The Job That Enables You To Travel The World With Filmmaker Matti Haapoja

The Job That Enables You To Travel The World With Filmmaker Matti Haapoja

Today’s interview features filmmaker Matti Haapoja who’s profession and stunning films have enabled him to travel the world.

Matti Haapoja is a Toronto-based filmmaker born in Finland. His passion is to inspire people by telling stories through cinematic, documentary style films. He has worked with a wide variety of clients such as Nike, San Pellegrino, Energizer, Foresters and Visit Norway.

This interview looks at how Matti became a filmmaker and how he is looking beyond creating client work and moving into making his dream documentaries.

This article is also a great case study at how creativity can enable you to travel the world and explore these stunning landscapes that are alien to most tourists.

Something that I have been asked a lot when building up this brand and website is ‘what the message you trying to put across’ and ‘how do the topics you cover fit into that message?’ The message I am always trying to get across is ‘how can you become more creative and live life to the full?’

Remember to check out my first ever print publication. The first print magazine is a limited edition publication and once they’re sold that’s it. The magazine is packed full of inspirational advice and motivational content that you can’t afford to miss, from millionaire founders to popular creatives from around the globe. Find out all about the magazine here.

Travel is the topic that people always question as to how it fits under creativity. ‘Showcasing these fantastic travel destinations and landscapes in travel stories and interviews are great, but what does it have to do with your message?’ However, I think travel is the most important topic to cover with this message.

There are so many different cultures and landscapes out there and how could you possible live life to the full if you don’t see anything outside your local environment? Some people don’t want a job where they travel, but for those that do want to explore as much out there as possible, these travel based articles on 99 Percent Lifestyle act as case studies on how creativity is a profession that can enable you to travel the world within your job (check out this interview with Nate and Megan Kantor for another example on how creativity can enable you to travel).

If you love to travel and wish you could travel the world as much as possible, money can always be a problem, but if travelling the world is part of your job then you can actually be paid to do what you love. There are a load of creative professions out there that can enable you to travel the world.

If you are one of the people out there that wish they could travel in their job they I highly recommend you pick up a copy of 99 Percent Lifestyle Volume 1. Inside there is an 8-page interview with the two brains behind one of the UK’s most successful travel blogs, Hand Luggage Only. They turned their wealth of travel knowledge and Facebook holiday photos into a popular blog which is enabling them to travel the world and a few new destinations every month.

Make sure you also check out the 99 Percent Lifestyle Instagram account if you want more proof on how photography is another creative profession that can enable you to travel the world.

The Job That Enables You To Travel The World With Filmmaker Matti Haapoja


How did you become a filmmaker?

My journey to becoming a filmmaker isn’t exactly a traditional one.  After high school, I went to study Kinesiology but after two years I felt like maybe there’s something better out there for me.  So I went back to Finland where I grew up to study at a bible college.  

Throughout those 3 years I started to dabble in making films at a church I was going to in my hometown. Not sure really what pushed me to start making films other than that I used to make skate films with my brothers way back in the day.  

Soon enough my brother and I had bought some gear and we thought, ‘maybe we should make some money from this’, so we start shooting weddings. We started a wedding videography company called ‘Heart Visuals’ and a few years later I moved back to Toronto. I needed a job so I started working at a church doing their media which taught me a tonne. 

Church is such a good place to learn anything creative because there’s so much freedom to just try new things and nobody will get mad if things don’t turn out exactly how you planned. You can’t really do that with most clients.  

Then a couple years ago I felt like I needed to work more with other filmmakers so I started freelancing shooting for some different agencies in Toronto.  So yeah, filmmaking wasn’t something I planned for but I’m so incredibly grateful that I found this profession. I couldn’t imagine a better one for me.

What were you doing before filmmaking?

Before filmmaking, I was working as a youth pastor in Finland for a year.

What is the best project you have worked on and how did you get involved with it?

It’s hard to say which is the best but one of the most enjoyable, and at the same time beneficial for my career, was my first project for ‘Visit Norway’.  My friend Samuel Taipale, who’s a photographer and Instagrammer, invited me and my wife on a road trip with him and his wife through some areas of Norway.  Those guys are amazing people.  Some of the most fun and genuine people I know and Norway in itself is just amazing. So yeah we had an amazing time hanging out, exploring and filming. The travel film really took off and gave me some cool opportunities. 

What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome and how did you do it?

