Nightwish USA
Photos credited to
Ville Juurikkala






























































Question and Answer Session with Imaginaerum Director Stobe Harju

Film and animation director Stobe Harju will likely be a familiar name to many Nighwish fans. Among his many other accomplishments outside the world of Nightwish, he is the director of The Islander music video and the upcoming Imaginaerum movie. Recently, Stobe granted an interview with Nightwish USA forum members. Here is what Stobe had to say to Nightwish USA forum members.

Q: Nightwish USA forum member dreamscape asked: What was the funniest or most awkward thing that happened during the making of Imaginaerum?

SH: The most awkward situation had to be with a stunt double for a certain character. The stunt coordinator had to give him extra oxygen during filming, since he almost passed out. I have to say though, what great professionalism out of that guy and the stunt team. We had lots of fun during filming and I can only remember a certain event where Ewo, the Nightwish manager, was taking a picture outside our set windows. As I called him out "Ewo, you're in our shot!" he kindly replied "Just a sec Stobe, let me take the picture first." And this happened as the crew of 45 people was waiting to get a shot with the actors. We had a great laugh.

Q: Dreamscape also asked: Is the movie strictly based off of music from the album? Or will the movie feature some separate soundtracks? If so, were they written by Tuomas?

SH: All the songs are written by Tuomas except for one, which is by Marco. However, Mr. Petri Alanko, our soundtrack over-producer, will have some fantastic things in his sleeve. Many of the fans will be surprised how different the soundtrack will be and in some cases, you'll have to listen carefully to be able to recognize the song. The beauty of it all is that every song in the film is played in the exact same order than on the album.

The film is not strictly based on the album, but it has the same core message. We have a story that's not told in the song lyrics. Even though this is a Nightwish film, we very early on agreed with the band that this will be an untold modern fantasy tale, where the band takes a fictional part, and where their music will be the soundtrack. There are only two scenes where the band is performing a playback.

Q: And thirdly, Dreamscape asked: When can we expect a trailer for Imaginaerum?

SH: Haha. I'm expecting it too...soon, I hope. Really, good visual fx (effects) take a long time to produce, and we're halfway there, which means that almost every shot is half made.

We don't want to give out anything when it's half done.

Q: Nightwish USA forum member agusciccone97 submitted the following questions: Hi! Will the film be animated? Will the premiere only be in Finland? When will the film come to Latin America?

SH: The film is shot live action, using real characters. Most of our sets will be computer generated, though. The premiere is not going to be only in Finland, but hopefully around the globe. It all depends on our distributors.

Q: Nightwish USA forum member alems7 asked the following question: Many directors struggle when it comes to deciding which ideas to use and which to leave behind. Was there anything like that with Imaginaerum?

SH: Oh yes. I would say every single director has to struggle heavily because of that.

If we could do everything by our vision, this film would be easy to make. So far, I've had to kiss hundreds of darlings bye bye. It's all about the budget and how to use it wisely. We're really lucky, since our producers are very smart when it comes to making a small-budget film. It's hard to buy a cup of two-dollar coffee when you only have a few cents in your pocket.

Q: Alems7 also asked: Was there any particular idea/thought that was difficult to translate into the movie?

SH: The whole film was actually very difficult to translate into a film. Selling the idea was even harder, because people never saw a story told that way. I guess it's a little playground for Nightwish's music and my dramatic-visual world that cannot be translated easily. I think though, we're doing a great job.

Q: Nightwish USA Moderator TiggerGirl3 submitted several questions, starting with: Are there any plans to pursue entering Imaginaerum into any of the indie film festivals, such as Sundance (in the US)?

SH: Yes there is. Sundance I don't know, but there will be others for sure.

Q: TiggerGirl13 also asked: You wrote with such beauty, honesty and eloquence in the update posted on the Nightwish site! Any plans to write a book one day?

SH: Much obliged. No plans for a novel yet, but we're cooking on a book about making of Imaginaerum. It has been quite a journey and worth writing for.

Q: TiggerGirl13 also asked: What inspired your interest in animation? Who are your biggest animation and directorial heroes?

SH: Many things inspired me. Mostly, I love the fact that with animation, you can do the extraordinary, anything you wish. The first feature animation I ever saw was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In addition to Disney features, Hayao Miyazaki has been a great source of inspiration for me.

Q: TiggerGirl13 also asked: What are your favorite animation and artwork softwares to use?

SH: What a technical question! :) I don't actually do any of the animation myself these days. There is a crew of talented people for that. However, there are several favorite tools to use. I guess our animators and CG artists use Maya for 3D, Nuke and After Effects for compositions, and several hundred plugins for other stuff.

Q: TiggerGirl13 final question was: Which band or personality was your first professional artwork made for?

SH: When I started out as a graphic designer (my first real design job), I think I designed a website for a Finnish design group. Not very proud of the outcome, but it got me started. My first professional artwork for a band was the "Carnival of Rust" album cover for Poets of the Fall.

Q: Forum member miazeklos inquired the next two questions: What was the feeling while making the movie? I mean, what did you felt while doing it? Is there any chance to have some "making-of" video after the movie release?

