Holed up in the studio for the better part of this spring, Finnish/Swedish symphonic metallers NIGHTWISH are not only putting finishing touches to their new album, "Imaginarium", but also planning a movie of the same name. If all goes well, the CD will be released in early 2012, to be followed by the movie at some point further down the line. The first single off the album as well as the trailer for the film should arrive well before the end of 2011.
For the movie, NIGHTWISH has teamed up with director Stober Harju's production team and Solar Films.
In the following question-and-answer session, NIGHTWISH leader and main composer Tuomas Holopainen talks about the "Imaginarium" concept and the challenges the band has faced in undertaking such an ambitious project.
Q: How did you come up with the concept for "Imaginarium"?
Tuomas: After completing the last album, I realized that we can't necessarily top "Dark Passion Play" in terms of bombast and dynamics. I could simply see the end of a certain path looming in the horizon and started thinking about new challenges. At some point I had a revelation: is there a reason why NIGHWISH should be just an aural experience? Why shouldn't we broaden our horizons? I got the idea of a concept album and thought that we could shoot a video for each song that would all tie together and comprise a story. I wanted to create a complex whole that would be something new compared to the movie projects of, say, PINK FLOYD, KISS, LORDI et cetera.
Q: The project was started two and a half years ago, in early autumn 2008.
Tuomas: I had met director Stobe Harju during the production of "The Islander" video and knew that we were on the same wavelength what comes to crazy fantasy stuff. I told Stobe about my idea, and he said instantly: "Tuomas, you're crazy as a loon, but the idea's amazing — let's start pre-production!" So basically I came up with the concept: I had a vision that we'd shoot thirteen music videos that would all tie together. Then Stobe suggested we'd have dialogue, too, although I had thought that music and videos would carry the story. Stobe assured, however, that the combination of music, imagery and dialogue would give us the best results, and now that I look at the script, I realized that he was right. The pre-production has gone amazingly well, because all my main ideas, like the roller coaster ride in one song, fit Stobe's story seamlessly. Basically, I gave Stobe thirteen pearls, and he crafted a whole pearl necklace out of them.
Q: The final script is still being written, but what can you reveal about the plot at the moment?
Tuomas: An old composer on his deathbed returns to his childhood. Old memories slowly return, mingled with the small boy's world of fantasy and music. This is the main concept that we can reveal at the moment. I wanted to convey a positive message and a sense of carpe diem. The movie is about the joy of being alive and the beauty of the world.
Q: The first advertisement poster gives hints about the visuals of "Imaginarium". What else do you want to share with us at this point?
Tuomas: We're visualizing something that's a cross between the surreal worlds of Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman, and Salvador Dali, but we try to not make it too artsy. Of course, I've seen a thick pile of reference art, and it looks absolutely great.
Q: Have you already done the casting? Can we expect to see any band members in the movie?
Tuomas: We're just about to start casting, but it's mostly going to be done by Stobe and Solar Films. Personally, I'd like to see unknown actors, who haven't been type-casted yet. Obviously it would be good if they were native English speakers, too, because "rally English" really doesn't fit the tone of the movie. NIGHTWISH basically appear as themselves, as we're probably going to be seen playing two or three songs in the movie. There are also some support parts and dialogue written for us, but obviously you won't see us in the main roles. The running time will be about 80 minutes, maybe even a bit more.
Q: Has it been challenging to get the funding for the movie?
Tuomas: "Challenging" is an understatement. You have to remember that a movie like this costs seven figures. Nevertheless, I was not ready to give up at any point, because the idea of releasing just an audio album would have felt like a let-down. The band is strongly involved in the production, and therefore we're also taking a big financial risk ourselves. It's obviously great that we got an excellent company like Solar Films as a partner. Despite all the talk about the movie, it's of utmost importance to remember that "Imaginarium" is also the new NIGHTWISH album, a stand-alone musical work. What's probably interesting for the listeners is that the music on the album and in the movie will differ a bit — in the movie, some intros are edited out, some choruses don't have vocals, and so forth. In the movie, the music obviously has to accommodate the story and the drama.
Q: What kind of role do the lyrics of the songs play in the story?
Tuomas: It was interesting to write the lyrics, because they also have to work on their own without the movie. That's why you won't hear the names of the characters in the lyrics, for example. The individual themes are pretty universal, yet they tie into each other without actually telling a linear story. But don't worry, everything will be made clear in time.
Q: How do you plan to release these things?
Tuomas: If everything goes smoothly, we plan to release the album in early 2012, followed by the movie when it's ready. It's going to be on DVD at least, but hopefully we'll also get a theatrical release. And, of course, "Imaginarium" will later be available as a double pack with both the album and the movie.
Q: If "Dark Passion Play" saw the end of one path, what on earth can you do after "Imaginarium"?
Tuomas: I guess we have to incorporate smells and other sensations...