Oskari “Okko” Raitanen, 25, one of the founding members, reveals that Nipwitz, the most internationally renowned Finnish urban skiing and ski movie team will never shoot another movie again – but skiing together will go on.
Brain Massage, directed by Aarni Toiviainen (starring Oskari Raitanen, Matti Räty, Tommi Kostilainen, Kalle Leinonen, Riku Laakso and Jussi Mononen), which had its world premiere a month ago, is bringing viewers into cinemas – in the towns used as its shooting locations on the other side of the Eastern border, for example.
Oskari, who hails from Jyväskylä and who has since moved to Tampere, is focusing on his studies at Tampere University of Technology, majoring in energy and process technology. It’s his fifth year, yet the first one that may earn him some credit in the winter, too. Up until now, since 2009, it used to be Nipwitz that provided all the wintertime activity.
“So far, I’ve only managed to study full-time in the fall. In the winter, I’ve considered myself a professional skier.”
He has been watching ski movies since a young age.
“The creativity-oozing early Think Tank productions really hit me almost ten years ago, and I believe that it has shaped the way I feel about this sport. Having been raised in Laajavuori, I have also been influenced skiing-wise by Mart Perendi and Tuukka Terva-Aho, for it was after them that I did my first urban rails.”
Nipwitz was initiated as Raitanen, Aarni Toiviainen, and Tommi Kostilainen shared a passion for creating a movie never made before.
“In spite of being young, we had been in several movie projects already, but we were ambitious and decided to go for an entirely different approach – in terms of both skiing as well as choosing spots. We consciously chose a different angle regarding tricks and locations; we wouldn’t be shooting the same old cork sevens at the park, but we’d hit cities’ back alleys and back country terrain on mountains. We felt that we hadn’t yet exploited our full potential, and that’s where Nipwitz came in.”
“I believe our main goal throughout the history of Nipwitz has been to do things in our own terms and have the energy and vibes of this unbelievable team carry to the other side of the camera, too.”
“We felt really great after the first season of Nipwitz, for we achieved way more than we had envisioned even in our wildest dreams. It was a certain type of feeling of fulfillment that you don’t get to experience very many times in your life.”
“As a person, I’m also glad that I’ve been doing things other than skiing as well, for you can burn out with anything if you don’t know when to take some distance from it.”
The Nipwitz team have always done things in their own terms.
“We’re fairly particular about doing things our own way instead of taking directions from someone. I suppose that’s an analogy that also works with life in general. All moments of shooting are unique, they’re really thought-out, and we work on them to make the end result as tight as possible. There’s this certain stubbornness shared by us all: we will always finish whatever we have started.”
The filming sessions have combined both a tight script and the freedom of expression (in odd settings such as Murmansk), with the latter always coming first.
“Some detailed ideas for filming have turned into visions so clear in Aarni’s mind that he could write plans about them, but usually we’ve had an open mind. The best filming trips have been those where we’ve had a big group – everybody out of their comfort zone. It’s then that this certain creative craziness may come out and ideas for new tricks and spots start flying. Creativity often takes a peculiar environment and a certain mindset caused by wretchedness to come out.”
Everyone’s had their own role in production on and off the silver screen. Oskari is a rail specialist, and then some.
“We all have our strengths. It makes filming trips easier, for there will always be someone to handle a spot. Aside from doing rails, I believe I’m the one who wakes the guys up and keeps the work ethics high.”
To quote Oskari: “Nipwitz hasn’t been all fun and games, though.” There have been some lower moments, too, and some friction caused by different characters and personalities.
“It got stressful early last winter, as there was no sign of snow and we had to work on way more footage, but luckily we were able to travel up north and get the job done.”
Also combining professional skiing and having a job outside it has posed its problems.
“Sure, my studies have been progressing slower than usually because skiing has taken a major part of my time in the winter. There are challenges in a relationship, too, when you travel a lot, but I’m happy to have found a partner that understands it all. Thanks, Rita!”
The decision to end Nipwitz came as the result of long pondering.
“We decided to call it quits because life outside skiing has become increasingly more important for everybody in the team. It’s not possible to handle a project taking as much time and focus as Nipwitz does, as there’s school, work, and other areas of personal life to take care of. The thought about quitting was in the air even before the shooting of Brain Massage started, and eventually it resulted in the idea of quitting Nipwitz on a high note in the form of a two-year movie project.”
A comeback will not be happening.
“I bet we’ll be doing many trips with the group, but as for movies and other clips: that’s over.”
Oskari considers the premiere in Helsinki as the finest achievement in his career so far.
“It was really fucking cool to stand there in front of the 500-strong crowd and let them see the movie! It’s been such a long and arduous project, so seeing it on the silver screen is a very rewarding thing.”
They say the title of the film is an inside joke having to do with “turning the lights off” at nights after shooting days, but the actual meaning is up for the viewers to make.
“It took so much work and effort, but it was also a very nice experience. A movie is important as the final product, of course, but shooting it was a journey in itself that taught me a lot about myself as well as the whole crew.”
Brain Massage has been seen by around a thousand spectators, but the true expected peak is expected to happen around the time of the online release.
“We’re trying to work on the hype to make sure it reaches as many as possible viewers.”
Oskari admits that wrapping it all up has been sentimental.
“I can’t deny that. Fortunately, as for how I’m feeling, it’s more fulfillment rather than disappointment. Nipwitz has been the greatest thing we’ve ever achieved, and now we can – and must! – reap and enjoy what we’ve been sowing. Big thanks to the whole ski crew; it’s been amazing to enjoy so much support!”
Next up: the first winter at school in almost ten years. It may feel a bit odd, but everything has its time and place.
“I aim at getting on soft snow as much as possible, as freeskiing is very fascinating and I want to get better at it.”
Brain Massage – the testament left by Nipwitz – he recommends to everybody.
“Anyone can get something out of it. There’s skiing, awesome locations, motor vibes, a badass soundtrack, and a whole lot of more! Switch the HD on and crank the volume up, and those 23 minutes will just shoot by. A Collector’s Box is available at nipwitz.com!”