'The Twin' co-writers on the realities of grief & pitching your movie
May 12, 2022
A joyous and loving family goes out for a car ride and gets into a terrible accident, resulting in the death of one of their beloved twin boys. In an attempt to escape their grief, they relocate to Finland and begin to rebuild. Shortly after arriving, something uninvited begins to haunt them, but what does it want?
Elliot…their other son. The Twin is a harrowing dramatic horror that pays homage to some of the genre's most beloved films. Co-written by the writing-producing team, Taneli Mustonen and Aleski Hyvarinen, the one hundred-forty-eight-minute project is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, scares, and twists.
Pitching their worst fears to win
Weeks ahead of its release date, I spoke to Mustonen and Hyvarinen about the origins of the project. “We got invited to this film market [for a pitching contest] in South Korea and they asked if we had any other ideas and of course, we didn’t,” said Mustonen. “So we went back to the office and bounced around some ideas. We thought, 'what’s our worst fear'? And as parents, your worst fear is losing a child. Then we asked, 'what would happen if you had a twin? What would happen to the family dynamics?'"
"We went back to the market, talked about the idea, and had like ten sentences. We pitched the idea throughout the week for buyers. In the end, we ended up winning the whole thing as best project, and then we had to do the scary thing and [actually] write the project.”
“You could say that was our first test audience," said Hyvarien. “We had those reactions from people and kind of sensed what they reacted to. We went to a lot of workshops around the globe and it took two years for us to finally nail the pitch. That was a huge help for us. It was a lot of learning as well. I would say that we probably would have given up on such a difficult story if we didn't have that reaction from people.”
The realities of structure and talent
The film’s matriarch is played by scream queen Teresa Palmer, whose previous projects include Lights Out and Warm Bodies. Matched by a very emotional and evocative script, Palmer delivers a harrowing performance as a grieving mother. Attaching Palmer to The Twin was one of many moments of serendipity on the project, according to Hyvarien, who also served as a producer on the film.
“When we heard she had read the script and that she want[ed] to do it…that was crazy", exclaimed Hyvarien. “As a writer, when you write a scene, you just wish you’ll find someone like her to play the role.”
It’s hard to talk about The Twin in-depth without giving away its huge third-act twist, an obstacle that even Mustonen and Hyvarien were unsure how to overcome in the beginning. “We didn't want to cheat the audience", Mustonen carefully explained. “We knew we needed to build out the story so that when the reveal comes, everything starts to make sense to the audience. That was really important for The Twin to work.”
“We always had the main story arc," added Hyvarien. “I think, for us, it felt safe because we knew what the ending was going to be. What we were headed for.”
A beloved homeland serves as the film's backdrop
Shot in Finland during the spring of 2021, Hyvairen and Mustonen are most excited to present their beloved homeland to the rest of the world. Finland has been experiencing a small theatrical boom since the pandemic as production companies turn to the Nordic country to shoot projects, including Riley Stearns's upcoming sci-fi thriller, Duel, starring Karen Gillian.
“When you guys go to work, you fight traffic. We fight wolves and bears”, laughed Hyvarinen. “A lot of us, the filmmakers in Finland, have grown up with American movies, but also have this classical background. We have a vast history of mythology and folklore. It’s kind of secret, but there's a lot of things happening in Finland now.”
“It’s a small country, but we have beautiful nature and the people are really warm, added Mustonen. “That's why every year more and more productions take place here. We’re super proud of our heritage. Telling stories is something that comes from our mother’s milk and helps us through the dark winters.”
Advice to their younger-writer-selves
In all, The Twin is an ambitious project that displays a grounded, yet haunting, depiction of grief and despair. At the end of our time together, I asked both Hyvaniren and Mustonen what advice they would give their younger writer-selves if they could. “I actually studied to become a producer but always felt the urge to write," said Hyvanrinen. “It’s really about hard work, listening to advice, reading books, watching movies, and reading scripts. The one rule that always rings true to me is, 'the day you think you got this and have mastered it, that’s when you’re in trouble.' Go out and meet people, find whatever workshops and pitching events you can go to. Stories become better when you share them.”
Mustonen added, “Just be open. It’s one of the hardest things to do. Listen to the advice of others and be open to their ideas, even though it’s hard at times. The other thing is, don't give up. We never gave up. We had other jobs on the side and grew our families, but the golden rule is to just keep writing every day. Just remember that, at least for me, I try to keep an open mind, watch films, and analyze them. We are working for the audiences. You have to create something that ignites the audience and excites them, so you really need to make sure your work is as good as it can be.”
Written by: Sade' SellersSade’ Sellers is a screenwriter and producer based in Burbank, California. Originally from Michigan’s capital, Lansing, Sade’ has been working in the entertainment industry since 2009. In 2017, Sade’ was a finalist for Tv One’s Screenwriting competition for her teleplay The Replacement. This achievement motivated the network to hire her as a writer for their upcoming movie of the week event, Deadly Dispatch, which premiered on the platform in the summer of 2019. Through that production process, Sade’ met casting director Leah Daniels-Butler who was in the midst of staffing her production company, 1oneninety5. Sade’ then rose to the role of Vice President of Content Acquisitions and Development and spent the next year learning the ecosystem of film and television development from pitching to production. Using that experience, and bound at home due to COVID-19, Sade’ made a return to her first love, screenwriting, utilizing her free time to write new content. www.sadesellers.com