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News 02.12.2021

This L.A. film producer fell in love with Finland

Co-founder of Los Angeles based XYZ films, Aram Tertzakian, can’t seem to get enough of what Finland has to offer international filmmakers.

It’s surprisingly easy to get the Hollywood producer of films like Dual (premiering in 2022) to talk about how he first came to know about Finland as a great place to visit – and also a place to make great films.

Aram Tertzakian explains, “We founded XYZ Films in 2008 with a strong focus on filmmaker-driven genre films – everything from action, science fiction, thrillers, and crime – and right from the start we’ve had a gravitational pull toward international filmmakers and co-productions. My first introduction to Finland was in 2016, through a friendship with Finnish film star Jasper Pääkkönen – and I was immediately impressed with the country.”

The poetic meets the practical

Tertzakian tells how his personal, positive impressions of Finland quickly morphed into assessing the viability of shooting a major movie like Dual there. “It’s one thing to say ‘Hey, we should support Finland’, and it’s another thing to actually do it. We started exploring the possibilities with Ilkka Rahkonen and his team at Film Tampere, who made a great case in terms of locations, facilities, infrastructure, crews, and film incentives – the full range of film production requirements”.

He points out that what really impressed XYZ films in their first discussions with Film Tampere and Business Finland in 2020 was the well-known Finnish honesty, directness, and can-do ‘Sisu’ spirit. “If something wasn’t possible, they were completely honest about it and would always figure out a plan B. We were really drawn to that transparency and problem-solving mentality.”

Solving the Covid conundrum

The Covid pandemic has impacted film studios worldwide, and Tertzakian is quite open about how Covid was a factor in choosing Finland as the best place to shoot. “There were very few places in the world that were viable for our film during that time, and Finland emerged as the clear choice. We were given the support we needed in a country that was generally keeping the Covid case-count very low. Furthermore, we were even able to arrange support for Covid testing services for the production directly through FimLab and Film Tampere. We always felt safe and supported.”

It’s never just about the money

“For us”, Aram Tertzakian points out, “choosing which country to base our production in is an over-all calculus, not just about the financial bottom line. Yes, the Finnish tax incentives are competitive: Finland offers incentives on the national level, and most of Finland’s larger cities – in our case, Tampere – also offer additional regional incentives.

When you step back and look at the entire offering - not just the financial side of it - there are a lot of factors in Finland’s favor that most countries just don’t have. The fact that Finland has skilled crews, very safe working conditions, that the country over-all is very safe, and that the day-to-day quality of life is at a really high level – it’s all very attractive.”

He continues, “Keep in mind that when you’re talking about A-list actors, they get a ton of offers every day, and they make choices based on more than just the financial component. They are looking at the professional quality of the creative team, and also the quality of the experience where they are based while shooting. So Finland is emerging as a winner over other locations that might be more financially competitive, but can’t compete with Finland in terms of overall quality of what they can offer – both in terms of professional expertise and also these quality of life factors that you can’t put a price on.”

More great projects to come

Regarding XYZ Films’ future plans for working in Finland, Tertzakian says XYZ is working very closely with the cities of Tampere and Oulu, as well as with XYZ’s film financing partners at IPR.VC – a Finnish venture-capital company.

He also points to a very recent, notable success: “We just finished shooting a new Netflix film in Wales that stars Tom Hardy and Forest Whitaker, and we were able to bring a significant portion of the visual effects work to a Finnish company based in Tampere (they’ll be working with VFX artists from the Oulu region as well). I believe it’s the biggest project - both in terms of size and scope - that Finland has been involved with to date. Overall, we feel like we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible here.”


XYZ Films

XYZ Films is an integrated content company whose mission is to empower visionary storytellers from every corner of the planet. As an independent production company and worldwide sales agency, the company is uniquely suited to identify talented filmmakers and bring their stories to life. XYZ was founded in 2008 by Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer, and Aram Tertzakian, and is best known for The Raid franchise, 2017 Sundance winner I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, and Panos Cosmatos’ psychedelic revenge thriller Mandy.

In 2019, XYZ expanded into management, working with an international roster of filmmakers, and secured a film fund with ambitions of financing over a dozen films in the next several years. XYZ’s recent works include Stowaway, Joe Penna’s sci-fi thriller starring Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette; Dual, Riley Stearns’ sci-fi film starring Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul; Prisoners of the Ghostland, Sion Sono’s English-language debut, which premiered at Sundance and stars Nicolas Cage; and Jallikattu, India’s submission to the 2021 Academy Awards.