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Rewinding a decade to
Imaginaerum Premiere

Stobe couldn't come up with anything about the decade anniversary of Imaginaerum by Nightwish. He asked his dear friend, an LA producer, James Halpern to do it for him. As usual, James wrote a long emotional piece about his journey to see the band and the big premiere Nov 2012.

2022/11/10 Imaginaerum Decade Anniversary
Thursday, November 10, 2022
Post by James Halpern
James Halpern

The Journey

The Destination



Decade Anniversary
by James Halpern


Twilight moments &



After a workout at the gym; some cardio and weights, I left with the pump in my muscles that usually signals a job well done.  But, this time I only went through the motions and had not hit the weights hard at all.  So, why was there swelling only in my right arm that after an hour was getting worse.?

I wondered if it was allergies.  At the Walk-In Clinic I was given a shot of Benedryl and told to wait. Forty-five minutes later, it was strongly suggested that I go to the emergency room to have them look for a blood clot.

The ultrasound tech took a half hour to find it.   Buried in the vein under my clavicle was the clot that was preventing blood from returning out of my arm to my heart.  

I really don’t want to be awake for this.

I was in “twilight” for the first surgery.  

Mostly asleep, but still aware enough to see the doctor standing over me with a long wire snaked all the way up my arm to my clavicle.  He was plunging the vein like a backed up toilet, but the clot would not budge.  

I remember seeing my blood on the table and how hard he was working on my arm and said, “I really don’t want to be awake for this.”  The doctor laughed and they knocked me out cold.  

I spent the night in the Intensive Care Unit with an implanted device spraying blood thinners directly on the clot.  The second surgery went smoother.

Two days later I was sent home with a series of needles to stick into my stomach to shoot myself up with enough blood thinners to try and prevent the clot from coming back 

17 Hours

Of likely
Pain ahead

All of the doctors wanted me to stay home and get my situation under control. Flying can lead to blood clots, so what the hell am I doing on a 17 hour trip to Helsinki via London? 

But my wife knew exactly how important this trip was to me.

The True

Discovery of


I had discovered Nightwish a few years earlier.

In 2008 I was a Producer on the SYFY Channel TV show Battlestar Galactica while also running TV Development for one of the show’s Executive Producers.  One of the most important parts of this job was looking for style and vision from artists in film, television, and music.

an Old Man and the Sea struggle just overflowing with style… it was foreign and universal all at the same time.

Everything in the TV Business revolves around lists:  writer lists, actor lists, lists of ideas, lists of books and articles to option, and also lists of directors with vision, style and a way of working with actors. That is when I saw the Islander video for the first time. 

It was also the first time I wrote down the name Stobe Harju on a list of music video directors to watch.

Austere locations, flying ships from another realm, an Old Man and the Sea struggle just overflowing with style… it was foreign and universal all at the same time.  

But with a show like Battlestar, visual style and technical excellence must always come second to how a director works with actors.  I needed to wait and gather more evidence.

The name Stobe Harju went on a list and from an office at Universal Studios I began to dig a little deeper into his other work with Poets of the Fall and the music Nightwish.

From Depression
To New Heights

By the middle of 2009 I was in a deep depression.  I would never see the original line-up of Nightwish together. For some of you reading this, that statement will need no explanation.

I had missed the early years of the band’s evolution, the triumph of Once and the dark times after the departure of Tarja Turunen.  Thanks to End of an Era, From Wishes to Eternity, and countless YouTube videos, I was coming to understand our collective loss.  

But the music from Dark Passion Play was sustaining and Annette Olzon was brilliant on those recordings. 

I could get to see both a highly anticipated film and the band that I have grown to love

Once 2012 hit, Battlestar and its spinoff, Caprica, have both come and gone.  A few TV movies, a failed Bionic Woman re-boot and my year of not selling a pilot while running the TV department at a small feature film company and I am looking for my next gig for the last time. 

Sometime in 2012 the premiere of Imaginaerum is announced alongside a concert at Hartwall Areena (the same stage as the legendary End of an Era concert).  

Stobe Harju, that director, with a unique visual style, is putting his work with actors on screen with a feature film… If their performances are brilliant Imaginaerum might just help me introduce a new director to Hollywood... and I could get to see both a highly anticipated film and the band that I have grown to love in a single setting on the other side of the planet.

An airplane
packed with


The thing about going to Finland, at least for me, is that everywhere you look you run into the guys from your favorite band.

Walking through the international terminal in Heathrow and nearly getting run over by a rushing Jukka Nevalainen and Troy Donockley.

Sitting on a Finnair Flight as Tuomas Holopainen and Marko Hietala walk right past to their seats four rows back

Waiting for your luggage at the terminal only feet away from Emppu Vuorinen.

It all seems so perfectly normal.  This must happen here all the time.

a history that would consume the next decade of my life…

It is close to midnight in Helsinki when my wife and I arrive at Hotel Kämp.  It’s the beginning of November and this is the first time that I have ever been out of the country.  

My wife is simply in awe of the quiet darkness, the Russian Neo-Gothic Architecture --- that I only later learn was part of a much darker part of Finnish and Russian history – a history that would consume the next decade of my life…

Continued Below
Happy to see you've reached this far.


A supper in


A Newborn &

Kiteen Kirkas

My first meal in Finland was appropriately in Hell.

