Urban Savages | Production notes

Originally Urban Savages started out as a project with only one purpose; testing out the new HDV equipment. Having become tired of writing (and simply just not wanting to write... Some might call it writer's block) I wanted to do something more free-form. After reading articles about Zen filmmaking, I decided to give it a try. Now, in Zen filmmaking, you're supposed to use no scripts whatsoever, and rely solely on spontaneous creative energy, which is what we essentially did. On the days of shoot, I would load up my car trunk with tons of props and equipment (with gore stuff as well, it wouldn't be a TR movie without some splattering blood), and we would just hit the wanted location and start shooting. Most of the actors caught on pretty quickly, and shooting with a lot of improvisation and freedom was a nice change of pace. Of course, I was just happy to be shooting with the new equipment, as it was lightyears ahead of the pieces of trash we used in Parasite Quarantine.

Along with the technical leap, another step forward was the fact that this time we actually had a fight coreographer with us, Jukka Viikeri, who also plays the mysterious avenger in the film. For the first time, we actually had someone on the shoot who knew how to stage a proper fight, so there would be no clumsy scuffles like in TNT. Our miniscule budget did put large constraints to the amount of action, though, and we settled for short, Steven Seagal-styled brawls instead of a more sophisticated Hong Kong-style. Shooting hand-to-hand combat is not something I have a large amount of experience in, so it was a learning process. In the end, I think it turned out okay.

The shoot of the movie was not without problems, of course. Scheduling was occasionally a pain in the ass, and forced us to improvise more than I'd liked to. We'd have certain actors being able to show up for only 1-2 hours at a time, which caused a lot of difficulties. Nevertheless, we pulled through, though the constant problems caused us to shoot a lot further into autumn than I'd have liked. But, at that point, with majority of the movie already filmed, I already had a vision of what I want, and I had to have it. Maybe I broke some rules of Zen filmmaking at that point, but fuck it, it was worth it. It was quite painful, though, at least for the lead actors, who ended up getting sprayed with blood in the middle of the woods, in rain, in a 4 degrees celsius temperature. Me? I snickered as much as they shivered.

The post-production is where the shit hit the fan. Having shot a ton of footage, in no particular order, with no script and no guideline as to what would happen and when, I was faced with a puzzle that would make Jigsaw proud. The editing became a process of trial and error. I would try to piece to movie together, found out it doesn't work, take it apart and reassemble everything, rinse and repeat. The first cut was over two hours long, and it was... absolutely incomprehensible. The next one ran 1h45min, and still sucked balls. After about 4 months of editing, I was finally able to put it all together. I cut out every single excess scene and the ones that made it in the movie were brought down to their bare principals. The fine-tuning of the movie was a bitch as well. Since the shoot included a lot of testing of new equipment, there were a lot of straight up fuckups left in the film, especially with the sound. I spent countless days just piecing the soundtrack together, filtering and processing it like a madman. It turned out a lot better than the sounds in Parasite Quarantine, but it could be better.

Throughout the post-production, I was very unconvinced with the movie. I simply didn't like it, part due to the painful post production process. Luckily we had the great Jussi Huhtala (who also worked on Painajaisten yƶ and TNT) attached to do the soundtrack. His western-styled riffs is what saved the movie for me. Even though I'm still not entirely convinced of the quality of the film, the feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. So, I could be wrong. Only time will tell.

Written by: Esa Jussila



Urban Savages cast at the first screening of the film