Producer Frans van Gestel who, with partner Jeroen Beker, merged his Motel Films with leading Netherlands production outfit IDTV Film in 2007, speaks to the Netherlands Film Festival about how things have changed, and how things have remained essentially the same.
‘The merger with IDTV Film has worked to our great satisfaction,’ admits Frans van Gestel, ahead of the 2008 Netherlands Film Festival. ‘It is exactly what we hoped it would be, but I would strongly underline that we still do the same solo projects we did when we were Motel Films. We still do small co-pros with Uruguay. We still do Chinese language films. That is still a part of our business. We have a stronger organisation that still enables us to do the vulnerable, author-driven films.’
Motel Films was established in 1996 and produced a series of low to medium award-winning box-office winners that culminated in Paul Verhoeven’s 2006 global hit BLACK BOOK and LOVE IS ALL (2007), the Joram Lürsen-helmed romcom that cleared in excess of one million tickets in The Netherlands and that is competing this year in the Golden Calf competition. Previously they had domestic and international success with films such as NORTHERN LIGHT (David Lammers, 2006), the multi-Golden Calf winner PHILEINE SAYS SORRY (2003, Robert Jan Westdijk) and Karim Traida’s THE POLISH BRIDE (1998, Golden Calf, best director).
’A few years ago Motel Films was a small company, but we did a lot,’ van Gestel explains. ‘We were producing, at any given moment, three different films in three different parts of the world. It was a great effort to work like that, but at the same time it was very risky and not good for your health.’
So van Gestel and Beker had to decide whether to downscale in terms of workload, or upscale in terms of hiring more personnel. At which point, in early 2007, they were approached by four companies - two Dutch, two international - who were impressed by the pair’s business and creative acumen, and wanted in.
‘It came at a really good time for us,’ continues van Gestel, ‘And in the end we chose IDTV Film because they offered us complete creative freedom, and their films were the same blood-type as ours, so that was a good reason to choose them. What changed is that the IDTV organisation is bigger, which gives us more international possibilities, and the possibility to do more television and, when necessary, bigger films and bigger co-productions. And because there is a stronger structure in the company we are less vulnerable than we were a year ago.’
Van Gestel and Beker have maintained a close relationship with The Netherlands Film Festival since the beginning, and the relationship seems primed to continue robustly into the future. This year IDTV Film will present ten films in Golden Calf competition, including the opening film, IN REAL LIFE, directed by Robert Jan Westdijk.
‘We have been with the festival since we started to produce films,’ van Gestel points out. ‘When you make films in Holland you are always present at the Dutch Film Festival. It is an event that has become more and more professional over the last five years, a place where the Dutch business meets in a more active way. I think that is a very positive development for the festival. It is always important to meet your colleagues to see what they have done. You make time for that.’
‘The Golden Calf is also important,’ he continues. ‘On one hand, a competition in the arts is impossible, in my opinion. How do you compare an art film with a commercial film? Because each must be judged on its own merits. But when there is a competition you still want to win – it’s the sports mentality. So in a way it’s senseless but in another way it’s very important. Of course the Golden Calf is a very strong and important marketing tool but just because you win the prize doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the best – sometimes it’s good to underline that.’