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22nd December 2018
Full Interview with War's Director, Akseli Tuomivaara
[Advent Calendar 2018]

This year marks two amazing milestones; the fifteen anniversary of the beloved Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne and the fifteen anniversary of the brilliant Poets of the Fall. We celebrated the former back in October, but had a special feature earlier on in the year for POTF's achievement in which we spoke to Akseli Tuomivaara, co-director for the Alan Wake-themed music video, War.

Back in 2010, less than a month after the release of Alan Wake on XBOX 360, Poets of the Fall released their latest music video, War. The band had the song featured in the game, as well as two additional custom tracks as their in-game alter ego, Old Gods of Asgard.

Following the launch, the band teamed up with Remedy and directing duo Aleksi Koskinen and Akseli Tuomivaara to bring Alan Wake to life. We spoke to Akseli about his time directing the music video and his time spent on the set of War.

We published an article about his experiences as the video's director, but today I wanted to post the interview in full including details which didn't make it into the finished piece posted earlier in the year.

Photo by Tiia Öhman.

How did you become involved with Poets of the Fall, and with the directing of the “War” music video?
I hadn't worked previously with POTF. I believe I was recommended by Stobe Harju, the guy who directed many of their previous promos (Carnival of Rust etc.). Stobe was busy directing in game video material for Alan Wake, so he couldn't make the video. I'm also a cousin of Petri Järvilehto, one of the founders of Remedy - not sure, if that had something to do with them contacting me about the gig :)

Were you familiar with the source material before the project and how did the game influence creative decisions?
Best part of making this video was to get a private tour in Remedy and see the game before it's release. Based on that I wrote a loose [first] draft of the script. To be honest the script was just a bunch of random scenes trying to mimic the mood of the game. Creative decisions were all limited by the budget (very small). We had to shoot in Finland and with a tiny crew, so I was a bit worried how are we going to pull of the mood of Bright Falls. Thankfully we had the actor Ilkka Villi (who plays Alan Wake also in the game) with us. Remedy games are so character driven that I knew we could achieve something cool for the fans just by shooting Ilkka doing his act in the middle of a some random forrest.

I also really liked the song War and was listening it on a repeat. The lyrics and the mood of the song naturally had a huge impact on everything.

Photo by Tiia Öhman.

The music video shows a cyclical set of events, starting and ending at the same point, what was the process like determining the series of events and what would need to be included?
The "cyclical set of events" was mostly created in the editing. In the script (I believe) the beginning of the video was something different. Using the same scene twice this way is quite an old trick, but who cares if it works. ;)

Maybe you are interested to know: in the original version of the last scene we show that the lumberjacks (played by the band members) have kidnapped Alan Wake's wife Alice, and are holding her down in the back of pick-up truck. But the guys at Remedy asked us to edit it differently, because it contradicted the narrative of the game too much. Besides that I can't remember any major changes from Remedy's behalf.

Similar to the “Alan Wake” game, there’s the contrast of light and dark in the music video with scenes taking place in different levels of lighting. Did you faces any challenges adjusting for the various shots or setting up the different lighting effects?
Constant changing of the moods by lighting (from night to day, dream world to real world...) is a big part of Alan Wake. So we naturally wanted to use that in the video as well. We shot it in only two days, so we had to work long hours to cover all the different moods. Things never go by the plan, but with this one we mostly had a good luck with the weather and the locations.

What was the most challenging shot to get for the music video?
I can't remember anymore the most challenging shot. The scene we had most trouble with was the night scene where Alan and Alice are surrounded by the taken-like lumberjacks. We shot it really fast and late in the night, which kind of shows in the end result.

Photo by Tiia Öhman.

Do you have any favourite moments from working on the project?
My favourite moments include all the crazy improvisation we managed to pull of during the shootings. For example the scene with the police car was added very late when we found out there was a replica of an American police car available nearby. In the same scene also the roadkill fox was added on location using a fox fur from the wardrobe and some jam (as blood) from the catering.

Looking back on the project, what was the moment you’re most proud of?
The moment that made me proud was reading trough all the (mostly) positive feedback from the fans of Alan Wake and POTF. What made me especially happy was the comments by some fans in the US, who thought the video was shot in the same epic locations as the Bright Falls TV-series. In reality everything was shot just 30min ride from Helsinki and I added the mountains digitally by myself in the post production.

Photo by Tiia Öhman.

Were there any ideas that you would have wanted to include if circumstances (budget, deadlines etc) were different?
If we had the budget I would have loved to really do justice for the visually stunning world of the game - camera flying on top of mountains and rivers, weather changing in the middle of the shot etc... On the other hand I'm quite happy with the video the way it is. With the tiny budget we were kind of forced to be do things in an original way instead of trying to copycat the game. After all it's just a music video, not a game commercial. ;)

What projects are you working on at the moment?
Currently I'm working a feature film project I hope to shoot in 2019. I have two small sons which is also keeping me busy!


A huge thank you to Akseli for the interview! 
You can follow his work on his website, akselituomivaara.com

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