I think one of the biggest challenges for me was stepping from a full-time job to become a freelancer. There was definitely some fear thinking what if I don’t get enough jobs to cover our expenses and all of that.  But I realised that it was the perfect time to try it out and if it didn’t work out I could always do something else. 

It’s interesting to look back because now we have a mortgage, a kid on the way and just way more responsibilities in life and I don’t think I would have made the same decision at this stage in life. So I really had a 2-year window to step out into freelancing and if I didn’t take that leap of faith during those two years I don’t know if I ever would have.  But I’m so glad because I’m just loving life as a freelancer/entrepreneur.  Highly recommend it.

What does the term ‘being creative’ mean to you?

Hm, that’s an interesting question for me.  I’ve never considered myself as an artist even to this day. I hated art class in school and was way better at math and sciences. I’m more of a logical person, but I guess being creative for me is showing a different perspective or telling a story through visuals or audio or any of the senses really. 

If I see an amazing painting but I don’t know the backstory of it or what the artist was thinking or trying to convey I’m just not interested. I guess art for the sake of art seems a bit pointless to me. For me, it’s more about creating something and giving it meaning. 

A lot of your films revolve around travel. How important is having a story in filmmaking and do you think the cinematography is the most important factor in terms of this style of filmmaking?

I think the story is super important in anything creative, but I also think it happens in ways that aren’t always so obvious. 

My travel films don’t have a narrative or traditional storyline but I think through visuals and audio there are so many ways to tell a story. A lot of the time I’m just trying to inspire people to get out there and live life. Whether that’s them going travelling themselves or just getting out of your house and exploring your city instead of sitting at home and being on social media all day.  

I don’t think cinematography is the most important thing but it’s definitely a huge aspect. Like a lot of things in filmmaking, the cinematography is at its best when it doesn’t distract the viewer or take away from the story and instead lets the viewer just focus on what’s going on in the film. The story is king but if your viewer can’t see the story because your visuals are distracting or your audio sucks then it’s irrelevant what your story is. 

How important is the music choice when making films similar to yours?

Music is something I try to put a lot of effort into, especially since that’s one of the biggest ways to tell a story in my travel films when there is no narrative. The music has to convey the right kind of emotion and inspire. I spend a lot of time on finding the right song and almost making the visuals an extension of the song. 

Where would you like to be in 10 years time and what are you going to do in the next 6 months to get closer to that goal?

I want to be making feature documentaries. I just love docs and how a good documentary can show a perspective you would have never seen or understood otherwise. This year I’ve decided to work on passive income as much as possible so that financially I can work on a documentary, even if there is no funding for it. 

So I’m building a Youtube channel and teaching courses as a way of helping others to learn how to create films, but it also gives me a base income so I can work on projects I really want to work on. The best is when that world merges with docs. For example, I’m starting a new series of videos on my channel on different Youtubers and Instagrammers who travel the world and their stories.  

Where is the best place you have travelled to in terms of your job?

I think I would say Norway. It’s just such a beautiful country with crazy epic nature spots. The people are really nice there and I just love that it’s not as touristy yet.  

What advice would you give to people wanting to become a filmmaker?

Just keep learning and creating. I spend time almost every day watching different tutorials or reading articles, just constantly trying to learn.  And then you have to create. You’re never going to make an amazing film if you don’t make a bunch of crappy ones to get there. It’s hard bridging that gap in what you see is good and what your capable of doing but rest assured it happens over time.  

If you would like to see Matti Haapoja’s recommended products for work and downtime then view Issue #01 of Creative Recommendations here.

If you had to go back and tell your 18-year-old self one thing what would it be and why?

I’d say forget about what society expects of you and just learn about things you’re interested in. People think that learning is just something you do in school but so much more learning happens outside of school, especially with the internet these days. You can learn whatever you want from the internet. It’s near impossible to try and decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life when your 18 but when you learn and create around things you’re interested in, you will inevitably find your place.

What is the film you have most wanted to make but haven’t yet done it?

There’s a couple docs and episodic projects I want to make but those are all under wraps still. There’s tonnes of travel films I want to make still too.  

Is there anything else you would like to tell me about yourself?

I would say if you’re young, start building your own dreams as soon as possible instead of helping to build other people’s dreams.  

I hope you enjoyed reading this article with Matti Haapoja and how creativity can enabled you to travel the world. You can follow him on the following social media handles: