Interview with Euro Gap 3 filmer Jaakko Itäaho

Jaakko Itäaho and his personal serving midget. Photos: Sami Tuoriniemi.

Jaakko Itäaho has been one of the driving forces behind the upcoming Euro Gap 3 movie. After doing his own Elekrep movie, the Finnish filmmaker worked alongside legendary Brad Kremer for several Mack Dawg productions, most notably “Picture This”, before focussing on his own production company called Pablo Films. We met up with him while the Euro Gap crew was on a trip in Monaco, where he gave us the lowdown on the motivation behind doing this project…

Can you tell us how you got involved in the Euro Gap 3 project?

The short or long version? (laughs) Last year and even the three years before that I was kind of over doing snowboard movies. I don’t want to tell you any details – I just got over it. Brad Kremer, who I’ve had done the last four movies with was totally done and quit. So I started working on the commercial side of it. I have a production company at home in Finland with my homies, and it started to run really good, and I thought ‘Yeah, maybe it is time to move on and do other things than snowboarding.’ I did a couple of music videos and some ads. Last Fall I started thinking what I should do for the rest of the year. At the same time – when I thought that I was not going to do any snowboard movies for a living – I started talking to Joni [Malmi]. We played in the same hockey team. We kept seeing each other about twice a week. We started talking about Euro Gap 3, more like a joke. We said ‘We should go on a couple of trips together this year! Just for fun and filming, to see what comes up and maybe to put it on the web.” I don’t know, it could have been five minutes or just two minutes. He wanted to make Euro Gap 3 for so long. And that’s why we started talking about it. I still kept thinking about doing something else for a living.

And it was almost winter when I started talking to Fredu [Sirviö] and Niki [Korpela]. Who else was there? I talked to Heikki [Sorsa], but he wasn’t into it in the first place. But somehow those guys were stoked, and the idea of making a little bit more of a major movie came about. Still, I didn’t want to have a big crew, no matter what. I was over having 15 riders and the same amount of sponsors and having to try to keep everyone happy. You come up with something that you don’t really like yourself. It’s always such as hassle trying to keep everyone happy. The result is usually a mainstream snowboard movie that nobody wants to see from the beginning to the very end. There’s always something you want to skip. And that’s because you want to keep everyone happy. So that was the main idea. Even though I started making a little bit more of a serious movie I didn’t want to have more than seven or maybe eight riders. Originally I thought six is the max. Anyway, when we started making something more serious we were still pretty sure about what we did not want to do.

After getting those couple of riders to join, it was still only four of us. Back then I thought I wanted to do a ten-minute-movie for the web. This would mean doing a couple of trips, shooting rails in Finland (which has always been my home turf), do something mellow, and do something else in between, like shooting some videos and stuff. But then, when I talked to Eero Ettala, we got the main reason why we are doing this. Because Eero told us he wanted to do his video part this year for his website. And I said: ‘Well if that’s the case, if I make a short movie this year, would you want to have your part in this movie?’ I thought we might as well make a real movie this way. This was not a bad idea, but we were way late in terms of sponsors. I was so over it and so not doing it, but then the right things happened. And I think this is the key: We are not feeling any pressure, because we have the lowest budget ever. No one is really telling us what to do. I don’t know, we are here trying to find pow, and we didn’t find any and we knew it was going to be warm so we drove all the way to Monaco under the palm trees and chill. No pressure from anyone. And that’s how it should be. And hopefully it turns out that you can see it in the movie, too.

Who else is behind the project?

Well, there are two filmers: Me and Rasmus Tikkanen, who used to do the Storbis movies. He is a friend of Eero, and he was with Eero all the time last year filming for his TV series. Nitro had already hired him to shoot Eero’s video part. That’s why we teamed up for this. So me and Rasmus are filmers, then you could say Joni is helping with the production side. Because without him, the whole thing wouldn’t have started. And of course he was the main man behind Euro Gap 1 and 2, even though that was many years ago. Then there’s the company I mentioned earlier: Pablo Films. I am a part-owner, and we are producing this film as a Pablo Films production, because there are a couple of dudes helping us on the production side.

The old Euro Gap movies did not really have a focus on next-level riding, or super-artsy filming and editing. It was all about the fun and riding. Your own background as a filmer are these high-definition, almost Hollywood-style productions. You don’t seem to be the obvious choice for Euro Gap 3. Or are you?

