Q&A with producer Jesse Fryckman from the Finnish production company Bronson Club. The company has been established to create a home for the best of the new generation of filmmakers and to bring edgy and personal low budget features into international marketplace. The founders of Bronson Club are Jesse Fryckman and Tero Kaukomaa, whose credits include Dancer in the Dark by Lars von Trier, Jade Warrior by AJ Annila and Man’s Job by Aleksi Salmenperä.

We caught up with Jesse Fryckman on the set of the Finnish thriller, Sauna. Although this is the Bronson Club‘s first production, the director has the Finnish box office hit Jade Warrior under his belt. In addition to being a hit on the domestic market, this first-ever Finnish Chinese kung-fu movie has been sold to over 50 countries. For shooting key scenes of Sauna, the Finnish filmmakers chose the medieval village of Řepora, just outside of Prague, as the backdrop for Finland in the year 1595.

Why are you shooting a Finnish film, centered on a typical Finnish tradition, in the Czech Republic?

I was familiar with the Czech Republic from some commercials in the past. And for Sauna, we found the perfect location here. We scouted Finland, Estonia, Russia and Romania but we never found a village resembling Řepora. Although it was built as an open-air museum for tourists and holds a variety of historical events, it’s got patina and doesn’t look at all “touristy“ or fake, which was the case with similar open-air museums in other countries. Moreover, the interiors of various buildings here can also be used, and even the surroundings are great – fish ponds, tree stumps, marshes…  We actually built our “sauna” in one of those fishponds. And what’s more, it’s all just a stone’s throw away from Prague.

How would you describe the film? I’ve read that it’s a horror movie…

I would call it a philosophical horror movie or a thriller. It’s not the type of horror flick most people imagine – rife with blood and violence. The author of our horror story is originally a philosopher, and the movie looks at the question of whether guilt and sin can be washed away. And the sauna, which has a huge tradition in Finnish society, is a metaphor for and the depiction of that. Can a sauna be a place where one can purge oneself of sin? A means of attaining absolution? One interesting fact is that Sauna is not the only horror movie being made in Finland. I know of two others in the works now. On the Finnish scene today we have several bold young directors who dare to be different and undertake genre films.

How expensive is a Finnish horror movie or thriller such as yours?

Our budget is one million euros. Just a little below the average Finnish budget. We have 23 shooting days, nine of which we did in Finland in the fall, and now we’re working here on location in the Czech Republic for 14 days. We considered shooting the film only here but we needed some truly vast swampland with a broad horizon, which we weren’t able to find here. Your countryside is too hilly for us, not panoramic enough for the shots we needed. But I have to say that the quality of the Finnish shots, as well as the scenes shot in the Czech Republic, is great; they really seem like the product of a bigger budget production.

So you’re shooting in the Czech Republic for financial reasons? Is it cheaper here

That’s not the reason at all. It isn’t cheaper here than it would be in Finland. We are shooting here because the film and professional infrastructure is truly advanced. In Finland we would have the possibility of getting various services through bartering and getting what we need on a shoestring. Everything here is more professional, more organized, and the prices correspond to the standard. When I told my partner (in our production company) we were going to shoot in the Czech Republic, he was surprised and replied, “But there’s no support or incentives there! It’s going to be expensive – are you crazy?”

And how did you respond? What has the Czech Republic got to offset those handicaps?

As I told him, we found the perfect location here. That’s number one. And it’s great that we’ll be able to show a fresh location in a Finnish film. It’s a change. Furthermore, I have to say that, to us, coming to shoot in the Czech Republic means absolute certainty – here, everything’s available, everything’s accessible and feasible, and the local filmmaking infrastructure is amazing and superb. The people are pros and they take excellent care of us. Do you know that you have something we don’t have in Finland? Something that we have to build for every new film we shoot? A stable film industry and infrastructure. You have everything here, and yet…

And yet what?

I don’t understand how it’s possible that the government of a country with such an advanced film industry doesn’t support it. Other countries are pouring money into building studios and beefing up the infrastructure in order to get their film industries going… Here you already have everything and your state doesn’t do anything to maintain and support it. I don’t get it…