The shooting for Iron Sky: The Ark was finished in the beginning of 2018, but the struggles with Iron Sky The Coming Race continued – our day in court was approaching. The first part of this blog post was released here, and the second part here!
Timo: For a long time we had been trying to understand the lawsuit we were facing, and our only conclusion was that the plaintiff(s) had misunderstood the Finnish copyright law. In short, the lawsuit attempted to show that the plaintiffs – five ex-employees of the VFX vendor of the first Iron Sky – had the rights for certain visual elements of the first film, and that the copyright transfer agreements they had signed weren’t valid, and the copyrights hadn’t been transferred. However, that wasn’t the end of it, and here’s where it gets confusing: their claim was that somehow all this would lead to them co-owning the whole Iron Sky IP, because (if I understand their claim correctly) their work was so instrumental to the film and the story that it basically was half of the movie. To anyone’s understanding this had absolutely no basis in law, so trying to argue the matter in court felt a lot like trying to have a discussion with the taunting Frenchman in the end of Monty Python & The Holy Grail.
The main guy behind the lawsuit was a VFX artist who first started as an intern, and got laid off by the his employer two years after the first Iron Sky had come out. And he was damn angry about it – to us.
As the defendants, we argued that while they did work on the film, they were working on a work-for-hire basis, under a signed contract, as part of a much bigger team of tens of visual effect artists. The VFX team was tightly led by the VFX Supervisor (Samuli Torssonen), who was creatively and productionally responsible of the outcome of the visual effects, and by the Art Director / Concept Artist (Jussi Lehtiniemi), who designed in great detail and oversaw the production of every asset created for the movie, and ultimately by the director of the movie, who directed and had the final approval on the shots.
The four court days were interesting, to say the least. During those days we went through tons of evidence, videos and heard many witnesses on both sides.
The most important factor who made sense into the case was our lawyer Ilkka Vuorenmaa from KPMG, Finland. Even when we were grinding our hands off due to frustration, he was always level-headed and cool, and said that we have nothing to worry about as long as we tell the things the way they are, and provide the evidence, which we had.
Tero: This court case was the tip of the iceberg. The plaintiff in question had been harassing us the last 4-5 years, contacting our partners causing a lot of damage already before the actual lawsuit had begun. I give you an example: we have just signed an agreement with a company, and invoiced the 1st part of the deal, when the board members of this company were approached by this plaintiff. The payment, which was very much needed, was immediately frozen and delayed for couple of months, causing new unnecessary problems in the production.
Timo: After the court case was done, we went on our merry way, focusing on our challenges of re-closing the financing and waiting for the court’s decision, which they would give in one to two month’s time.
Another little stroke of luck happened in the spring of 2018, just after the court dates: I was asked to do a workshop for a company called Digital Sputnik, which wanted to present their magnificent LED-based lighting tech for a bunch of film school students in Los Angeles. I wasn’t that excited about shooting whatever, but thought that if I could make it part of The Coming Race, it would make sense to do it. Since, hell, nothing was going on with the post of The Coming Race anyway at the moment, I could just as well shoot a small bit and throw it as part of the film.
I called Vladimir Burlakov and Lara Rossi and asked if they’re game, two years after finishing the principal photography, for just one more additional scene, to be shot in sunny LA. And of course they were. So off we went to LA, shot two amazing days with Digital Sputnik, Lara and Vladi, and came back with 3 full minutes of footage ready to be inserted into the movie itself. We were lucky to pull it off, and greatly thankful to Digital Sputnik for letting us have this chance!
It was actually the last shooting day of the workshop when the court decision came. The court ruled in our favor, stating the plaintiffs did not have the copyrights they claimed they had, and they would have to pay theirs and our legal costs, which totalled somewhere far over $100k.
We, of course, had no financial gains with the court resolution, and the damage the whole fuzz had costed us probably would amount to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in delays, but at least we had cleared our case, and most importantly, finally now the finishing touches were able to be made for the financing agreements. Iron Sky The Coming Race was back in action, after nearly 1,5 years hiatus.
(Mind you, the plaintiff is trying to appeal, so the show may not be completely over yet, but it no more can hinder the finishing and release of Iron Sky The Coming Race. It’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court would accept the appeal since the resolution was quite solid and SC doesn’t usually accept more than 10% of the thousands of appeals they get every year.)
Tero: Closing Conference Calls – my weekly routine for the last about half a year. Every week Investors, Producers, Completion Bond and their lawyers from USA, Germany, Belgium, UK and Finland spent a good hour on the conference. We had new financing partners and the basic structure for the agreements set up, but there were still a lot of details to solve to really be ready to sign. Im sure none of the parties thought that it can take more than 2 to 3 months to get it done, but alas – this phase turned out to be an everlasting battle.
First, we needed to close the financing by Berlin Market in February. But no. Then, we needed to close it by Cannes Market in May. Again, no. Every time I told to my team that now the last challenge is solved, a new one popped out. But in the end, we did it. We managed to get everything settled for each party, all the new money into the production, and finally, we were able to restart the finishing part of the production.
Timo: And not a day too early. We have now a very tight post production schedule, and had things been ideal, we would have been ready to roll by the end of June, but things took a bit longer – mid-July was the final “go”-date – and each day is important for us, especially for the VFX company. We just finished our first official meeting with Pixomondo, and luckily they are still on track with the production – they had apparently been silently working on a bunch of shots even though the production wasn’t officially going, being also trustful that we’ll solve our problems at one point – so, huge thanks to Pixomondo for the trust and patience, too.
Tero: The release date of the film has finally been set – January 16th, 2019 – and our second official teaser was just recently released, making its’ rounds on the Internet. Teamed with great and strong players from around the world and from Finland, we have a new funding that’s allowing us much maneuverability in terms of release and marketing strategies. We have a fresh start, so to say, and most importantly, although we had to delay the release – we now have a better and much stronger film in our hands.
Although the hardest challenge with the post production is now behind us, there’s still a lot of decisions to be made to optimise the distribution and the availability of the film to our fans and the audiences worldwide. While we now have the release date and the first fan premiere set for us, the next issue is to close the date for the Fan Premiere in Berlin as soon as possible after the Helsinki Fan Premiere. And of course, finalize the VFX, sounds and music with the highest possible quality. But with Pixomondo on VFX, Rotor on sound and Laibach on music – we are in good hands!
Check out the brand new teaser here, and please – share it everywhere!
This entry concludes the three-part blog post on Iron Sky Struggle – hope you enjoyed the drama/comedy/thriller ride we’ve been at for the last months! See you around the world, with Iron Sky The Coming Race starting in theatres on January 16th!
Timo Vuorensola and Tero Kaukomaa
Iron Sky Universe
PS. You can follow Timo Vuorensola on Twitter, Instagram, and read his blog, and Tero Kaukomaa on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and Iron Sky Universe on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Ironsky.net