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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