Supporting creativity 30/04/2009
Harri Haanpää

Harri Haanpää sets up film production company after media training co-funded by the European Social Fund.

“I’ve always been interested in creative activities,” says Harri Haanpää from Helsinki in Finland. With a passion for drawing and photography, he decided early on that he wanted to work in the creative industries. “When I was a kid I wanted to be an illustrator. I started off drawing comics but then got interested in other types of drawing.

“At the age of nine, I decided that being a commercial illustrator was the only way I wanted to make a living,” he adds.

He set his sights on a course on commercial illustration offered by a local college. However, by the time he was getting to the end of his school studies, the class had ended. “After that, I changed direction a bit,” he says. He went to nautical college at the age of 15 and then worked as a chef on commercial ships.

After three years, he decided that life at sea was not for him and he wanted to get back into something creative. In 1995, he took a course in film studies at college in Voionmaa. “I got hooked on photography,” says Harri. “I was shooting everything that moved.”

Practical experience

Afterwards, he moved back to the Helsinki area and started working for a Finnish music channel. “I started working non-stop. I did everything – lighting, camera, controls,” he says. He was also working on music videos and began directing. “I really liked it because I always wanted to learn more.”

He was then offered a position in Los Angeles working on Hollywood Express, a TV show about music, films popular culture and celebrities. After a year and a half in the United States, Harri returned to Europe. He took a European Masters in Multimedia and Audiovisual Business Administration (EMMABA), which involved studying in Athens, Greece, and then in Lapland back in Finland. “That programme taught me how to produce, and I met a lot of people from all over Europe.”

In 2000, after completing the course, he set up his own production company, DreamMill. “I always had the goal of starting my own company. It wasn’t a question of if, but when,” he says. He directs, produces and films TV shows, music videos, commercial films and mobile TV applications.

For Harri, the advantages of running his own business are clear. “I love to create,” he says. “If you work for someone else, then often your hands are tied. Having my own company means I have more freedom to do what I want to do.

“I always want to do quality work. I like to see good quality television. It’s good to get paid, but it’s not the main point.”

Continuous development

Harri is an enthusiastic advocate of education and training. “I’ve realised that you can never have enough knowledge. This is a fast-moving sector and I need to be able to compete with new graduates. Experience doesn’t count for much in this industry, ” he says. 

From 2005 to 2006 he took a course of practical training for media entrepreneurs. The MEDA course, co-funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund, helped him to develop his skills and expand his business.

“I wanted a more theoretical point of view,” says Harri. “It was about running a business and how to produce.” He made new contacts and it opened up greater opportunities for the company through the training. “I got a lot from the course. I learned not to reinvent the wheel and to concentrate on keeping things simple,” he says.

For Harri, the course had direct relevance. “It was great because I could immediately apply what I was learning and think how it could help my business.”

He is keen to continue with his learning, the next step being a master’s level degree. “One day I want to be a teacher and spread my knowledge,” he adds.

However, his overall goal remains clear. “My motivation is simple: to always produce better and better work.”