Paula Vesala is a talented actress, playwright, and singer-songwriter from Finland. She recently starred in Little Wing, a beautiful coming-of-age story directed by Selma Vilhunen. She plays the role of single mother Siru, who tries to balance a housekeeping job, driving lessons, and caring for her daughter, 12-year-old Varpu (Linnea Skog). Ms. Vesala spoke with me on the phone about the film ahead of her appearance at this year’s Starring Europe Film Festival.
How much of the music did you do for Little Wing?
I’m actually a musician and a producer, so everything you also hear on the radio was done by me and Jori [Sjöroos]. We composed, we played, and we produced everything. It’s not like some catalog music. We did a lot of the score on the radio [scenes]. The only thing – the last song you hear when the movie ends is a cover. We wanted to put this old song to the movie and we made a new version of it. I produced, played, composed, and sang. My son also sings.
Was it a different process for you to be doing both music and acting on this film?
It’s totally different. I had to separate those two. I had to act first and then I took a little break for two weeks. Then I went back as a composer, just looking at the rhythm and the tone of the scenes. It’s not easy, but it’s healthy for your actor ego to step back. [Laughs]
What did you like most about playing the part of Siru?
I guess the best thing was to find empathy for a character like that. I’m kind of the opposite of her. You cannot really play a role without loving the character and finding true empathy towards the person you’re playing. It was a journey to understand some of my friends and maybe my own mom. It was important.
Do you have a favorite scene?
I loved the nighttime when the kids are driving the stolen car. I don’t know. I feel that it’s so wild and also everything is so empty. They could meet a lot more people. The kids are just on their own in a stolen car at night. There’s something really touching about that.
What was it like to work with director Selma Vilhunen?
Selma is a very interesting artist. She has done a lot of documentaries. This was her first feature film. It was a lot of discussions and research and improvising: like dance and movement with Linnea, who played the daughter. She wanted to try out different methods to find what she was looking for. She’s open to other people’s ideas and she’s great in that way.
What do you hope audiences will get out of the film?
It’s tricky. It’s not like a blockbuster kind of a film, but it’s really important. The protagonist is a 12-year-old girl. I hope it wouldn’t be so difficult to get distribution for a film like that. I think already it has done a good job and we’ve seen it at a lot of festivals. I do hope it will get distribution here in the States and in Europe so people could choose to see it.