NL Film’s Alain De Levita is looking forward to a blustery September by the sea. He talks to Nick Cunningham about NL Film’s track record and about THE STORM, the company’s eagerly-awaited upcoming film.
‘We have made 11 features. If you look at our total admissions, that averages 300,000 visitors per film. That makes us a very bankable film company.’ ?
Alain de Levita of Nijenhuis & De Levita Film & TV (NL Film) is justifiably bullish about a production outfit responsible for many of the films that have helped underpin Dutch box-office revenues over recent years. After Johan Nijenhuis' COSTA attracted 680,000 viewers in 2001, the company's FULL MOON PARTY became the highest-viewed Dutch film in 2002 with over 450,000 admissions. ?
The success of the company's television series ZOOP, broadcast by Nickelodeon, inspired its transfer to the big screen in 2005 (ZOOP IN AFRICA) attracting over 100,000 viewers in its first week and scooping the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award 2005 for Best Film, edging out the likes of SHREK 2, MADAGASCAR and SPONGEBOB THE MOVIE. The theatrical franchise was extended in 2006 with ZOOP IN INDIA and again in 2007 with ZOOP IN SOUTH AMERICA. ??
Right now the company is finalising THE STORM, Ben Sombogaart’s ambitious project about the tempest of 1953 that rampaged across The Netherlands. The disaster rates as the worst in recorded Dutch history. Budgeted at just over €6 million, a high figure in Dutch terms, the film will open the Films By The Sea festival in The Netherlands prior to its nationwide launch on September 17.?
’Historically, disaster movies involving water are very expensive and very difficult to produce,’ De Levita stresses. ‘But in this age of CGI technology a production like this is much more affordable. So we could make a film about the floods without having to use real water all the time. Also we had a script that we really liked. As a producer you always dream of making a real classic. Hopefully THE STORM is that - a beautiful story with high production values and about a subject very important in global terms.?
’The film's set was built on dry land which could be flooded with water from a neighbouring lake. Sluice gates could gauge the correct water levels and the crew were placed on a floating island that could be moved across different parts of the set. ‘When we flooded the set, it was incredible, but the crew remained dry on their island,’ comments De Levita.??
The budget was raised solely within The Netherlands. This included a €2 million input from the Netherlands Film Fund and significant contributions from the CoBO Fund, Dutch broadcaster NCRV and the Supplementary Fund. According to De Levita, distribution giant Universal put down ‘a large mg (minimum guarantee)’ to secure local distribution rights. No sales company has, as yet, been signed up to sell international distribution rights.??
De Levita outlines his company’s approach to the business of maintaining an advantage over many rival Dutch outfits. ‘We work with the best people in the business, such as Ben Sombogaart and Pieter Kramer [YES NURSE, NO NURSE]. Having directors of this calibre is important. And in The Netherlands you must play by the rules. There are many companies that don’t have hard money attached to claim the last 35% of their budget via the Supplementary Fund. If you don’t play by the rules then you can never go back.’??
’What we try to do is make one big budget film every year,’ he continues. ‘And then a few smaller budget films like the romantic comedy SPANGAS, by Barbara Bredero, that we’re shooting right now. It is a feature spin-off from the successful daily kids’ series on Dutch television - this year we’ll shoot our 500th episode. So we’ll do the same as what we did with the ZOOP brand. We have the tv episodes in the winter and then in the summer we do a feature to keep the brand alive.??
’The company will go into production in July 2009 on Foeksia the Miniwitch by Johan Nijenhuis before setting their sights on another Sombogaart-helmed piece, KNEELING ON A BED OF VIOLETS, due to roll in 2010. Right now the company is shooting LANG & GELUKKIGby Pieter Kramer. ‘It is a totally different film from anything we’ve done before,’ comments De Levita. ‘A hilarious comedy for young and old. Very camp, very Pieter Kramer, just like YES NURSE, NO NURSE, but one stage on – a combination of many different fairy-tales. It's fun for kids and for adults. I think it will be a fantastic film.’