The story of Nokia Origin told in the “Mobile 101” series
Almost everyone over the age of 30 has owned a Nokia phone at some point in their life, but few know that the iconic brand was created in a Finnish company formerly specializing in wellington boots.
Once the world’s largest cellphone maker at the turn of the 21st century, the company was nearly knocked out of the smartphone market by Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android long before 2010, and eventually sold its division of combined with Microsoft in 2013.
When news of Microsoft’s takeover on television first broke, Finnish director Maarit Lalli’s first thought was, “There will only be one. [drama] on Nokia in Finland: it will either be me or someone else, and it will most likely be a man, ”she said. Variety during a fixed visit to Helsinki.
The next morning, Lalli called Finnish TV stations and the Finish Film Foundation to check if there was another project in the works. When she realized this wasn’t the case, she embarked on an eight-year process to create “Mobile 101” (“Made in Finland”), a sprawling six-part series featuring filming began in April. The show is produced and represented in international markets by the main Finnish banner Rabbit Films, with crucial support from broadcaster MTV3 Finland, which has made its biggest script investment to date. CMore’s streaming service will present the series in the Nordic countries.
Although the project was initially developed as a film, the extent of the “national trauma” of the fall of Nokia and its subsequent sale to Microsoft resulted in a funding shortage from the Finnish Film Foundation, the actress explained. Veteran Finnish turned producer Minna Haapkylä, who joined Rabbit Films in 2018 as head of scripted drama and helped Lalli develop the series.
Instead of jumping at the chance to make a controversial film focusing on the cataclysmic downfall of Nokia, Lalli – who is described as fiercely determined and detail-oriented by several members of the crew and cast – took to a different path with “Mobile 101”, choosing to dedicate the first season to the origin story behind Finland’s crown jewel.
After all, Nokia’s history was not unlike that of many other tech companies in the early 2000s: it was good at making mobile phones, but when phones became a mobile computer and a platform Internet, Nokia could not adapt quickly enough to compete with the tastes. from Google and Apple.
Budgeted at 3.75 million euros ($ 4.23 million) and comprising 160 roles in total, the ambitious first season of “Mobile 101” goes further back in history, zooming in on how Nokia has gone from rubber boots to mobiles in the 1990s, told through the perspectives of lawyers, engineers and senior management.
A top notch key team has been enlisted to create an elegant series, from Heather Loeffler, the Oscar nominated set designer of “Joy”, “Carol” and “American Hustle”; to Lalli’s husband, Rauno Ronkainen, who is the cinematographer behind “Omerta 12/6” and “The Eternal Road”; and costume designer Maria Sirén (“The longest day”).
The cast is equally strong, featuring established Scandinavian actors like Sampo Sarkola (“Bordertown”, “Shadow Lines”), Kristo Salminen (“Bordertown”), Rafael Edholm (“Peacemaker”), as well as up-and – came as Aku Sipola (“Secret Lives”), Satu-Tuuli Karhu (“Eden”) and Emil Kihlström. International actors include Adam Bond (“Maleficent”), Jonathan Harboe (“Darkland”) and Carmen Gloria Pérez (“Young Royals”).
Filming a show of this magnitude in the midst of a pandemic added an extra layer of complications around the cast, with major producers, including Haapkylä, volunteering as extras on some stages. When Variety was on set, the producers dressed up as Nokia staff members engaged in a team-building game dressed in funky 1980s outfits.
The setting for “Mobile 101” in the late 1980s gave it a rich canvas as it shows how the company transformed Finland into a high-tech company and saved the country’s economy by creating thousands of jobs at a critical time that coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Union, explained Haapkylä, who produced the show with Rabbit Films producer Tiina Pesonen and CEO Olli Suominen.
The main plot of the first season revolves around a pair of junior lawyers (Karhu and Kihlström) who were given the daunting task of defending Nokia against Motorola after the latter filed a patent infringement complaint. The other two scenarios follow Risto Salminen (Sipola), the engineering engineer from Nokia who developed the first GSM mobile phone, as well as the internal divisions and the crisis within the board of directors of Nokia, including the chief financial officer. of the company, Jorma Ollila (Sarkola) taking over the management of the company. following the suicide of its CEO, Kari Kairamo (Salminen) in 1988.
“I wanted to hear everyone’s story, understand how the miracle happened, how they felt back then and have all different perspectives,” said Lalli, between takes at a restaurant near the offices. from Nokia, which was once a hotspot for power lunches in the 1980s and 1990s.
The director admitted that she didn’t know much about Nokia before the show, other than owning a phone and a pair of company rubber boots, so she took on the role of investigative reporter. She read dozens of books and insisted on speaking to the protagonists, including Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who became CEO of Nokia in 2006 and led the company through the storm until it was ousted in 2010.
Nokia supported the series, allowing the production to use its logo and providing access to legal documents and numerous VHS tapes, all of which were used by the cast and crew to plan locations and get the make-up and the correct costumes, said “Online Producer Mobile 101” Tiina Pesonen.
The director, who won three Jussi Awards (the Finnish equivalent of the Oscars) for her feature debut “Kohta 18”, said her main goal with “Mobile 101” was to deliver a “realistic” account of what’s happening. ‘happened at Nokia and making people “Laugh and cry.”
Citing Ruben Östlund’s “The Tourist”, the films by Pedro Almodóvar and David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”, Lalli said she wanted to “keep the tone light and lively but still realistic” and show that even characters with large responsibilities were imperfect and therefore relatable. Lalli managed to gain the trust of former Nokia executives, including Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who after a 90-minute meeting allowed him to use their real names in the series.
As he sat in the boardroom of the former Nokia headquarters, Kallasvuo, who describes himself as gentle and modest, says he has only kept positive memories of his 31 years in office. tenure at Nokia, including four as CEO.
“I am truly grateful for this period of my life. The company was fundamentally reborn and then grew into one of the biggest companies in the world in the space of twenty years, ”says Kallasvuo, who still sits on Nokia’s board of directors and recently published an book entitled “The Phone Rang at Night”, about his experience within the company.
“Thirty years ago, there were very few true global companies outside of the United States. The world was not as small as it is today,” he adds, noting that he and Other senior Nokia executives were seen as “heroes” because Finland’s new capital “and increased its international visibility in the tumultuous political context of the early 90s. Jani Hartikainen, head of dramas at MTV3 Finland, said the broadcaster had quickly embraced Lalli’s vision for “Mobile 101” and made her biggest scripted investment to date with the show.
“’Nokia’ is obviously a big thing in Finland and a lot has been said about it, but there is so much behind the facade,” Hartikainen said. “My first [instinct was that it] couldn’t be a history lesson: people want to see good stories and something that touches them emotionally. So we wanted to bring this story with strong characters and tell it through their eyes. “
MTV3 covered over 70% of the budget and some financial support from Aurora Studios and Business Finland on board. Rabbit Films CEO Suominen said Hartikainen was so excited about the project that he barely had time to finish pitching it to her.
“Jani’s pitch lasted about seven minutes. We were having breakfast, and then I introduced him in a few minutes and he said, “Okay, I don’t know if you have anything else. I don’t want to hear it. I’m going to finish my breakfast now, ”Suominen recalls, laughing.
Season 2, which will focus on Nokia against its US rivals, will require a more generous budget and producers will likely leave the door open for an international partner to join early. Lalli has already written a 60-page synopsis and will be preparing a pilot soon. Considering how Nokia has recently bounced back with 5G technology, there is perhaps still more to be said beyond two seasons.