About Me

Jan sitting on a bench smiling with the sea in the background. Photo: Eeva Hannula
Photo: Eeva Hannula.
I was born in Helsinki in 1970 at the height of the cold war. Helsinki was a small town, and in many ways it still is. I went to school there - and continued my studies at the University of Helsinki. I started work as a scriptwriter in the mid-1990s, and as a script consultant and teacher in film and media in the early 2000s. I continue to write and develop fictional stories and concepts, and I've also written factual books on diverse fields such as sports betting and modern theatre. In my creative practice, I explore themes of displacement, identity, and power.

I also teach scriptwriting and directing at The department of Culture and Media at Arcada UAS, where I am a senior lecturer. For over ten years I was part of an exchange program between Africa and Finland, an experience that rocked my view of the world. It changed my approach to stories too, and led me to pursue a PhD at the University of Helsinki, where I defended my dissertation successfully in 2019. My thesis explored the functions of empathy in intercultural narratives, and I am still curious what moves us emotionally, and how we come to understand the other.

"I want to make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange"

So what keeps me going? Curiosity and love, I think. I am still a small kid in a dark movie theatre who wants to know how the story ends. Every day I am amazed how stories are making us see familiar things in a new light, as well as showing us the alien and foreign as something very familiar. I genuinely believe that stories are good for us. They are equipment for living. Stories can remind us of our common humanity and our connection to all living things, to nature, the cosmos, and beyond. Stories are especially powerful when they are made into films. Good films make our lives better.

When I need to clear my head I run marathons (real slow) or take a dip in an ice hole (free advice: remember to breathe). My desert island disc? Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. And a few hundred others. I have been together with my partner Petra since 1993, an we have three awesome kids, Hanna, Axel and Noel.