Intersecting Histories of Finnish Film and Television from the 1950s to the 1970s

 

Kimmo Laine, Heidi Keinonen & Jaakko Seppälä

 

This paper launches a research project on rewriting the histories of early television and late studio film in Finland. As the project has only started in the autumn of 2021, the emphasis of the paper is on mapping the perspectives for approaching the joint history of the two media. The initial idea for this project stemmed from an intention to edit a book on the history of one of the three major studio era production companies in Finland, Fennada-Filmi, that was active from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. We soon realised that the history of Fennada cannot be conceived without considering the emergence of regular television programming from 1957 on. Many of the Fennada employees were involved with the very first television broadcasts, and Fennada started making contracts with the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE already in the early 1960s, first by selling exhibition rights. YLE began funding Fennada’s productions in the mid-1960s, in exchange for television rights; later on, this developed into a standard procedure. Finally, Fennada merged with YLE in the early 1980s.

 

Having realised the presence of these intermingling connections, we started to refocus the scope of the project with a broader perspective and a revisionist intention. The standard histories of Finnish film and television have two things in common: 1. The histories have been written separately, as if film and television had little to do with each other; 2. When they occasionally are discussed together, it is mainly as rivals and competitors. From the retrospective perspective of the 2000s, we know that television did not kill off cinema any more than internet killed off television: through various convergence and remediation processes, both survive and flourish, partly integrated, partly autonomous. We suggest that such processes began decades before the internet.

 

After a general overview of the project, three tentative sub-perspectives will be shortly introduced. Heidi Keinonen studies the intersections between Fennada-Filmi and early Finnish television companies. She will analyse the coexistence of film and television in terms of institution, production and content in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her examples will show that what is usually regarded as a one-way flow of people, ideas and practices from the older medium to the newer one, was in fact characterised by mutual interaction and benefit from very early on. Kimmo Laine focuses on contemporary discourses on the relations of film and television during the early television era. He charts and rereads the writings of the late 1950s and early 1960s on the emergence of television in Finnish film journals and newspapers in terms of not only competition but also interaction and assimilation. Jaakko Seppälä, who has explored the style of Nordic noir television series and the aesthetics of Finnish films noir in the 1940s and 1950s, focuses on the long history of Finnish noir. He asks how and why noir travelled from films to television series and from there back to the big screen again.

 

Kimmo Laine is university lecturer in media studies at the University of Turku. He is a film historian with a special interest in Finnish and Nordic cinemas. He has authored, for example, The Films of Teuvo Tulio (with Henry Bacon and Jaakko Seppälä, 2020) and is currently finishing Finnish Film Studios (forthcoming). He is the head of an ongoing research project The Intersecting Histories of Film and Television (2021–).

 

Heidi Keinonen (D.Soc.Sc) is a senior research fellow in Media Studies at the University of Turku. Her research interests include media industries and globalisation, broadcasting history, television production, television aesthetics and audience studies. She has published a number of articles in international journals and edited collections as well as a Finnish monograph on television programme formats. She is also involved in media consultancy as a co-founder of Medialogi Ltd.

 

Jaakko Seppälä (PhD) is a docent (adjunct professor) in film and television studies at the University of Helsinki. He is interested in transnational and stylistic questions, focusing on film and television history. Seppälä is co-editor of Nordic Noir, Adaptation, Appropriation (2020) and co-author of The Films of Teuvo Tulio (2020). He has contributed to numerous anthologies and journals.