How To Make a Film

THE HAGUE – Allowed to join the crew of the short-film Set in Stone for one day, I peak into the world of filmmaking.

How do you make a film? Where do you start? What do you need? I talk to the producer, the director, and one of the actresses of the low/no-budget film Set In Stone, starring Christophe Haddad. – Nienke van Staveren, 2012

Sunday morning at 6am, my train leaves from Amsterdam. About 90 minutes later I am picked up from The Hague Central Station by set-manager Kent together with two actors, and after a bathroom break we continue our trip towards Bergen op Zoom, where a little fort-like park will function as the set of the film Set In Stone.

We arrive at 8.45 am, and part of the crew is already unpacking loads of equipment. The small park is closed for the day, allowing the film crew to shoot in peace. In peace? “Yes, no screaming people in shots who think they are funny, no barking dogs, no worries about curious people wandering around in places we don’t need them,” explains producer John den Hollander later.

John is a 23 year-old producer, currently rounding up his bachelor degree in Leisure Management. He was involved in productions such as Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden and Het Imperium, but this is his first major independent project. While the set moves to the third location, I find a moment to sit down with John. “Where do you start when you want to make a film?” A few seconds of silence, and then he deliberately answers, “Networking. Getting to know people to start a production, you need to find a crew.” It sounds straightforward, but how do you do that? “There are several ways, you can for example go to film festivals or network through Internet. The best way to do it, though, is face-to-face. Talk to people, get to know them.”

“Telling a Story. Evoking Reactions.”

                 While the making-off crew is taking some shots of us, I ask him what the three most essential aspects are in filmmaking. That is a harder question, after all, “it is a collaborative process involving many different aspects,” he explains. “Art/location are probably the most underestimated and maybe even most important elements. Direction and camera are of course essentials, but they could be combined. Also, sound and production are indispensable, and you need good actors.” The hardest thing to get done, he explains, is getting the budget together and finding good actors. The governmental cuts and explosion of acting-training programs lately are not very helpful – “there are a lot of people who think they can act.” Right before duty calls, he tells me what for him is the most fun in filmmaking: “Telling a story. Provoking reactions. I’m somewhere in between Hollywood and Art-house – essentially, there has to be an idea behind it.”

While John gets back to his job, and the crew start shooting another scene, I talk with Anne Verschuren, one of the actors of the movie. It’s a day with a lot of waiting for her, “I only have two scenes today, and since the location is pretty far, I’m here all day.” On top of that her scenes will be shot last due to technical issues, “Shooting is waiting. You know that beforehand, so I always bring something to do.” Other actors are preparing there lines when they are not shooting, but Anne is socializing with crew-members or reading her book. “First of all, I don’t have to prepare a lot for my scenes today. Also, I just like to be prepared before I enter the set. You never no what happens on set, and when I’m in front of the camera I just want to be well-prepared so I can trust on my preparation and intuition once the camera starts rolling.” I wonder what brought Anne here, as she has worked on fully professional sets of big productions before (De Daltons, Zusjes). “The script,” Anne answers, “It was a very good script. Plus, when I heard some of the names involved after a talk with the director, I knew this was going to be a serious, ambitious project.”

What are the five most essential things?

Organization times 5

                   The importance of the script comes forward again when I ask Bruno Ramos, the Brazilian writer and director of the film, the same question I asked John earlier, “What do you need to make a film, in the most simple sense?”  His answer is quick and simple, “A good script. You can have all the millions in the world and a network with 3000 people around you: without a great idea, you’re just another guy.” While the set gets rebuilt once again and the (at least 4!) camera’s get repositioned, Bruno has time to answer some questions. “Why are you making this film?” “I’m basically making this film to build a network of people, who know what they are doing and who I can trust to move on to bigger projects with. Since I just moved to the country, that’s a way I found to meet people and so far it’s paying off great.” When I ask him what the five most essential things are you need to produce a quality film, he answers straightforward, “I would say organization five times. But if I must add another four: a crew that eats, breathes and lives what they do. Cooperation. Communication. Enthusiasm.”

The daylight slowly starts to fade. Bruno has to get back to set up another scene, and while Anne finally can start her scenes, a functionary from the municipality, who gave permission for shooting and the closing of the park stops by to watch the shooting. When the last streaks of sunlight disappear we can call it a wrap, and while the crew starts packing up the equipment and deconstruct the set, I leave for Amsterdam. Filming is an intriguing phenomenon, and the importance of organization, networking, and passion has become clear today – they are the essential ingredients for good filmmaking.