SH: I had a great feeling; I still do because we're still making the film. Of course, there have been bad days as well, but generally you will forget everything depressing once you see more miracles happening. I guess if I would have to single out a feeling, I'd say I feel very lucky. There will be a making of a documentary, directed by the fantastic Ville Lipiäinen.

Q: Nightwish USA forum member aronoiiel was curious: After all is said and done, what memories will you cherish most from the making of this film?

SH: There are no memories without friends and family. I've gained so many life-lasting connections in Montreal that I've lost count. I will miss the crew and the actors infinitely.

Q: Nightwish USA Moderator pyjujiop asked: I understand that this movie is the culmination of a "crazy idea" that you and Tuomas had for years. Are there any more such ideas that we might see come to fruition in the years to come?

SH: I hope so, but at the same time it's unlikely. With Tuomas, it has been a pleasure, since we both share the same obsession when it comes to creation. I doubt there will ever be a similar chance, since we're quite worn out because of this already...

You never know. I'd like to think that once Imaginaerum is finished and released, comes the time to think about the future.

Q: Nightwish USA forum member musicsdarkangel had this question: Do you happen to know if the Imaginaerum movie will be coming to the USA?

SH: I don't know yet. It's not impossible though.

Q: Nightwish USA forum member signofthehawk left the following message: Hello, I know this is looking far into the future, after the film sweeps the world! Has there been any talks/thoughts regarding DVD and/or BluRay releases? Just curious as I live in a rural area with no nearby theaters...

Thanks for everything!


SH: Hello Erik. There will certainly be a DVD, and since the film is shot for the big screen, I'm sure there will be a blu-ray as well.

Q: Carol, admin of the Official Tuomas Holopainen website submitted the following questions: How does working on a game, like Alan Wake, compare to directing a movie?

SH: A good question. Where do I start... there are so many differences...tough.

While in feature films, the role of the director is in the center of creation, in games the traditional director's role is divided in several different tasks. In games, there are creative directors, art directors, and the writer has a very centered role as well. Also, in the movie business, it's usually a director or a producer who starts the project and stays there until the very end, while in the game industry, the presence of those roles varies constantly.

It's not unusual for a director or a producer to jump in while the game is already in full production. That said, when working on a game, I have had to adapt the creative concept quite quickly, while in the making of Imaginaerum, I've had all the time in the world to think.

Just for the record, the work in both industries is very different. However, I like both the same for different reasons, and I really like to work with people from both instances. Like my little girl put it, "Daddy, I have two favorite colors: pink and gold. I like them both the same, but actually I like all the colors because you will never know when you need them for different things."

Q: Carol also asked: What was it about Tuomas' about 12 videos that made you feel it should be a movie instead?

SH: I honestly believe that Tuomas' visions for the songs deserved more than just music videos. Tuomas only had the song names on paper and he gave me a detailed description of each of the song titles. Those concepts were enough to convince me. I ended up writing a treatment and noticed that it's a continuous story by accident.

Q: Carol's next question was: How/why did you start using the name Stobe instead of Tuomas?

SH: My basketball coach gave me the nick when I was seven or eight. He just lined the team in the first practice and gave us all nicknames. As my real name is Tuomas, I often had a nickname like "Tuoppi," which stands for a pint of beer in Finnish. A slang word for the pint is "stobe." There you go. Only the people in my family call me Tuomas, and everyone else knows me by the nick, so it became natural. However, I'm not really a beer drinker. I prefer red wine instead.

Q: Carol followed up with: The movie has a strict budget, are you finding you are able to add in the main ideas you initially had? Or have you had to sacrifice what you consider a great idea/storyline for the budget?

SH: See above. Almost a similar question :)

Q: Carol continued with: With the final cut being complete, what is the next stage you are currently working on?

SH: We're working on the visual fx right now. All the excitement tears me apart as I'm waiting to get samples every day. Our visual fx supervisor tries to keep me happy every day, though. Next, the sound designers and foley (sound reproduction) artists will be working with the sound fx and adr (automated dialogue replacement).

Q: Carol's next question was: Do you have any interesting projects lined up for after Imaginaerum?

SH: I have fairly many projects lined up and I try to take my pick. It's hard. I do have an unborn baby in the drawer, a screenplay I'd like to get done in the future. But, as already said, I'd like to think about the future once this big baby is in the bag.

Q: Finally, Carol asked: "The Islander" is one of the best-loved Nightwish music videos by fans. Even with it being a short video, did you feel the pressure of its' success while making Imaginearum?

SH: Not at all. Videos are fun, because you can really put all your crew's talent in five minutes. Multiply the time and effort by 20, and the realism will hit you. I don't expect Imaginaerum to be a visual rollercoaster each second, but I do expect the emotional impact to be larger than in a five-minute video. You guys will understand this for sure, since we're talking about a very different media and work of art.

Q: Last, a question from Nightwish USA admin Stephanie Hensley: How did it feel being on the other side of the camera for the Storytime video?

SH: I felt fine I guess, although I never thought I would end up on it. Ville Lipiäinen, who shot and directed the video, was a sneaky bastard. I could never tell when he was around with his camera. He's a fantastic guy.

Want to learn more about Stobe's work? Check out his website.