Manala, in Finnish mythology, is the realm of the dead.  It is reached by crossing a fiery stream, the river of death, and is a dark gloomy place, but not quite the location of everlasting torment as in the Christian version of Hell.  

In Helsinki, Manala is also a pizza place open late enough so two Americans don’t have to go to bed hungry after 17 hours of travel.

And Manala is where I first started to have a hard time breathing and felt a very distinct localized pressure in my lung.

outside of Tuomas’ house in Eastern Finland they hatched the plan to make a full length feature film

The next night was the last one before the Imaginaerum premiere and I am waiting for Stobe to join me in the lobby of Hotel Kamp.  I am drinking a brown Finnish ale called Kukko and still haven’t told my wife about the pain in my chest.

Stobe is much taller than I expected and over the course of the next couple of hours he drinks red wine, I drink my Finnish beers, I learn that he used to play on the Finnish National Basketball team and that his wife is having their third child at any moment.   She may – or may not – have even been in the hospital while we met. 

We discuss the grounded realism of Battlestar and how no one, even in the writer’s room, knew exactly what Starbuck was supposed to be at the end; Angel, Vision, Harbinger, Ghost..., and how I changed the direction of the series, by giving the Cylons the directions to Earth so that the crew of the Battlestar needed to stop running and start engaging the enemy to stop them.

Stobe told me how the origins of the Imaginaerum movie evolved from the idea that there should be a music video for every song on the album . It was in the middle of winter, sitting around the fire outside of Tuomas’ house in Eastern Finland, where they hatched the plan to make a full length feature film while drinking some clear thousand proof liquid, Kiteen Kirkas, to stay warm.  

The Finnish way.

Australian Vampires
And Rudolph steak

Before dinner on the night of the concert I tell my wife that I have a few hundred Euro in the front pocket of my pants (just in case she needs it) and that I am leaving my passport in the hotel room safe.  She thinks it is odd information to share, but I still haven’t told her that I might have a 50/50 shot of having a pulmonary embolism before the end of the night.

Restaurant Savotta is underground and across from the Helsinki Cathedral.  We both have reindeer steak with lingonberries that surprisingly my wife is enjoying… that is, until I roll one of the red berries to the tip of my steak and make a Rudolph joke.  She’s still never had reindeer again.

By now the reputation of the city in winter as dark and cold only makes perfect sense.  An overheard conversation with our Australian waitress, who hated the sun in her home country and moved here, to the top of the world, because she preferred to be a vampire in Helsinki.  Jyrki 69 would be proud.



Blood thinners… Coumadin… it’s rat poison.  

It just comes to us in a lower dose that is monitored by your blood doctor to make sure you stay in a healthy range.  Don’t take too much or you’ll bleed out internally.  Don’t take enough and your blood may clot again…  Did I take too much on this trip?  Did I not take enough?  Is all the drinking messing with the dosage?

I do not feel well.

The Largest



Thanks to Stobe’s generosity our nose bleed seats in Hartwall Areena were upgraded to the floor.  And as I stand there during Nighwish’s set I transport myself mentally back to the End of an Era and everything about the moment is magical.  

I am in the room that I have seen on DVD hundreds of times.  I am listening to the songs from every era of the band being sung by Floor Jansen as they were intended.

During Ever Dream I tell myself that it is okay if I die right here on this spot.  I am legitimately at peace with it.

My wife holds me up – she thinks I am exhausted from jet lag, two surgeries, and that it’s all just catching up with me.  The pain in my lung stays with me throughout and seems to synch up with the bass.  

I am determined to let the moments of the concert help me avoid dark thoughts and just allow whatever is going to happen to occur.

It is impossible to believe this was once intended only to be a set of music videos. 

The premiere is held on what still may be the largest screen I have ever seen.  I am back in my element.  Watching, critiquing, and making mental notes for conversation about the film with Stobe later.  

It is impossible to believe this was once intended only to be a set of music videos.  Crafting a cohesive story that is as much cautionary tale about obsession and dementia, as it is wish fulfillment, is a challenging feat deftly come to life.  The thematic connection to Tuomas’ music while creating a standalone piece of art was truly thrilling to see.  

At some point during the film, and I have never been able to determine exactly when, I was no longer thinking about the localized pain in my chest and the feeling began to subside.

I was not returning to the United States for another week, but I began the second part of my trip without the specter of… well, crossing the fiery river to Manala.

My doctors were not able to find anything in my lungs and even after several scares over the years I have not had a repeat of the clot.

A decade of
A friendship

It has been ten years since Imaginaerum premiered.  

I have returned to Finland every year since then to work with Stobe on multiple projects about Finnish history.  Over the course of these visits and countless Skype calls this film, Imaginaerum, that is turning ten years old this week, has brought me a business partner, a co-writer, a conspirator and an extended family for each of us on two continents.   

It is clear that getting out of that hospital bed and travelling around the world against doctor’s orders was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  

All thanks due to Imaginaerum, to Nightwish, and to Stobe.

Thanks for the film, bro, and thanks for the last decade of friendship.




Marko Hietala & Stobe Harju present Imaginaerum film at packed Hartwall Arena. Watch another, maybe a MORE INTERESTING angle from the presentation here:

Marko & Stobe Present Imaginaerum at Premiere

Buy Imaginaerum on YouTube

Buy Imaginaerum on AppleTV