High Point Media Group co-founder Ronald De Neef talks to Nick Cunningham about his company's commitment Dutch film and to the annual Holland Film Meeting.
'Dutch filmmakers have a fresh approach to production and films, and also to stories,' claims Ronald de Neef, himself a Dutchman and co-founder of High Point Media Group. 'They really do work hard on a story to avoid cliché.'
This assessment helps to explain not only the company’s commitment to Dutch cinema but also its status as, arguably, the leading international agent for the acquisition and sales of Dutch films. Currently High Point boasts a library of more than twenty titles, dating back to the 2002 foreign-language Oscar contender TWIN SISTERS (Ben Sombogaart, 2002).
'If films are good, then they sell,' continues De Neef, 'Whether they are English, French, German or Dutch, it doesn't really matter. The world is a lot more open today to foreign-language films and we sell our Dutch films all over the world, including the States.'
De Neef founded High Point together with current managing director Carey Fitzgerald in 1990. The outfit has offices in London, Dublin and Sydney and comprises film, television and production divisions.
During a busy Cannes 2008 the High Point team secured sales of Pieter Kuijper's psychological thriller NOTHING TO LOSE to North America, Germany, Latin America, Eastern Europe and France. SKIN, Hanro Smitsman's controversial film about the Dutch neo-Nazi skinhead movement, attracted a major German deal as did the Cannes pick-up SUMMER HEAT, Monique van de Ven's sexually-charged thriller Dutch box-office hit.
'We have a number of other Dutch projects that we are looking at,' confirms De Neef. 'Pieter Kuijpers is doing two films, which we will most probably take on. We’re looking at a new Ben Sombogaart project, and other projects which are at various stages, and as soon as they are ready, then we can move on. We have good relationships with all the Dutch producers. They know what we do, and what we can achieve. They know that we are not afraid of taking their projects on.'
'Of course, sometimes there is a language barrier with Dutch films,' he continues. 'Some of the European territories that subtitle only want the English language in the background. The US, Australia and Japan, for example, have no problem with Dutch language in the background and of course the UK is one of the most difficult territories unless the film has a big award attached to it. But territories like Germany and France have no problem with Dutch films because they dub.'
This year De Neef will again attend the Holland Film Meeting where he will be scouting for future sales acquisitions.
'I like the Production Platform because it is held in a very nice venue – the Karel V hotel. Lots of things get achieved during the 4-day period because it is easy to find people, and you always have more time than at a big festival. We do scout for product there, and quite often come across films that work for us.'
'In general, Dutch producers are in a better position for sourcing finance than we are here in England. They have more doors to knock on to get money. It isn't always easy but they can normally finance their movie completely out of Holland.'
'As we all know, it's not easy to sell films these days,' he concludes, 'And if it is a Dutch film it needs a lot of hard work, time and expertise. But so far it has been an immensely rewarding experience and we are very proud of the level of sales we have achieved around the world and look forward to continuing selling Dutch films internationally.'