The traditional financing model for films in Australia goes something like this: a funding body greenlights a pretentious script by a novice screenwriter; a first-time director is attached; and the resulting movie tanks.
Iron Sky’s production completely inverts the trend of studio execs or government box-tickers deciding what the audience wants. Around $1.5 million of the film’s $10 million budget was raised from the public through online ‘crowd funding’ – donations and investment from members of the public attracted by the film’s premise and wanting to help get it to the screen.
The premise? Nazis from space. At the end of World War II, Nazis escape Germany and colonise the dark side of the moon. Seventy years later a hapless American astronaut (Christopher Kirby) stumbles across their vast Swastika-shaped fortress on the moon. Led by new Fuhrer Wolfgang Kortzfleisch (Eurotrash-movie megastar Udo Kier), the space fascists decide it’s time to launch their long-awaited invasion of the earth.
The movie features a fleet of space-going airships named after Wagnerian operas; a Sarah Palin-like US President (Stephanie Paul) itching for a war to boost her re-election chances; and a sexy blonde Nazi called Renate (Julia Dietz), whose clothes have a habit of coming loose when she’s exposed to the vacuum of space.
It’s the bonkers brainchild of Finnish director Timo Vuorensola, who already had a large fanbase for his online Star Trek parodies called Star Wrecks. Vuorensola and his cohorts were trying attract the final piece of investment pie at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival when they met Brisbane-based producers Cathy and Mark Overett of New Holland Pictures. “We said, ‘why not do it as a co-production with Australia and access the tax offset?’” says Cathy.
The Overetts were able to secure $350,000 from Screen Queensland and the film shot for four weeks at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast in addition to three and a half weeks in Frankfurt. Location shooting in Brisbane had to be curtailed due to last year’s floods. “We were watching the flood waters rise as we were sitting by the unit base,” Overett recalls with a laugh. “The next day we had to abandon the location.”
New Holland Pictures have worked successfully in co-production before (2008’s Unfinished Sky was produced with the Netherlands’ IdtV Film) and were attracted both by Iron Sky’s screenplay and its democratic genesis. “We’ve often thought we’d like to do a sci-fi film and when this was sent to us we said ‘yes!’
In addition to donations and investments, fans we able to contribute ideas for spaceship names and designs for minor props. “As a producer, I love the fact that so many people contributed to the film because they’ll come and see it multiple times and bring their families and friends.”
Visual effects were completed in Finland and the movie premiered at the Berlinale in February to sold-out screenings – an understandably nervous time for all involved. “We were all pleasantly surprised. Everybody embraced it. Someone wrote that ‘it took a Finnish film for the German people to finally be able to laugh at themselves and move on from the sensitivities of the subject matter.’”
Iron Sky opens May 10.
Nazis for laughs
Comedies with the Reich stuff
The Great Dictator (1940)
Charlie Chaplin (whose moustache inspired Hitler’s) had his biggest success with this movie in which he played both a European dictator called Adenoid Hinkel and the humble Jewish barber who unwittingly replaces him.
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Members of a Polish theatre company escape occupied Warsaw by impersonating Hitler and his entourage. Ernst Lubitsch’s classic comedy was remade by Mel Brooks in 1983, who had a minor hit with the song ‘Hitler Rap’.
The Producers (1968)
Brooks first flirted with Nazi screen comedy with this farce, later a stage musical and a movie remake. It’s about crooked entrepreneurs who stage a Broadway musical designed to fail called Springtime for Hitler.
Top Secret! (1984)
Anticipating the mash-up of TV’s Danger 5, Top Secret! has an Elvis-like rocker (Val Kilmer) aiding the French resistance while on tour in Nazi-dominated 1960s East Germany. It’s a hilarious early effort by the Naked Gunteam.
Not a comedy, but a harrowing portrayal of the last days of Hitler’s reign, Downfall has had a side-splitting second life as an internet meme, with the tirade by the Furher (Bruno Ganz) given alternative subtitles to suit any occasion.