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Finnish director to lead next generation

Finnish Harri Haanpaa is the head of Film and Digital Media Academy at the prestigious British International School Phuket (BISP).

By Dalia Hilmi

Monday 19 January 2015, 08:00AM

Harri Haanpaa

Harri Haanpaa

Having only moved to Phuket just over a year ago, Harri has quickly worked his way up and introduced not only the students of BISP, but also the people of Phuket, to the creative world of film production.

Inspired by some of the greats, David Fincher (Fight Club) and James Cameron (Titanic), Harri began his career in Finland where he ran his own film production company – “DreamMill”. The company originally was created in 1995, but kicked off in 2000. Soon after, a producer from Los Angeles called to offer him a job opportunity. He then spent the next eight months training to prepare for his big move to LA.

He worked on Hollywood Express, a TV show about music, films, popular culture and celebrities. After two years, he returned to Finland, followed by a tour around Europe, continuing to produce and direct films, commercials and TV shows, while also developing his camera work and editing skills.

Harri says that he still enjoys all the basics, including editing and producing: “I really enjoying guiding and teaching others, and being close to the directing side of films.

“As a director, my mission is to make people shine i.e. whatever they’re doing... make them perform to the best of their ability.

“It’s quite similar to teaching, really, which is why I eventually turned this interest into a profession. So I then achieved a teaching qualification from Finland.

“Teaching is like another form of media, and teaching here at the academy has been great. The students are actually really interested, and I feel like I am coaching them rather than teaching. You really learn who the passionate ones are.”

Harri says one of his desires would be to go straight into producing and directing films with the students, but it’s important to “understand the basics” first. He said that it is crucial to let the students think on their own about what they’ve produced.

“I try to let them think individually and have their own voice. What’s great about BISP is that they really believe in this as well, and one of its aims is to allow the students to have a voice.”

“I am surprised at how fast they [the students of BISP] are learning. Kids learn surprisingly well, if we let them do it. School is the centre of society and life.”

So what’s next for Harri?

While he continues to build his life in Phuket and teach at BISP, he also tries to encourage other professionals in Phuket to get involved in film events and groups. He also plans to develop his scripts and create more short films, as well as produce a quality TV series.

Harri is keen to continue developing his skills and helping others.

“My motivation is simple: to always produce better and better work.”

To find out more or to get in touch with Harri, email him at



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