More information about Set In Stone:
http://www.setinstonethefilm.com (soon to be online)

Websites to start networking:

http://www.versfilmentv.nl

http://www.filmvacatures.nl

“Annyong hasaeyo sonseung,” said a crowd of Dutch young people

by Sefanja Saino

AMSTERDAM – Over 70 Dutch students start off their Saturday mornings greeting their (voluntary) teachers in South-Korean with “Good morning teacher”eagerly awaiting for class to start and to gain knowledge of Korean culture.

“Every class is full of students and the number keeps on increasing every semester. My class is the largest, it comprises 17 students,” said Youngmee Choi, teacher at Department Beginners/Arierang of The Korean School of Amsterdam.

Situated in Amstelveen in a rented building that serves as a high school during the week, this institution has gained much prominence in The Netherlands since its establishment in 1993 and has obtained a leading position in Dutch-Korean community even being recognized as a main contributor by the mayor of Amstelveen.

With their motto “Become a proud Korean”, the members behind this organization strive to pursue this goal by means of education.

“We have a lot of adopted students born in Korea to whom Korean School serves as a gateway to their origin and related traditions,” said Youngmee.

The class designed for these students is named after Arierang, the Dutch association for Korean adoptees, which the school is affiliated with.

(In order to become proud,) the school believes that it is fundamental to have obtained sufficient knowledge on Korean culture and students will be able to encounter their weaknesses and strengths by means of the institution’s mother tongue education.

Over 27 teachers and volunteers sacrifice their Saturday mornings to teach not only students of Korean descent about their heritage, but also all others that show interest in learning about Korean culture.

“When I heard there was a Korean school in Amsterdam I immediately registered for the beginners course,” said Richard, first level intermediate student. “I find the language very interesting and fun to learn. Whenever I am here among true Koreans, I kind of feel like a Korean too”.

The school offers a broad range of other courses such as English, Dutch, Music and Korean history, next to Korean language.

Many adult Koreans attend Dutch classes, while their children are taught Korean in another class.

Due to this variety, the school also serves as a meeting point for these adult Koreans from Amsterdam and surroundings, resembling a community center for this ethnic minority.

The close relationships built up in this community are repeatedly reinforced by activities organized by the organization, such as cooking lessons, traditional dance and music lessons, and the annual graduation ceremony.

Every semester all students and affiliates are also invited to Korean Sports Day hosted in the sports field of the school.

On this day, emphasis is placed on teamwork between classmates and on parent-children relationships by imposing challenges upon them wherein they are required to work together in order to succeed.

Not only parent-children relationships of Koreans are important to the school, much attention is also paid to Dutch parents who adopted a Korean child, noticeable in the relationship of the school with Arierang.

The school gives them the opportunity to engage with Koreans in order to understand their children’s background and the offered nursery school level classes provides these children a chance to be raised according to Korean ethical standards while living in The Netherlands.

Miranda, second year intermediate student, was adopted by a Dutch family in the seventies. “At that time there was no Korean community available in the Netherlands for parents of Korean adoptees. Therefore I did not have the chance to be raised according to Korean tradition. When I grew older the curiosity for my heritage only increased, and I decided to follow Hangul lessons,” she said.

The significance of the Korean atmosphere created by the school is also of importance to Miranda. “Studying here gives me the chance to be Korean in practice too, and not just in my mind. The food, the people, the music, it all provides me a sense of belonging. An online course could not have offered me that.”

An important event to close of the semester, which ends beginning March, is the graduation ceremony.

During this ceremony all Korean language classes are obliged to do a performance, ranging from a theatre piece to choreography on a K-pop song.

“Last year we performed ‘Nobody’, sung by ‘원더걸스’ (Wondergirls). We started rehearsing three weeks before graduation, but still no one seemed to remember the steps on the actual day. We had to improvise at the last moment which was really funny for the audience to see,” said Richard.

The graduation ceremony is open for all who are interested and a clever way to attract new non-Korean students, such as the friends students may invite.

Former student Mitchell said “I mostly miss the combination of studying and having fun. Whenever the study load got too heavy, a workshop class would be organized. It is a great way to get acquainted with Korean culture while keeping it fun, because the homework is not easy to finish. Unfortunately I failed my final test past semester, but I was still welcome to celebrate graduation. ”

Another way to attract students is to host open days twice a year, a few weeks before classes start.

With the increasing popularity of Korean culture among young people globally, it is expected for the school to expand in the coming years and a possibility is present for them to own their own property.

The Korean School of Amsterdam has managed to become an important player in Korean community in The Netherlands, starting with only one Arierang class in 1993 to a total of seven to this day.