That is very true. Just five minutes ago before we came here for the interview I was doing some logging. And I just realised: ‘Oh my God, I should have shot that way more cinematic.’ I was just looking at one drop-in shot from Niki, and I am kind of on the track of making a road movie, and I keep forgetting that I want to get some cinematic shots every now and then to mix it up. It is not like the old Euro Gap or the old Mack Dawg films. It is going to be a big surprise for myself, too, how it is going to turn out. Because I just caught myself five minutes ago, filming like I never used to film. And it is definitely changing. I’ve been shooting hand-held, wide angle, like 80 percent of the shots, and usually I use dolly-tracks and cable cams in a lot of shots. I don’t know. The style definitely has changed this year, and already over the past year. I have always been a big fan of cinematic style, but at the same time I got over my own steeze, my old style of making movies. The name Euro Gap sets some expectations in terms of the style we should make it in. But for sure we won’t make it the way 1 and 2 were done – hand-held and fish-eye. They didn’t really plan. They were just all over the place, shooting for the bigger movies. When they had time they pulled their cams out from the backpack and started shooting. They didn’t really plan anything.

Do you think that they choices you’ve made are part of a bigger trend? Are snowboard movies moving away from the big Hollywood-style action sports productions and maybe return to their roots: Bringing out the fun and the community aspect of the scene?

Could be. I haven’t really watched snowboard movies for a while. I’ve seen That’s It That’s All, which was an amazing movie. You know there is no chance of making a movie like that for cheap. I wasn’t even thinking of trying to do anything like that. Even Picture This was low-budget compared to this. But that stuff has definitely been done during the last two to three years. I mentioned that I might do Euro Gap to Pablo, the producer in our company, who has been around for a long time and was the producer for Elekrep, my first movie. And he said: “What are you going to do? You know, it’s not that easy anymore to do something that separates you and your movies from the others out there.” And I thought that this was the key, that I might have to try something else, that it might be the time to go back to the basics. Just leave the tripod and go for it! The result will be a big surprise even for myself, that’s for sure. I have been thinking about these things, but we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.

You could have chosen an entirely different name for Euro Gap 3. Now you are in the tradition of the old movies, and there will be certain expectations.

There have been a couple of reasons for that. First of all, it is easier this way to get some money from sponsors. The people working at the companies are much older than the kids out there. They still remember 1 and 2. It is easier to talk to them and say “Hey, we are making the third one!” Joni has been helping with that, too. It could also have been Elekrep 2, and it would have been just as easy to get the budget, but we were also stuck with that name, and we had already made our minds, and we just went for it. Maybe it does create some expectations, I am thinking about that every now and then, but we were just too busy at the time to come up with anything else.

We were talking about this earlier: Euro Gap used to be about the fun, amateurish footage, hastily put together. Do you think that expectations might be a little too low for what you will come up with? You seem to spend a lot of time on making this project…

Yeah, but it is also easier to surprise people when they don’t expect much.

That’s true. What can they expect?

Something like Eurogap 1 and 2? [laughs] Maybe with a little extra spice.

Where did you go this season? Where have you filmed? What has been outstanding so far?

We had a decent rail season in Finland. There has been only like a few times during the last four years where I had the chance to film at home. We were always tied in a schedule and had to finish the rails by the end of January. There just wasn’t any snow in Helsinki during that time. We always tried to go further up North, where we shot with Eero and Heikki. And this year we did not have a big budget. And I thought it would be quite difficult to go up North and pay for the hotel and everything. And suddenly there is that big dump and we received the most snow ever. Last time it was like this was in 1973 or something. There was like half a meter of snow in Helsinki. We were really lucky with that. Then we went to Russia for three days with Joni and Niki. But that was just for fun. A couple of weeks before we came here parts of the crew went to Japan. Like Eero and Heikki were there, and Markku [Koski] went there for a while, too, before he did the Olympics. The highlight was that we could stay at home and could film in a circle of 50 kilometers. Everything was done there. We could go home every night. We were like a bunch of kids from home playing in our backyards. And this is how it used to be ten years ago. It was the first time when riding rails became popular and people went for them: We would ride our local resort during daytime, and then go downtown jibbing. There was no way we could have lived anywhere else but Helsinki. We were just a bunch of kids from the same area. And we still are! This had been the first time in so long – maybe except for Joni, because he has been a pro for so long – that we were like kids again. We were like “Oh yeah, let’s jib this! Let’s jib that!” It was no mission anymore, we did not have to go somewhere, drive ten hours, stay in a hotel for three days, and by the time we get back everyone is so beat he wants to stay in bed for five days. It was more like: “What is this? Let’s go shoot it and then go home! Or let’s go out!”

Sounds like this had a way more natural flow to it.

Yeah, it was so natural to film there this year. I guess we got lucky, or we were meant to do this one. But that was the highlight of the season so far for sure!

Thanks for taking the time, Jaakko, and good luck with the movie!

Jaakko on set, weapon in hand.


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