Indie Performer of the Day: Saana Laigren
Here at Film Daily, we love celebrating incredible talent, and Saana Laigren is no exception: a Finnish actress who currently works resides in L.A. Saana most recently won an award as Best Foreign Actress at the Chandra Khamini International Film Festival in the UK from her performance in Mr. Kunibert. She has also worked on projects such as Beyond the Love, Behind the Life and A Night Story.
Mr. Kunibert is Saana’s latest project, a short film focusing on a young couple exploring one of the most haunted places in the middle of Finland (perfect for Gothtober!). We had the chance to sit with Saana and interview this extremely talented actress. You can follow her on Instagram @saanaelenal, and her website is www.saanalaigren.com.
Let’s get on with the interview!
Tell us about your history as a filmmaker. How did you start your journey?
I am an actress. I always wanted to perform, ever since I was a little girl. I would play dress-up at my grandmother’s house and pretend to be a famous film star. Later on, in my early teens, I started working towards my dream of becoming an actress. I joined a theater group in my home town.
Who are your current influences?
Nicole Kidman! I follow her every move. I was lucky to see her in a Q&A last year at the AFI film festival. She is very inspiring and I admire her for how versatile she is as an actor. I have been told multiple times I look like her, but I don’t really see that myself. To me, she is a goddess.
What five TV shows do you think everyone should watch this year?
My top five of all times are: Westworld, Twin Peaks, Big Little Lies, True Detective, and Desperate Housewives. I know that only Westworld is coming back with a new season. I like to go back to my old favorites rather than follow what is new.
Cat or dog?
I would say I am a cat person. But I love dogs as well.
What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into film?
I would say The Silence of the Lambs. I have seen it nine or ten times. The performances of all the actors are extraordinary.
How was working on Mr. Kunibert? What did you learn from the experience?
We had an amazing team. We were filming in the middle of nowhere in extreme cold weather conditions. But the teamwork and the energy I got from my co-star and the crew was extraordinary.
I loved working with them and we really clicked. I learned how important the chemistry between the actors really is. I have gotten a lot of feedback that our good energy towards each other can really be seen in the film. That means a lot to me.
Tell us about your career before you found film.
I didn’t have much of a previous career since I always wanted to act. I have had a wide range of survival jobs though, from selling socks over the phone to working in a coffee shop. Those were hard times but I learned a lot.
Where did the concept come from for Mr. Kunibert?
It came from my dear friend and the director of the movie, Tapio Antere. Tapio is great at creating tension and suspense in a film. His brain seems to be working in similar ways like David Lynch’s. I really admire it. He and the cinematographer Johannes Ahonen had a great vision and made the story come to life.
What music inspires you to create?
I love the soundtracks of Tarantino’s movies.
Talk us through your creative process.
It is very intuitive. Sometimes I dig deep into the backstory of the character and seek information about people in similar life situations. Sometimes I find a way to relate to them through my own life experience.
What tips do you have for new filmmakers?
Believe in yourself and don’t belittle your dream. Be confident and say out loud you know you are going to be an actor or a filmmaker. It will happen if you believe it will.
What part of filmmaking do you geek out about the most?
Writers intrigue me so much. Their minds work in extraordinary ways. I wish I would have the patience to sit down and finish something I have tried to write.
You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
I strongly believe that if I (or anyone) want to achieve something, it can happen through hard work. So I have never been afraid of working hard or taking chances and risks. I am very persistent.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh my. Mulholland Drive.
What’s your next project?
I will be playing the lead in a horror movie. I am very excited about it. We are in the rehearsal phase right now. I love horror as a genre so I am very excited I get to dig deep into that.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
I technically haven’t. But I see my friend Barbara Brownell as my mentor in a way. She is a great actress and director. I follow her advice in every field of my life, not just in acting. She is very intuitive person, and we have a great connection.
What has been your biggest failure?
All the failures I have faced have usually led to something better after all. That is what I want to believe. But the thing I regret the most is that when I was younger I was struggling to stay true to myself. I wish I had the courage to be completely myself even when I was very young. That is something I have learned during these past three years.
What’s your filmmaking mission? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.
I want them to be able to relate to the characters I play. I want the people to look at the character and feel like “oh shit, me too.” Or “She reminds me of my sister/ex/mom/neighbor”. I want my characters to be human and relatable.
What has been your biggest success?
Probably when Mr. Kunibert got accepted to multiple festivals and I won Best Foreign Actress at the Chandra Khamini International Film Festival in the UK.
Can we expect to see any episodic television from you anytime soon?
I am going to appear in a web series called Love Me. We are starting to film in October.
What’s your five-year plan?
Continue being a working actor. I want my career to reach the point when I can also take some time off and be a mother. I love kids.
What indie filmmakers should be on our radar?
I have to mention my fellow Finns Tapio and Johannes. Also I admire the work of the Finnish director Jesse Haaja. One of my best friends Audrey Cornett is also an extraordinary writer and filmmaker. From actors I want to mention my latin girl crushes Federica Samperi & Dayana Espinoza.
What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?
Mulholland Drive. I learned that ambition is good but a competition that goes too far and becomes an obsession is never good.
Who would compose the soundtrack of your life?
Ennio Morricone! I love him!