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Facebook Claims to Save Lives

By Stella Toonen

“Facebook wants to fight the number of suicides” it said on Dutch online newspaper Nu.nl last Wednesday. It sounds like an honourable project, but thinking about it more critically one might start to wonder how they actually want to achieve such a thing.

The idea is that users can send a notification to the Facebook team when one of their friends posts a suicidal message, and Facebook will then personally contact this person. In the case that the notification is serious, the author of the message will receive an e-mail with a telephone number and a link to a live chat, in which he (or she) can express his feelings and talk about the solutions.

Research of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has shown that young people prefer to use an online chat for talking about their problems than to make an actual appointment with a psychologist. In that view Facebook would lower the threshold for people to start searching for professional help.

But at the same time it also seems to create many problems for the Facebook team. Where will they for instance set the border between a serious suicidal message and a fake one? What if they ignore a message that was actually not a fake one? And if the victim still commits suicide after the chat session with the Facebook psychologists, could Facebook then be charged guilty of motivating this person? There is no one who could prove that the person would have killed himself if he had not been on the chat website.

The main question is what Facebook actually tries to win by it? They do not get an award if they save people’s life; they will only have to hire more people to check all the notifications for relevance and to translate the chat messages of non-English speaking Facebook users. What is the motivation behind what seems a completely altruistic act then?

Would it not be more appropriate if Facebook did not interfere in the other people’s lives at all? Does the network not try to create a place where people are in touch with each other, so that if someone posts a depressed message others see it and try to help their friend? Is that not exactly how social media are supposed to work in such cases? Where is this world going if this kind of social involvement has to be taken over by internet companies?

Facebook’s new suicide prevention system is definitely an application we are going to hear more about in the future, either about its removal or about various lawsuits connected to the notification system, because the development seems to be doomed to fail.

Categories: Opinion

Restaurant review: Wok to Walk, Leidsetraat 96, Amsterdam

Fast food category

*****

By Maayan Arad

It is remarkable how hard it is to find reasonably priced, good quality, healthy fast food in most major cities. When in Amsterdam, the Wok to Walk fast food chain – which serves a mélange of Asian cuisine – is definitely one of the better choices that one can make when exploring Amsterdam city centre. For a sensible price, the visitors get a great restaurant experience with a personal touch and friendly service.

The franchise has four restaurants in different locations of Amsterdam and many more in different cities around the world. Since the opening in 2005 of the first Wok to Walk in the Kolksteeg, not far from Dam square, many more are opening in other countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Mexico.

The success of Wok to Walk relies on a combination of different elements that make it a unique concept. The central location of the restaurants and the long opening hours make it easy to find and a healthy alternative to other fast food chains that often sell overly deep-fried snacks and use ingredients of reduced quality.

The ingredients used in Wok to Walk are fresh and the meals are big enough to satisfy the average and even large stomach. For those of you who are particularly curious about the cooking process, the kitchen is open so it is possible to watch your own food being cooked and served. The employees are experienced cooks and often make the visitors feel welcomed with a smile.

The menu is quite simple but may take a while to get used to, especially on your first visit. The idea is that each costumer can choose exactly what he wants to eat by selecting the ingredients of his own meal. First, you choose the base out of several types of noodles, rice or the vegetable dish. Second, you can add your favorite meat or vegetables and additional toppings. In the last step you choose the sauce for free. Within several minutes the meal will be ready and your name will be called to remind you that it is time to eat.

Most meals are very tasty but it might take a few visits to figure out which combination you like the most. If Asian cuisine is not your thing it is better to look somewhere else or at least give it a try or two. Especially recommended are the rice noodles with chicken and shitake mushrooms and the Beijing oyster sauce, which I have tried during my last visit. My friend who is a vegetarian did not struggle to choose his meal due to the many vegetarian ingredients that are on offer. He chose for the white rice with tofu, broccoli and the (too spicy for me) hot Asia sauce. We both left with a smile.

The food is affordable by most standards. For roughly 10 Euros each, we got a big meal and a drink. Unfortunately, alcohol is not sold at the Wok to Walk restaurants in Amsterdam but the many bars around the corner will make up for this shortage.

Another positive feature of the restaurant is its social atmosphere. The costumers are encouraged to share a big table with others. This often results in new encounters and interesting conversations. The strange combination of partying tourists and Dutch locals from the Jordaan who shared the table with us turned out to be one of the highlights of the night. In the evenings and during the weekends, the restaurants tend to become very busy. You might need to be prepared to stand in the line.

