Highlights from the Lowlands
After doors closed on the 34th Holland Film Meeting, organisers reflected on three days of intense market activity that included the online presentation of 24 dynamic and highly promising new projects, boundless networking opportunities and the chance for international guests to check out the best of recent Dutch output. An innovation in 2022 was HFM’s new focus on Dutch composers and their unveiling to the Dutch and international producers in attendance.
At the core of HFM is the presentation of the new projects to the great and good of the international film community within the co-production, sales, distribution, funding and festival sectors, but this year took on greater significance as industryites began to emerge from a prolonged of imposed hibernation post-lockdown.
The number of accredited industry delegates was 228, and 283 meetings were held between projects participants and potential stakeholders, 154 of which were online and 129 face to face in Utrecht. The Platform will remain open throughout October to facilitate further delegate meetings and follow-up discussions on all the projects.
“One of the most important things about getting a film produced is actually collaboration,” commented Sterre de Jong, Head of NFF Professionals. “After two years of absence from festivals, you begin to realize that if you're not connecting with anyone - if you're staying in your bubble – then it really will have an effect on your film. That is one of the most important things that we are taking away from the Holland Film Meeting in 2022. We can see that people were so inspired and enthusiastic to get started again, and to continue their work. What’s more, they've received excellent feedback, not just from experts in the field but also their peers at the Holland Film Meeting. In this we aim to continue serving their needs.”
The Lab set-up at HFM is unique in that the pitches come at the end of nearly two months of intensive training and prep to ensure that each project, whether in development, production or post-production, is primed for the next phase of its trajectory.
During HFM 2022 key emphasis was placed on, and support offered to, projects from and/or about the Dutch former colonies. “For a long time the Dutch Caribbean islands and Suriname didn't feel included and ‘seen’ by our Dutch film sector. It’s essential that we showcase to them to our local industry as they are part of our colonial heritage, but also the international industry. HFM is here to put them in the limelight and give them the spotlight that they deserve. Their stories are our stories.”
“It's not just about Dutch participants who can easily take a train and get here very easily,” agreed HFM Lab co-ordinator Laura Cabrera. “We need to work on getting those filmmakers [from Dutch Caribbean and Suriname] here every year, because they are part of us.”
Curaçao Film Commissioner Eloise van Wickeren presented to the international industry on the benefits of partnering with her island’s film industry. “The goal is, in the end, not only to promote the island and get productions in from abroad, but also to have our own filmmakers make our own stories,” she said. “There's a lot of attention right now on the Caribbean, and people want to know about the stories that we have. There's a lot of stuff that's untold because it's still a young filmmaking community. And we are realizing that the opportunities are growing to actually tell them. The time is very right for us right now.”
Project representative Elizabeth Francisco [I Am Curaçao] was impressed by her HFM experience. “The advice and the feedback has been great. Everything has been constructive. Even if someone told us that some parts of the script weren't clear, then that's constructive feedback. But we had really great compliments as well! It also shows how personal film is. Someone gets it. And then someone doesn't. But everything is valuable to us.”
“I've been to other film festivals where the experience has been very overwhelming. And I'm happy to say that this has not been like that. I'm not a networker and sometimes you don't know what to do. But HFM has been [designed] to really help us. So it's been a very positive experience. I'm really happy,” she added.
The project Anton de Kom - I Shall be Heard by Edson da Conceicao concerns the eponymous Surinamese writer, activist and freedom fighter, who lived a life of protest from 1898 to 1945. The film, which is made by Dutch, Surinamese and international talent, picked up the NFF Script Development Award, valued at €2,000. “We want to do this very epic story about an epic figure in the Suriname/Dutch history,” said Marc Bary of IJswater Films on accepting the award. “We know it's very ambitious, but we are ambitious.” (See all winners here)
Market co-ordinator Thomas van Son says how he was delighted to get creative when linking projects with potential partners. “During the market I spoke to several participants who said that they were very happy to be matched with people they had never thought of, but the meetings were very fruitful and positive. I think that's the best outcome you wish for,” he says.
Together with Buma Music in Motion, van Son and his HFM colleagues introduced a new (and long-awaited) dimension to the event in 2022 by offering five talented and diverse Dutch film composers the opportunity to promote both themselves and their music to the international professionals at HFM. Buma’s mission statement is to “connect producers, studios, directors, editors, film makers and creative media gatekeepers across the screen-based industries to talented Dutch publishers, rights-holders and especially composers. World-class composers who can create scores, cues and songs that will make your project come alive. Melodic masters, modular synthesists, sub-bass boomers, piano perfectionists, classical creatives and every other genre in-between.”
“I know for a fact that there's one project and one composer who are very linked and it looks like there will be something happening in the very future,” van Son said of at least one promising result from the event. “Overall it has been a great idea. The communication has been very good and there were international professionals who were more than willing to have meetings with the composers. I think it is a great opportunity for us going forward.”
HFM’s Sterre de Jong further noted how the shape of HFM has changed over the years - but then again so has the film industry, she underlined. “I think being in a state of flux is always something that you have to be,” she said. “Just look at the last 10 years. The streaming services that were non-existent 10 years ago are now part of everyday life, so why wouldn't we adapt as a festival?” But her point goes deeper than that. There was also the small matter of a pandemic that we all had to suffer, and global execs don’t necessarily want to operate in the same way as they did pre-Covid. Which is why the pitches were available online to all potential future stakeholders. “I think it's time for restructuring now. And this year we took the opportunity to apply the lessons that we learned and to implement them in a more hybrid sense, both online and physical.”
That said, together with colleagues Cabrera and van Son, she bemoaned the poor attendance of Dutch industry professionals at the event. “International success does not come easily. If there's one thing that I want to say to the Dutch industry is that you have to be present and you have to work for it. You have to incorporate international perspectives. If the Dutch industry really wants to have international success, then come and visit the Holland Film Meeting. Join us, take part in meetings, be here and be present. Because there's a lot of great things going on here.”
Dutch producer Marc Bary added his voice to the appeal. “It's always good to be here at the Holland Film Meeting. We also had a film here two years ago, The Man from Rome by Jaap van Heusden. Now it's made. Now it's ready. So something really can happen here in Utrecht, even when it is online. We found our German co-producer here and we got sales interest. The Holland Film Meeting might be small it but can do something for your project with the right people.”
Written by Nick Cunningham