Made-in-Finland epic trailer
music for Hollywood movies.

Click PLAY and read the interview with the music in the background, for maximum epicness.

Hi, there. Who are you guys, and where are we?
Miro: Hi, my name is Miro Laiho, and I’m both the CEO of Time Films, and the Head of Sales & Marketing of Epic North. Time Films is a Finnish production company that makes commercials and music videos, and Epic North is a sub-brand of Time Films that makes trailer music for Hollywood movies. There are six composers and two producers. The other producer, Niko, is now in Dubai on a late summer vacation.

Pauli: Hi, I’m Pauli Hausmann, and I’m the Music Supervisor at Epic North. My role is to check other composers’ tracks for quality, and to ensure that they’re up to date with what the industry wants right now. I also work as a composer and sound designer.

What famous work have you done so far?
P: The trailer for Pan. The one for Ant Man was an IMAX trailer, so it was shown only in the US. TV spots for the latest Maze Runner

M: Guardians of the Galaxy, Big Hero 6, The Last Witch Hunter, with Vin Diesel… The Daredevil series for Netflix…

How is it possible that a juggernaut like Hollywood reaches out to hire some guys from Finland for their trailer music? Don’t they have musicians competent enough over there that can do it?
P: The thing is, they don’t really care where it comes from, as long as they know the publisher is legit.

M: And networking. We’ve been going to a lot of places, developers’ conferences… And of course online (Facebook, chatting). But at the end of the day our music is actually THAT good! (laughter)

Your trailer music is only meant for the industry? Regular people can’t get it?
Some albums go exclusively to the industry first and then, after some time between nine and twelve months, we make them available to the general public through iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. Our biggest fans (and where most of the money comes from consumer-wise) are from the USA and Germany. Finnish people don’t buy our music that much, but they listen to it on Spotify.

Tell a bit about your backgrounds.
M: I applied to TAIK to study direction but I didn’t get in. Sound design and music were also important for me (I have composed music for ten years) so I got into Tampere University of Applied Sciences, where I studied Sound Design. I also wrote, directed and shot short films while I was there. Then in 2012, six months after my graduation, I attended an entrepreneur course and founded Time Films. I did it because I didn’t want to get stuck in freelance work, I wanted the freedom to do the things I like on my own terms and schedules. Pauli, my friend since we were four years old, was one the first guys I asked to join. And of course he was in, because it’s been our dream since we were kids to do stuff in the film and music industry, it was our opportunity. We started doing commercials, corporate videos, music videos. The idea of Epic North -to create trailer music- was introduced to me by Niko and Pauli in 2013.

P: I started writing music when I was twelve, I was deeply inspired by those Japanese role-playing games, and the composers of their music, like Nobuo Uematsu, of the Final Fantasy series. And then I found film music… So when other people were out partying in high-school, I was composing music at home, and hanging out with Miro on the weekends. Then, at eighteen, I began scoring American and Australian short films, weird and underground stuff. I did that for a few years and then I tried to get into TAIK for Sound Design but couldn’t. A year later I got into Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, and after four years of studies I dropped out. I thought there was no point in me studying anymore, because what I wanted was to make music and to work here.

Your compositions are meant to be played by a live orchestra?
P: Ideally yes, but things have changed a bit these days. There’s usually no budget for live players, so everything is played with samples and computers; it’s all made electronically. But it’s so sophisticated and so good that people can’t tell the difference.

How do feel about this? Is it a good thing to replace humans with electronic samples?
P: Of course not, but the problem is money. New composers can’t possibly afford a live orchestra, it would require a huge budget, so electronic samples is a good way to start.

M: Electronic music was one of the things that helped us both when we were kids. We could begin studying music, playing, and analyzing. I had some previous music theory, but more or less I started from scratch, learning each instrument’s role in an orchestra.

What software did you use?
M: Our first one was a freeware called Anvil Studio, purely MIDI. Later on we used Sonar, Cubase, Logic… And this sampler called Gigastudio, which had this orchestral samples. We listened to Koji Kondo (from Mario Bros) and imitated it, creating tons of hours of music for our role-playing games: we played it on paper, and when we went to a village, cue music! Now a battle begins, cue battle music! We built this big world, with individual music for the places and the characters… Story-telling through music!