This is also a good option for a quick pick up on the way home or before going to the park on a warm and sunny day. After making your order, don’t forget to choose between eating in or taking your wok on a walk. Bon a Petit!

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TT3D; Closer to the edge. A review.

By Tom Schoonen

The starting line in sight. The roaring sound of the powered engine motor. Then, take off. You can almost smell the burned rubber on the tarmac. TT3D provides a real experience of how it would be to join the racers and visitors at the TT on the Isle of Man.

TT3D by Richard De Aragues follows a couple of riders in their preparations for the world’s most dangerous bike race. Guided by the stories of the rich history from the TT, De Aragues shows in a sparkling manner the 2010 edition of this race. Following Guy Martin as the main protagonist, De Aragues shows the preparations the racers take leading up to the TT. Martin however is not an ordinary guy. Living in Lincolnshire, Martin works with his father as a truck mechanic. Why he also races in the most dangerous race in the world? Martin claims that, although he wouldn’t mind it, he doesn’t care much for ‘shagging’, and cares more for trucks and motors. Martin raced on the Isle of Man twice before, but he never won anything. This year he is determined to win.

Next to Martin his opponents Ian Hutchinson and John McGuinness are followed in their preparations. McGuinness, 15 time winner of the TT and one of the most experienced racers on the track, and his family life and breath TT. In the huge camper that stands on their driveway they all go to support McGuinness. McGuinness thrives on the support of his family and needs their mental support. Hutchinson on the other hand prepares mostly physically. Training three to four times a week in the gym and three to four times on his mountain bike, Hutchinson believes that physical fitness is the key to success in the TT.

Compared to these two professional motor racers Martin is a very down-to-earth kind of guy. Working on trucks, training on his bike and sometimes sleeping in his van, Martin is one of the most extraordinary types in the TT. De Aragues captures this so well that it is almost impossible not to like the main protagonist Martin. Not only in his preparations but also on the festival itself Martin immediately makes a scene for himself. Being late for test drives, upsetting the mechanics by changing his bike, and even getting his bike impounded for driving through the village with a race bike.

When the TT starts the audience is already so engaged with the dream of Martin to win a TT race everybody hopes for him. This makes for an atmosphere of pure excitement when watching the final races.

De Aragues captures the atmosphere, preparations, but especially the protagonists so well that it is more than just a documentary, it is a proper film. Together with the empathy De Aragues creates a serene atmosphere with beautifully captured nature on the Isle of Man together with a very calm and gentle voice over, that even the most horrible crashes sound as a pleasantry.

When going to TT3D the first thing that came to mind was “Not another stupid 3D movie”, however, De Aragues does not misuse this special effect. On the contrary, De Aragues may have made the first film in which 3D actually adds something to the story. No misused, misplaced special effects just to show of the capabilities of the film production, but just very subtle effects. Such as photos of crashes, not even moving images, which come out so well with the high quality camera and the pieces of metal flying round, just slightly highlighted by the 3D effect.

I strongly believe that De Aragues not only made a good documentary, but that he actually made a film. The first film in which 3D adds something to the story. Only this is already a reason to watch this film. Along with the beautiful scenes, the great pictures, and the charming protagonist Martin this film is an absolute most. Not only for motor fanatics, but for everybody who likes good films.

Categories: Entertainment, Home, Opinion

Turbulent times for Amsterdam’s Documentary Festival

By Stella Toonen

Being the largest non-fiction cinematic event in the world, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) is one of Holland’s major cultural institutions. Having received this prominent status from the Dutch government one month ago, the IDFA is sure of state funding in the future. Even though they will have to cut their budget to some extent, just like almost all other Dutch cultural enterprises, they can be sure that their funds will still allow them to sustain themselves. It is the luckiest outcome of the government’s decisions for the cultural industry in this time of economic instability.

The new financial circumstances cause many changes for the Amsterdam documentary film industry. The Jan Vrijmans Fund, which financed 370 films in the developing world, is one of the subsidies that will no longer be in place. “It’s a shame” director Ally Derks said when she opened the festival, “especially because when we look back, it has been an incredible year. A year of upheaval. Osama bin Laden is dead. Economies and climates are melting down. All over the world, revolutionary spirit is in the air. People across the Arab world are rising up against corruption and dictatorship. From Occupy Wall Street, to the streets of Amsterdam and Athens.” It seems to be exactly at this point in time that documentaries are needed most.

Derks emphasised that we are living in a time of change, not only financially, but also socially and politically. Such an era is the most inspiring environment for documentary makers. “There is even a greater need for documentary in this time of change… and for change in this time of documentary” she said. But change is not always easy. The IDFA therefore tries to bring people together, so their joined efforts can fight the budget cuts and will still show the audience what is going on in the world.

