Posted November 23, 2010 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Features

Director Jalmari Helander

Director Director Jalmari Helander on Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, out now on DVD and Blu ray.

Director Director Jalmari Helander on Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, out now on DVD and Blu ray.

Christmas themed
horror is going through a major resurgence these days and the man leading the
charge is Finland’s Jalmari Helander. Long before the arrival of Treevenge,
Helander – a commercial and music video director – had directed a pair of short
films about the ‘real’ Santa Clauses living in the far north and the men who
traffic illegally in them. Titled Rare Exports, the films were huge online hits. So when the time
came for Helander to step into the feature world … well, you can guess what
he’s doing. The feature version of Rare Exports promises to have an 80’s style,
kid friendly, horror-fantasy vibe. Like The Monster Squad only with more snow and with Santa being the
monster. Helander was good enough to answer a few of our questions about the

Todd Brown:
RARE EXPORTS is something that has been with you for a long time. Can you
describe the origins of the project and what has made it so appealing to you
for so long?

JH: In 2003 I was
working in a commercial production company, and they wanted to make some kind
of Christmas related film as a present to their clients. I started to create an
idea. I called my brother Juuso, and few days later he had an interesting idea.
Guys who hunted down Santa. We started to build the script from that, and I
presented the script to my producers. They liked it. But there was something
like 3,000 € to make that happen… But after a few favors and millions of
phone calls, we were able to start the production. We had two days to shoot. We
shot in one and a half. We gave the DVD´s to the clients and we also released
it in the web. Two weeks later, we realized that it had become a hit. But the
idea of Santa had been in my head many years before that. I felt that people
needed to know what the original Santa is like.

How difficult did you find the process of
adapting the short films into a feature? What kind of challenges were there?

Just to adapt
the short film idea and to make it a feature could have been a serious mistake.
I realized that I finally have the time to tell the whole concept of the real
Christmas that I have been thinking about a lot. And of course I wanted to keep
the same characters and have the same feel as the short films.

I know
some Nordic countries (Iceland for sure) have VERY different legends about
Santa than the ones we’re accustomed to here in North America. Is that true for
Finland? Did you grow up hearing about a scary Santa or is this something you
discovered later?

I have to
confess that the legend of Santa in the feature is a little bit scarier than
the stories I heard as a child. But the reason for all this is the original
Finnish Santa. He was not a nice, fat and jolly Coca Cola Santa but a scary
creature who came on Christmas Eve and demanded presents for himself. That was
the original story. And it made me wonder why this story has been turned into
something totally different. It´s weird. There has to be some kind of
conspiracy behind this… Something bad happened, and they are tryin to make us
all forget what the real Santa is about.

fantasy is a genre I love and have been sad to watch slip away, but this really
seems to capture that late 1980s spirit. What were the key films you looked at
when trying to find the right tone for this?

It’s hard to say
exactly. There´s a bit of a mix of E.T., Signs, Fargo and Pan´s Labyrinth, but nothing like those films at all.

What would
you say the balance is between horror, fantasy and comedy in the film? What
audience did you make it for?

The answer of
the mix is in my previous answer. It’s not a horror film, that´s for sure, but
it´s not for little children either. I hope it is funny but in a dark kind of
way. And it´s really hard to say who is the audience. I think for people like
me. When I go to movies I like to see something nice and exiting. Something
that I can´t see in my everyday life. I want to be entertained.

The film
is so different from anything else to have ever come out of the region… did you
have trouble pitching the concept to investors and the industry?

Actually no. I
had some starting problems with the script, but when the idea was ready, I was
lucky to see, that everything went quite smoothly. The short films helped, and
they seem to like the script.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.