Petri Luukkainen makes his directorial debut this week with the brand new documentary My Stuff; a film that follows Petri as he undergoes a major lifestyle change over the course of twelve months.
We caught up with the first time filmmaker to chat about the new project, what inspired him to undertake this experiment, and what lies ahead.
- My Stuff is released in the UK at the end of the week, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
It is a film about my life; it was an experiment that I decided to just do and film. One day I was in my apartment and I was not in the happiest place. I was looking around and I saw that my apartment was just cluttered with stuff, and I just thought if I solved this problem with my stuff, I would be happy and would have a better life. I felt that I just needed to do something, whether that be go on a trip or change my life.
I felt that there wasn’t even room to think in my apartment and I just had this idea that if I transported the items somewhere else, then I would be able to think and work a few things out. Of course, I wasn’t thinking ‘this could give me a possibility of being reborn’ (laughs). I just wanted to start from a clean slate.
When I look back, it is really hard to be honest to yourself; if I had been honest with myself, maybe I wouldn’t have done this experiment. I just had this idea that I would transport my stuff somewhere else. Then I thought ‘should I film it? It might be quite interesting if I am doing this huge lifestyle, it might make a nice documentary’. I talked about it to my friends and they were like ‘that is interesting. We should film it’.
I started figuring out the rules that I would apply to my year; I decided that I was going to do it for a year, and then I figured out whether or not I should take everything away. Then I understood the process of selection; the process of what I was going to leave and what I really needed was the process that I felt I was going to learn the most. That was really why I decided to take away everything and bring them back one by one.
At the time, it was not like a film production or anything, it was just me and a couple of my friends filming my life; the whole filming process was small and for self-reflection. That is how the film and the year went on really.
- You have slightly touched on my next question. I wondered what part during the year you decided that you could use the footage and make a documentary about your experience?
A friend of mine filmed the movie alongside myself. In the beginning when we were thinking about if we were going to film the film, how were we going to do it? Therefore, we thought we would just have a creative practice; we never thought it would be a nice film for the big screen. I have never been in front of the camera - I don’t even have my picture on Facebook - as I am really insecure about that sort of thing.
We agreed that I would have full veto, and if at any point I didn’t feel comfortable with the filming then we were just going to burn the material. As the whole year went on, I felt… it is also quite nice to film yourself as it gives you another reflective angle.
After we had filmed the whole thing, I decided that I was ok with that and it can be released. At that point, we decided to show it to some people and started financing the film; it was really then that it turned into a film production. It took a year before the film was finished.
- You must have had hours and hours of footage taken over the year, so can you talk a little bit about the editing process? How difficult was it to pull it all together and create a cohesive narrative?
We had something like two hundred hours of raw material. Together we decided what we wanted to share about the film; this was not like reality TV where someone else decides.
This allowed me to really step into the role of the director and select what I wanted to share about it: it is like writing a diary and then showing that diary to someone else. Maybe I am not the best one to judge the film, but I think it is a funny film; when I was lying down naked in my apartment, I was thinking ‘right, this will be funny’.
I also had an editor, another producer, and a dramaturg who were looking at the material with me, and we were deciding what kind of film this would be. It took about half a year to go through all of the footage that we shot before we could start the editing. We had around two hundred hours, so that was like thirty to forty five minutes a day. I think that there is a film in everyone’s life.
- What challenges and difficulties did you face during that year? Did you encounter issues that you weren’t expecting? There are quite emotional moments in this film and it is very personal.
I wasn’t thinking about what was going to happen during the year. At first, it was hard because I was without stuff. I was also surprised at how easy it also was being without stuff. I had great friends around me, and I couldn’t have done it alone.
You cannot screen write your own life; of course, I was hoping that I would find a girlfriend during the year. It was actually amazing that I did meet someone and it became a bit of a love story (laughs). It was like being in the movies.
There is the story of my grandma as well in the film. I think that that is one of the most beautiful things in the film, even though it is a bit of a sad story. These things happen, and I was just trying to live my life and capture these moments as they happened. It was quite difficult when I did encounter some hard things because you feel like an idiot filming the people around you.
It was hard, but I knew that I would be the guy who would say what material could be used. It was just about capturing what went on, and I could make that decision about what to include later on. The whole year is just like a blur to me know. It was a really strange year (laughs).
- Your grandmother actually says something quite interesting in the film, ‘belongings are just props in life’. I was wondering how much you now agree with that statement?
My relationship with belongings has now totally changed. If I look back and this film about a man who has too much of everything and he thinks his biggest problem is that he has too much stuff and he doesn’t know what to do with them - it is not even a real problem. That is a sad thing.
I don’t know if I am more materialistic because I value and appreciate things more now. In a way, I am not so interested in stuff anymore. It is strange when I think that I was so interested in my stuff that I did this experiment for one year. Now I look back and think ‘would I want to be alone in my apartment with all of my things around me? Or would I rather spend some good time with my friends?’
It is weird that, at the time, I was so into my things, but when I went through the year, I was so dependent on the people around me. It really did change me perspective on living; I suppose I do live quite a minimalist lifestyle now.
- What did your friends and family think and say when you told them that you were setting out on this experiment? In the film, your brother does seem very supportive.
Everyone was quite supportive. I didn’t tell anybody except the closest people around me that I was doing this experiment. I used the filming part of an excuse. When I said to my mum ’mum, I am putting my stuff into storage’ she was like ’what are you doing?’ Once I told her I was making a documentary, she like ’aaahh, I understand’.
Every time I got into a problem or I was explaining what I was doing to someone and they said ’what the f**k are you doing?’ Then I would be like ’I am also making this documentary’. If you want to do a radical lifestyle change, have some kind of excuse (laughs).
Otherwise, people were quite supportive. In the film, there is a scene where my cousin - who is a small boy - was asking me all these questions about what I was doing. The adults that I talked to about it were like ‘yes, I understand’, but he was like ‘that does sound really stupid’. I could not have done this experiment in a foreign city, and my friends made it possible for me to do it. I think they took it ok.
- The film marks your directorial debut, so how did you find the whole experience of moving into the director’s chair for the first time?
It was so personal, and I was doing it with my friends, that the filming became natural. Then doing a film about myself and stepping into the shoes of the director was intriguing: I hope that I can make films in the future.
Now I know how it feels to be in front of the camera, if I was to make a documentary about another person I would know how it feels to be thinking ‘will this be released? ‘How will I look in the film?’ I think I will be able to more humane about other people.
- - Finally, what is next for you? Are we going to be seeing you back in the director’s chair?
Hopefully, I would like to make another film. My Stuff is going to theatres around the world: it has been released in fifteen countries.
I am going to be travelling for a year promoting this film. Then I will have my life back (laughs). Maybe then, I will start thinking about doing another film.
My Stuff is out now.