Change can already be seen during this year’s festival. While 24 years ago, during the first IDFA, documentaries were made to educate the audience about political situations, they now focus more on entertaining. “Many popular and populist documentaries in the program are adapting new strategies for storytelling”, Derks said. “They are leaving the obvious politics behind. They have an ambition to reach the masses, without preaching to the church of the converted. Documentaries no longer need to feel like medicine to people. The form of their message is as important as the message itself.”

An example is Mads Brügger’s “The Ambassador”, the opening film of the festival. For his documentary he has bought himself a diplomatic passport and researches what that could gain him. A hidden camera follows him while doing business in Central Africa, focussing on the corrupt nature of many of the deals. The film has a humorous tone and works like a parody. In this way the Danish director has made a film with such heavy contents very accessible for most audiences. According to Derks “documentaries now provide audiences with all the pleasure, drama, entertainment, characters and stories they once got out of fiction. But these new pop-docs are not without content. They also make us angry, make us laugh, make us love, make us act and make us think. Like all art, they also make us feel uncomfortable.”

And that is exactly what “The Ambassador” does, making people feel uncomfortable. Brügger showed the bizarre world of African diplomacy in a very critical way. “Exactly because I’m beyond role-playing by actually being a diplomat, I can forge a partnership with the very sinister owner of a diamond mine replete with gold tooth and machete scars on his forehead. That would be highly problematic for a journalist, but it’s no problem for a diplomat.” The film shows the manner in which African diplomacy works, but not everyone was happy with the controversial image that was created.

One of the Western diplomats in the documentary, Willem Tijssen, was filmed by Brügger’s hidden camera and flew in from Sierra Leone to protest against the release of the documentary one night before the IDFA opened in Amsterdam. According to Brügger’s voice-over in the film Tijssen would have used several thousands of dollars to bribe people, but Tijssen denies to have been involved in such a thing. His protest attracted the attention of Dutch magazine “Vrij Nederland”, which published an extensive article about the case, and that was noticed by Dutch news program “De Wereld Draait Door”, which invited Tijssen to defend himself among representatives of the “Vrij Nederland” and the IDFA. This media attention did not do much good for Tijssen, for the film was still released at the opening of the festival and only gained more publicity because of it.

The case illustrates the oppositions that are going on in the world of documentary making right now. While IDFA board member Derk Sauer says that “investigative journalism is a normal means of reporting news”, ‘victims’ of these investigations like Tijssen would rather prohibit this kind of journalism. The question then is not whether the producers of documentaries are ready for the change that is upon them, but if the rest of the world is actually ready. With an audience of almost 200,000 people and 14 cinemas divided over Amsterdam showing documentaries, the IDFA at least seems to be prepared for what is coming.

The IDFA runs from November 16 to November 27 in Amsterdam.

Categories: Entertainment, Home

Putin and Medvedev try to calm opposition after election fraud

By Willem PlasterkImage

AMSTERDAM – On Monday afternoon several thousands protesters marched in the streets of Moscow , to support the ‘United Russia’, the party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and president Dmitri Medvedev, only two days after the nationalistic protests in Moscow on Saturday.

 

On Saturday, a year after a violent nationalistic protest, the biggest protest in Moscow since the fall of the Soviet-Union was held, on the same spot as the previous year.

 

Over 50,000 demonstrated on Saturday, following the parliamentary election in which Putin’s party won nearly 50 percent of the vote, which led to nation wide    allegations of fraud. The government had no choice to accept the protest and granted a license. Even though there was a massive police force, including bulldozers, helicopters and troop carriers, no detentions were reported.

 

Other simultaneous protests took place in over 50 cities, with a reported 7,000 in St Petersburg and 4,000 in Novosibirsk, despite the temperature of -20C

 

The demonstrations indicated what the opposition hopes to be the end of years of quiet acceptance Putin has introduced. If Putin was to be reelected for a six-year term, he will have been Russia’s leader for 18 years.

 

In a response to the protest, Medvedev wrote: “I do not

agree with the slogans or speeches made at the protests. Nonetheless, I have given the instruction to investigate all messages from polling stations related to the following of electoral law” The response provoked anger of the opposition, as no statement was made about which state body would carry out the investigation, nor the time limit and potential consequences of the investigation.

 

The protesters promise to gather an even larger crowd again on another protest Dec. 24, if the Kremlin refuses to annul the result, which was confirmed by the election commission on Friday.

 

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