Finnish film-maker Petri Kotwica’s third feature, Rat King, scooped Screen International’s Best Pitch Award at the Baltic Event Co-Production Market, held in Tallinn, at the start of December

The $2.5m (€1.75m) Finnish-language thriller/horror won the prize after producers Kai Nordber and Karrle Aho held a series of meeting with potential partners. The pair, from Helsinki-based production house Making Movies Oy, have produced Kotwica’s (pictured) previous two features, Homeless and 2008 Berlinale competition film Black Ice (pictured).

Rat King tells the story of Juri, a high school student addicted to online computer games, whose life takes a dangerous turn when he agrees to meet an internet acquaintance, Niki. The pair not only share a love of gaming but turn out to be almost identical in appearance. However, Niki has become embroiled in a game that he can not get out of and the other players are threatening to kill him. When Juri agrees to let him hide out in his bedroom, he does not realise what he is letting himself in for.

Kotwica started developing the project after Black Ice and he believes the two films share a common theme in looking at identity and addiction. He developed the script with screenwriter Iiro Küttner, who taught him at film school. “We decided to take the project to Making Movies because I had a good experience with them on my previous two films.”

He is currently polishing the screenplay and aiming to create of feature of around 90 minutes. He is hoping to shoot it this coming spring. “I would hate to film it in summer because it is not a summer film,” he says. “It will either be shot in spring or we will postpone for another year.”

Despite its strong focus on gaming, Kotwica has decided against trying to recreate the world of online games through CGI effects. “In my opinion, whatever we do graphically would already be old fashioned by the premiere of the film, plus the story doesn’t need it,” he says. “I’d like to keep it a secret, a mystery, the only thing that matters is the active tasks that the player has to complete. It is not about the game itself, but more about its effect on human beings. So we are only observing the two lead characters interplay.”

Rat King has already garnered support from the Finnish Film Foundation, the Nordisk Film & TV Fomd and the MEDIA Programme of the European Union.

Nordberg says Making Movies attended the Co-Production Market with a view to finding co-producers to help close the financing. “We have found a potential production partner from Estonia and there is also a possibility to shoot the film there,” he added. “It is now time for the producers to calculate Plan A, B, and C, and one of these would be to shoot the film completely in Estonia since it is much cheaper.”

The producers have also submitted an application for funding to the Finnish Film Foundation and a decision is expected in early February. “We have very good cards,” Nordberg says. “The Foundation has been supporting us - and especially with Petri - for a long time. So, it is a kind of long-term relationship, it is not about a single consultant making a decision about a single film.

“The whole machinery has been tracking us for the past five years and it is a kind of unspoken deal about pulling together for a long-term plan to support an excellent European film-maker’s career,” he concludes.