Jesse Jalonen is a multi-talented filmmaker

The ELO Film School alumnus is developing his next film, for which he won the Nordic Talents Pitch Prize.
Mies seisoo rakennuksen edessä palkintokirja kädessään
Photo: Nordisk Film & TV Fond

Jesse Jalonen graduated from Aalto University with a major in film directing in 2020 and has worked in a variety of roles in the field since then. In September 2022, Jalonen pitched his new feature fiction film Return & Exchange at the Nordic Talents event in Copenhagen and won the top Nordic Talents Pitch Prize. 

The film tells five parallel stories of a world where people can change their lives by swapping shoes. With its comedically tuned look, the film challenges our notions of identity, authenticity and freedom. The jury justified its decision by choosing a filmmaker with a unique voice that addresses important issues of the day and makes audiences laugh and cry.

The prestigious prize includes a development grant of €25,000 for the project, which will allow Jalonen to continue working on the film. Nordic Talents is an annual pitch event for directors, producers and screenwriters from Nordic film schools. More than 200 Nordic film professionals attended the event.

Jalonen's Master's thesis for Aalto University, a film shot on an old Nokia mobile phone, received international attention when it had its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in early 2022, as the only Finnish film. The film is about the invisible people living among us, who can only be seen through the camera.

What do you work with at the moment and what has been your path to your current role? 

'Before Aalto University, I already had a degree in Media Studies from the Film and Television programme at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. I started studying at the Department of Film at Aalto University in 2014, majoring in cinematography. After my BA, I switched to a major in film directing, which had always been my primary interest. I graduated with a Master of Arts degree at the end of 2020.

It's hard to describe my current work in a nutshell. I work as a film director, screenwriter and cinematographer on a freelance basis, i.e. for varying lengths of time. I am currently developing my next feature film "Exchange and Return", for which I recently won the Nordic Talents Pitch Prize. My next step is to find a production company for it. At the same time, I'm waiting for a production decision on a short film to be shot in the spring, and working with two other writers on the concept for a TV series. During the autumn, I will apply for grants from various sources. I also occasionally do teaching work in the field.'

What kind of tools did your studies give you that are useful in the world of work? 

'Everything I have learned about filmmaking I have learned during my ten years of studying, but it's really hard to pinpoint where and when that learning happened. I would argue that that length of time itself has allowed me to discover my own perspective on filmmaking in peace. I'm naturally quite introverted, but my studies have allowed me to expose myself and my ideas to others to the extent that my shyness no longer becomes a barrier to collaboration or public performance. In my case, studying two different professions, directing and cinematography, has also proved to be a viable solution for my livelihood in the end.'

What tips would you give to current students of directing? 

'For me, the most rewarding and successful aspects of my studies were a broad interest in all kinds of filmmaking, getting involved in every possible project in every possible role at the beginning of my studies and, towards the end, the determination to do what interests me most. The friendships I made during my studies have been important after graduation, both personally and professionally.'

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Nordisk Film & TV Fond

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Finnish film shot on an old Nokia phone gets its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival

Nobody Meets Your Eyes was the only Finnish film to make it to the Rotterdam Film Festival.

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