Pauli, do you solely create trailer music?
P: Mostly, but I have also done some video games too. Recently I was the secondary composer for Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (published by Square Enix). The main composer was Wilbert Roget, who had a tight deadline and told me “for such and such stages and worlds we need battle music, exploration music, a percussion version…” So he sent me what he had done and we agreed to use the same samples, to get a unified sound.

Why is it necessary, besides composing the main score of the movie, to hire some extra guys to do the trailer music? Can’t they use bits of the main score?
P: No, because the score doesn’t exist yet. Nowadays trailers are released up to a year prior to the movie!

M: Scores are one of the last things that are finished in films. But films need to be promoted very early on (especially blockbusters) way before the composer begins to work. We ourselves are pitching today for trailers that will come out one year from now.

Let’s say you’re making trailer music for a movie that’s going to be scored later on by someone big, like John Williams or Hans Zimmer. How do you approach something like that?
M: It actually works the other way around. Whereas film composers create and adapt their music to what is seen (the finished film), trailer music editors create and adapt the trailer to what is heard. It all begins with our pre-existing tracks, that we create and pitch to companies. Then editors get their inspiration from our music, and cut the trailers to match. Pauli and the other composers have developed a mathematical system that allows them to create optimal trailer tracks for modern blockbusters (action / adventure and science fiction movies). That’s one of the reasons why Hollywood is hiring us to make tracks for big films: we offer stuff that editors can really use: a first act, a break, the second act, and the final act; it all builds up, and makes everything easier for them.

P: Trailers of this genre are really fast, everything is compressed and happens very quickly, like in a TV spot, for example. No time for long melodies, you need maximum impact in a very limited time.

M: The process of mixing and mastering the tracks is also different from that of film scores. That’s one thing that Pauli and the other composers had to learn. Our first album sounded more like film music, but our recent material sounds like trailer music, with the hits very loud, the samples having their own spaces in the equalizer, very clear and bright. In film music they can be very mellow.

It’s funny how you put it in visual terms.
P: The editors see it that way too.

How much space for creativity is there, when everything is so industrialized?
P: There’s plenty of space. Of course we operate under the limitations of the genre, but the industry constantly wants fresh ideas and sounds.

They do? I would have assumed the opposite.
P: Yeah, they do. It can be an instrument you haven’t heard before, for example. Now they really want the Braaah! sounds…

M: Big studios play it safe. Execs would be doing sequels and re-launches for ever, or pick something old and make it new again, things that would bring easy money. But there’s a change in tone amongst creative people there too. They are asking “where have all the new ideas gone? We should get that back!” They are frustrated, there are no new films being made, only re-boots and sequels. So I guess soon we’ll have new original films. It’s been sounding the same for a couple of years, but I think the format will change soon. And then it will come back again.

Who are your favorite composers?
P: John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman…

M: Yeah, Williams, if we talk about themes and emotions, and about our favorite films from childhood: Star Wars, ET, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters, Jurassic Park, Superman… And from a business point of view, Zimmer. He is a pioneer in creating big sound for films, and also influencing the trailer music industry so much. Very different composers, but both great in their own style.

Thoughts about the local movie industry?
M: Well… Budgets are so small, Finnish productions don’t take risks here, so they are all dramedies. Also cooperation with international investors is minimal. Take Iron Sky or Big Game, for example. Those films have taken the risk to bring in other productions companies from abroad, and attempting to do something different, like Sci-fi. But for some reason we keep doing drama and comedy. And people go see them, I guess… If you talk to an average Finnish person, whether he or she is in the industry or not, they will say that the films are not as good as American films, or as other European films.

And what would you say?
M: The same. I don’t watch Finnish films, I don’t like them much. They lack good scripts, production value, a budget. We can do good things with small budgets, but script writers are grossly underpaid in Finland. It’s like “yeah, here’s 2.000 euros, write a script – ok, let’s shoot it!” Which is ridiculous, when EVERYTHING depends on a good script. It’s so rushed here, like “haha, I laughed a few times with your script, let’s shoot it”. They bring all the same actors everybody’s seen over and over again, to do their “funny thing”. Finnish people think “oh, it’s a Finnish film, I should do my duty and watch it” but that’s very sad. People should watch them because they are good.

