This is the second part of The Iron Sky Struggle blog entry, describing the events that led to the delay of Iron Sky The Coming Race – and what good came out of it, too. First part is here!
As we were just about to finalize the funding for Iron Sky The Coming Race, suddenly we faced a new challenge – a challenge which led to further delays, and nearly destroyed the whole film – we got sued.
Timo: Yeah. We were sued, at a critical moment in the production (well, every moment is critical, but you know what I mean). The lawsuit was set up by an individual who had been harassing us for years on the Internet – a guy who started as an intern at the VFX company that did the visual effects for the first Iron Sky, and later got laid off by the company, after which he turned his anger and resentment towards Iron Sky Universe, with the sole purpose of trying to do whatever he could to stop Iron Sky The Coming Race from happening, as well as trying to claim ownership over Iron Sky IP. While we had been able to disregard his Internet craziness for years, this time he managed to get some press attention after contacting Hollywood Reporter, which ran a story about the lawsuit.
Needless to say, this didn’t help in closing the new funding.
Tero: Ari, Mikko and the group of investors behind them did not walk away, but understandably did not want to close before this new problem was solved. Thus, everything screeched to a halt. The year was 2017. We were out of money, and had no other chance but to shut the production down for an unspecified amount of time.This was a start of a period where a lot of people started to doubt the production would ever see the light of the day. We kept on fighting, but the stories started to float around: “Iron Sky 2 is dead”. My mantra for one year was ”we are very very close to the solution” but I’m not sure that even my children believed that.
Timo: Facing the financing issues and the lawsuit, I wish I could say I didn’t doubt our chances of getting back on our feet, but I did. Lawsuit wasn’t my main concern, but the fact that things were at halt while the legal process was ongoing was worrying to us. The whole house of card was shaking, badly. I couldn’t live with the idea that we had a great film which was this close to be finished, but the longer the time passed, the further away the dream slipped.
We focused all of our efforts into convincing our partners that the lawsuit was nothing for them to worry about, but the truth was that when things stop in a production, it’s always a bad thing. There had already been a delay in production, and now we had an aura of failure looming above our heads. We started to get more and more questions about when the film is coming out, what’s going on with everything, is the lawsuit a trouble for us…
And truth is, we had no answers.
We caved in. That was a mistake, but that was the only thing we could do at this point. We didn’t want to say anything to anyone until we had at least some positive news, or at least something would be clear, but everything was in the air. Communication with our fans would have been what we should have been doing more, but when you are so deep in the cesspool, you don’t even know where to begin.
Tero: But it wasn’t all that bad. Things were moving forward, albeit slowly. One important piece of the puzzle to get Iron Sky The Coming Race back on track was Bill Lischak from our VFX vendor Pixomondo’s LA office. Bill introduced our situation to a couple of investors, and soon we had solid interest from film financing company 120db from LA. I had been in touch with 120db’s CEO Peter Graham already during financing of the first Iron Sky, but at that time the collaboration didn’t work out, but now, there was a possibility to work together. While we were still pretty deep in the hole, finally we were getting somewhere, with interest from 120db and the Finnish investors – we just needed to find a way to fit them on the same page and to agree the recoupment strategies.
And then, something else happened. Call it whatever you want. Luck? A miracle? A thank for our years of work? We had been contacted by a Chinese producer Max Wang who wanted to do a Chinese Iron Sky spinoff called Iron Sky: The Ark – and that, indeed, saved us and the whole Iron Sky franchise. While we were sorting out the financing and the lawsuit, which were mostly standing by at the moment, we were able to start shooting a completely new, fully financed film with the Chinese. Thanks to it, we were able to keep Iron Sky Universe going by reducing the operational costs to a minimum. But how to communicate this to the outside world, which was asking why are you making another Iron Sky while the other one is constantly being delayed? Where’s your focus?
Those were good questions, and we had good reasons for doing two films at the same time, but trying to explain this to everyone was very time- and energy consuming.
Timo: Working on The Ark was a great relief for me. I was able to step out of Iron Sky The Coming Race, a film that I loved but could do absolutely nothing about until a solution for the financing would appear. I was able to divert my creative energy into a completely new film, which turned out to be the best possible thing for The Coming Race as well. See, sometimes all that a film needs to become a better version of itself is time. A new perspective. Until at that point, we had been working pretty much straight on with the film after the shoot had finished, but now, I was forced to take a break and do something else. I put all my creativity and energy to The Ark, and spent a good six months in China – you can read more about my time there from my personal blog.
But we didn’t just let Iron Sky The Coming Race lie dormant. While we couldn’t do anything to really push the film towards the finish line, we were able to polish it. In the spring of 2017 we showed our unfinished cut of the film to a selected audience of fans and investors and film industry professionals in Berlin, and gathered the notes from the screening and decided that there was still room for improvements in the cut. We found a brilliant editor, Jan Hameeuw, who was also one of our producers, who suggested he could take a look at the cut.
To my great pleasure, what he did was indeed a very welcome improvement to the cut. He didn’t rip it apart and start from scratch, but took our cut and started tightening it, finding little moments of comedy, readjusting some sequences and polishing the delivery of dialogue, clarifying the story and making it overall feel more fresh and vibrant.
While 2017 was looking really dire with the standstill of the production and the lawsuit that was headed towards us, the clouds in our sky did have a silver lining.