One of the most important figures in Finnish cinema
. Director, producer and professor.
Risto Orko was born as Risto Nylund on September 15, 1899 in Rauma, right around the time the Cinematograph was first showcased in the country. In his early teens he was already a fan of films and frequented the local movie theatres. After graduating from lukio in 1920, Nylund moved on to study law in The University of Helsinki along with future president Urho Kekkonen, with the goal to become a lawyer for the foreign ministry. During his student years, Nylund worked as a freelance editor for several newspapers and made many friends in Helsinki's cultural circles.
Nylund was also involved in an organization dedicated to fighting tuberculosis. He got the idea of making a feature film which would educate people about the subject while still being entertaining. Nylund managed to convince the legendary Suomi-Filmi company to make the idea a reality, and himself worked as the second director. In 1933, Ne 45000 (Those 45000) became the cinema debut of Nylund, who had now changed his last name to Orko.
Orko had talks with Erkki Karu, a longtime friend and co-director of Ne 45000, about forming a new production company called Suomen Filmiteollisuus (The Finnish Film Industry), which would compete against the existing Finnish film giant. But before he had even finished filming his first feature, Orko was offered a job as Suomi-Filmi's production manager and primary director. He accepted, and has later states his contract included total creative control and an extremely short notice period.
In this position, Orko directed 13 movies between 1933 and 1943. He more or less saved the company single-handedly from bankruptcy with his hit films like the record-breaking Siltalan pehtoori. Towards the late 30s Orko moved into a more patriotic direction with films like Jääkärin Morsian (The Ranger's Bride) and Aktivistit (The Activists). He even created straightforward propaganda titles. Due to having business ties to Germany during the World War II Suomi-Filmi got blacklisted for some time after the war ended.
In 1945 Risto Orko was promoted into the CEO of Suomi-Filmi, and a few years later he became the president of the company. Because of these duties, he had to concentrate completely in producing. As a producer he always gave plenty of creative freedom to his directors, and was set on releasing quality titles instead of assembly line productions. Suomi-Filmi's triumph in film production continued until the early 60s, after which the raising popularity of television as well as the ongoing actors' strike forced Orko to switch the company's focus from movie production to importing raw film material and later on VHS marketing. Although his stay was initially supposed to be brief, Orko's involvement with Suomi-Filmi lasted all the way until 1999.
Orko was also very interested in different techniques of filmmaking, especially sound and acoustics. He was one of the first Finnish filmmakers to realize the importance of sound as an essential element in movies. He co-founded the Akustinen Seura (The Acoustic Society), and remained as an active member for several decades. He was also interested in bacteriological cinematography, and is the first known person to shoot a solar eclipse in 1945. In addition to improving both visual and aural techniques, Orko also imported skilled filmmakers to Finland in order to raise the quality of the Finnish motion picture industry.
Risto Orko died on October 10, 2001, a month after his 102th birthday.
Not a cut'n'paste writeup.
Did I get it right this time?