Frank J. Avella Film Column
Frank J. Avella Interviews
Opposite Photo: Ella
Photo Credit: Federica Dall'Orso
Continuing a series of interviews
with New York artists, I recently had the opportunity
to speak with Ella Nuortila, an enthusiastic film
producer from Finland, making a name for herself
in the Big Apple.
Nuortila has movie star good looks
yet producing is her passion. Here she shares a
bit about her background and ambitions.
Frank J. Avella:
When did you first know you wanted to be involved
I always knew I wanted to be involved in
storytelling. After studying general literature
at the University I felt the need to make something
myself, instead of overanalyzing someone else’s
work. I didn’t know anything about filmmaking
but got in to a film school and it was love at first
J. Avella: You grew up in Finland. How did
that impact your attraction to a career the arts?
Finnish design and architecture is world-renowned
and I grew up watching Finnish cinema. I was always
lucky enough to have great teachers in artistic
subjects, especially my Finnish teachers who encouraged
me to read and write and pursue a career in storytelling.
J. Avella: Tell me about your upbringing
and your studies overseas.
I grew up in a very uninteresting, safe, suburban
environment. The books I read and the movies I saw,
made me long for something more exiting, bigger
and adventurous. I always wanted to live and work
in a big city. After I started studying film, it
made sense to try to move to the U.S. where filmmaking
is an actual industry.
J. Avella: How does Finland’s theatre
and film industries differ from that of the U.S.?
In Finland neither can be called an industry.
Everything is obviously much smaller there, due
to a lack of money. Subject matters are also different
and more attached to local social issues. In the
U.S., the theater and film industries are a big
part of the culture and eco-system whereas in Finland
they are mostly considered hobbies. That doesn’t
mean there isn’t great cinema and theater
coming from Finland – the productions are
J. Avella: In 2011, you were accepted to
study film production at the NY Film Academy. Had
you ever visited the US before? Describe your experience
moving to NYC.
I had been to the U.S. several times before moving
here, but of course living in New York is very different
than being a tourist here. New York is a city of
immigrants and it’s easy to feel local here.
I was so excited to be in the center of the film
industry and meet other filmmakers and young creatives.
J. Avella: Tell us about your film work since
graduating the Academy.
Since graduating, I have produced various independent
films as well as music videos and commercials. “(Dis)Honesty
– The Truth About Lies,” a feature documentary
that I co-produced, is premiering at Full Frame
Documentary Film Festival in April and has a TV
premiere set for May. My short film “SIX”
has also done very well along the festival circuit.
I’m glad to say I’ve been very busy.
I recently produced a short film with an amazing
cast, including Tony-nominee Mary Testa and Boris
McGiver. who’s been in "House of Cards."
Last year I mostly produced commercials for American
and International clients.
J. Avella: What are your upcoming projects
and future ambitions?
This year I am working on a TV show and a feature
film, amongst other projects. I love working on
short films, but also enjoy commercial work, which
is fast and dynamic. I hope I can keep a good balance
between commercial work and independent films and
maybe one day start my own production company.
J. Avella: If you had to select one medium
(film, theatre, television) to work in, what would
it be and why?
Although I love watching good TV and theater, nothing
compares to film for me. I enjoy the whole process
of filmmaking and that’s where I feel at home.
It’s a format that I find myself most comfortable
with in terms of storytelling.
J. Avella: What do you love most about New
People. I have met some of the warmest, most
talented and brilliant people in this city. New
Yorkers are kind and friendly against all the stereotypes
that there may be. Of course New York is also great
in terms of the cultural activities it has to offer.
If you want to see your favorite actor on stage,
all you have to do is take the subway uptown.
J. Avella: Do you see living in NYC as an
artist a challenge?
I guess New York used to offer more of a shelter
for young artists back in the days when living here
was less expensive. Also the competition is very
tough in a place where everyone’s doing what
you do. On the other hand, it’s easier to
reach people and have your art be seen in New York
than in Finland, for example.
J. Avella: Who are your heroes?
Harriet Tubman, Patti Smith, Donna Tartt, J.K Rowling,
Tina Fey, my mom… And as cliché as
it may sound, some of my heroes are just the strangers
I see in the subway at 5am getting to work.
J. Avella: If you could work with anyone,
living or dead, who would you choose?
I’m a huge Tina Fey fan and would love to
work with her. She’s simply brilliant. I started
watching “30 Rock” when I moved to New
York and it was my best friend during the first
months when I didn’t know anyone and spent
most nights by myself with takeout food and Netflix.
J. Avella: Where do you see yourself, ideally,
ten years from now?
I see myself working on interesting and important
stories that can affect change and have a positive
impact on the world. I would love to have my own
production company that options books and transforms
them into films.