P: Another problem I see is that movies are not well promoted. They have trailers, but they are only shown at the lobby in movie theaters, with no sound, in small screens! Producers lack ambition, and they don’t put money on the marketing of their films, which is absurd. Why make a movie if you don’t invite people to see it? Last year thirty-seven films were produced, but the public only heard about a handful of them. Personally, I think we should do less movies per year, with bigger budgets, and make them exportable. With few films being made, each one coming out would be a big event, with more coverage. “See the domestic film of this fall!”

M: Yeah, and you would have more money for the marketing! “Here comes the FOURTH film of this year! BOOM!” We should also bring in money from international investors, via coproductions. Finnish producers must learn how to pitch better, to travel, to make contacts abroad. For example, Iron Sky was not the perfect movie, but production-wise it was very bold (a couple of my friends worked there). The producers went to Cannes and distributed these magazines with Nazis invading from the Moon, and then the other production companies from Australia and Germany got interested. “What are these crazy people from Finland doing here?!” We should do more products like that, instead of kitchen dramas, all those same “funny” sketches. Good marketing, international co-productions is the way to go.

We are now very familiar with Hollywood’s marketing strategies, because of what we have done with music. In Hollywood, FIFTY percent of the budget of the film goes into marketing, especially in blockbusters. With certain films, it can be up to the full budget! Studios want every person out there to know that their film is coming out, and go see it. They have many different strategies: trailers, TV spots, posters everywhere… Finnish production is like “we did a trailer, we have 300 views on YouTube, and we did a poster”. It’s a mess, nobody understands about marketing here.

P: Take the Paranormal movies, for example. The production budgets are tiny, but the marketing budgets are huge! So when the movies come out, they make waaay more money in relation to their production budgets.

M: They have brilliant marketing ideas too. One of the trailers, instead of showing clips of the movie, was showing only the audiences’ reactions! It was all a montage of scared people, covering their eyes and jumping out of their seats. Of course it makes you want to watch that! This type of approach is uncommon in Finland.

What’s in the future for you guys?
M: In order to tell that, I guess we need to go backwards in time (all of the time references are funny in this context – the interview took place on October 22, Back to the Future Day – ED). In the beginning I used to do sales from here. I would be up at weird hours, on the phone with Hollywood, all week. Lots of marketing and branding. According to our branding we are crazy vikings from the North, fighting monsters or sea gods, or whatever (laughter) So we got a lot of attention from Hollywood, we got several interviews and so on. Then different agents and distributors got interested in us, and we chose which one to work with. Now we have a company in the UK, Really Slow Motion, who represents us on a few albums and sells our material. Disney called me about Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero 6 and I negotiated that, but other projects were negotiated by Really Slow Motion. We are also looking for sub-publishers around the world, which helps a lot, to get placements. Contacts in Hollywood take a big chunk of the money, which is a standard fee there. So what we want is to conduct our own business without the middleman, in five or ten years, maybe. And I have a plan to open a shop in Los Angeles. Maybe the main office.

You want to move over there?
M: We would have to, because all of the business is there. All the competition is there, in Hollywood Blvd. They are all there, and we’re really far away. They go to bars together, they high-five each other when they go shopping, how are your kids doing… That kind of stuff. I think if you’re there you can make friends, you can make contacts, and the business will grow. The Internet and the telephone can get you so far. We need to attend industry events, social events…

P: Yeah, you have to be there. I want to work for the music industry. Trailer music is great, but I’d like to compose full soundtracks at some point.

M: For me it’s amazing how, as a kid, I wanted to be in Hollywood so much, and now we are there, but… we are not. My dream is moving forward. When it’s financially and strategically possible, we will start making more concrete plans.

Why is it called “Time Films”?
M: Oh. Because of two reasons: “Time” is a song by Hans Zimmer from the Inception movie (Christopher Nolan). Great song, we were humming it in film school. And we say “good times!” when we feel alright, which we shortened to “…time!”. It was a thing in Tampere, in film school, and so they sort of blended together. At the same time I came with the tagline (Miro switches to trailer voice): “It’s TIME!

This is Epic North Music’s website, and this is Time Film’s. Music available in Itunes, Amazon, and Spotify.