these five souls to the surfing lifestyle and what drives them to paddle out into the Baltic Sea in water that is life threateningly frigid? The answer will make you re-evaluate just what it means to be a hardcore surfer. Finnsurf will have its UK Premiere at the London Surf / Film Festival on Saturday the 15th October at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. In the meantime we caught up with Aleksi to find out more about the film.

LS/FF – Were you already a surfer when you decided to make the film?

A.R. -Yes, I was, but not many times in Finland. I surfed in different countries before.

Did you already have an idea in mind about the film you wanted to make – did you have a story in mind you wanted to follow?

It started off to be more about Finnish surfing overall but then later, these five people become the focus. So it turned out a bit different in the end to how I thought at first. It changed a little during the process. It went naturally in that direction. However I always wanted to make a movie about passion, a movie that feels good.

Did you have a background in filmmaking?

Yes, when I started the process I was studying at film school. I’m now working in a film production company (Pablo Films) & freelancing. Finnsurf was kind of a hobby project in the beginning. It was made pretty much without any budget. Where I’ve been working – Pablo Films – they have all the equipment, so I’ve been using that. It’s a nice production company, everyone can do their own projects and others will help, and it’s working pretty well. It’s more like bunch of good fellows having fun with making films… but still serious. Finnsurf was made like that – people put in just time and equipment. So not much money in the beginning. When it was pretty much finished we got some sponsors.  Another production company, Flatlight Films helped out a lot as well. And so did Macwell Creative with graphic design.

There’s some great music in the film.

Some music is from Finnish bands (Raappana, Jukka Poika, Jenni Vartiainen, Juno, Antti Vuornos & Pauli Lepistö, etc.) and some music our sound designer, Totte Rautiainen, made for the film. About half is an original score.

Is there a large surf community that you could draw upon in Finland?

Yes there are some. Not super many that actually surf here in Finland, but there are many who travel a lot.

What was their reaction when you were making the film? Were they supportive?

The reaction was pretty good. As I know, no one was against the film…  Many people helped out a lot.

How did people react to your filming – did you have to be careful around secret spots?

It’s not like super open, but there are some places everybody knows as well.  I want to respect the secrets.

How was the reaction to the film when it was screened?

Pretty good. We had one screening already and it was nice to hear people were reacting to the film really well. We got some good response after the movie.

New projects?

Right now I’m working as an editor on a Finnish feature film (Periferia) – maybe after that I’ll take a holiday and I’ll start on another project. I’m going to Indonesia for two months soon – surfing and travelling around.