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Frank J. Avella Film Column
Frank J. Avella Interviews
Ella Nuortila

Opposite Photo: Ella Nuortila
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 in film?

Ella Nuortila: 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 sight.

Frank J. Avella: You grew up in Finland. How did that impact your attraction to a career the arts?

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: Tell me about your upbringing and your studies overseas.

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: How does Finland’s theatre and film industries differ from that of the U.S.?

Ella Nuortila: 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 just smaller.

Frank 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.

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: Tell us about your film work since graduating the Academy.

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: What are your upcoming projects and future ambitions?

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: If you had to select one medium (film, theatre, television) to work in, what would it be and why?

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: What do you love most about New York?

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: Do you see living in NYC as an artist a challenge?

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: Who are your heroes?

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: If you could work with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?

Ella Nuortila: 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.

Frank J. Avella: Where do you see yourself, ideally, ten years from now?

Ella Nuortila: 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.




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