Oona Elovaara, ’23

December 13, 2022

International student applies leadership studies, theatre education to film production internship

By Hannah Burke, '23, Jepson School of Leadership Studies Student Assistant

Oona Elovaara, ʼ23, did not expect to spend her summer on a movie set in Finland. But when her mother told her about a Facebook post by Whatevergroup, a Finnish TV and film production company, she was intrigued. She eventually landed an internship with the company about an hour from her hometown of Oulu, Finland. 

Whatevergroup initially hired her as a production assistant for the feature film “Susikoira Roi,” which translates to “Wolf Dog Roi” and portrays the adventures of a girl and a German Shepherd. But due to her experience as a theater minor, Elovaara ended up working in the wardrobe department.

“I was a costume designer for one of the shows at University of Richmond,” she said, “so when Whatevergroup asked about putting me in the wardrobe department, I became the wardrobe stylist’s assistant for the movie.” 

Long fascinated with making movies, Elovaara never saw it as a realistic career path. “I always thought it was something cool but unattainable,” she said. “As I got older, I realized there was nothing I wanted to do more. I also knew my leadership studies major would never limit my options for what I wanted to do after college.” 

The wide range of possibilities that come with graduating with a degree in leadership studies is what drew her to the Jepson School of Leadership Studies in the first place, she said. 

During her Jepson internship with Whatevergroup, funded by a Burrus Fellowship, the senior witnessed firsthand some of what she had learned in her Theories and Models of Leadership class. Although she worked mostly with a small team of wardrobe, hair, and make-up staff, the overall production crew numbered about 40. 

“There are different group dynamics when you work with a small group versus a big group,” Elovaara said, adding that she observed all different styles of leadership while on the set.

Armed with movie production experience—“Susikoira Roi” will premiere on Dec. 24, 2022, on the European television company C More—the senior is considering a future career in the film industry. “Whether it’s in Finland, France, Canada, or the U.S., I’m really open to moving and following my career wherever it takes me,” she said.

This kind of open-mindedness helped her secure her internship in the first place. After spending hours searching LinkedIn and networking last spring, she said she had not found an internship to her liking.

But she became excited when her mother shared the Whatevergroup Facebook post seeking child actors.

Although the company was not advertising for interns, Elovaara sent her resume anyway, hoping the company could use her. “I realized that this could be a real opportunity for me,” she said. 

Her initiative paid off. She hopes it will again when she starts looking for post-graduation jobs.