Writers and projects were once again in the frame during the HFM Stories and Beyond session as the core European industries of The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK sought ways to radically boost the impact of a selection of screenplays.
UK producer Yaw Basoah was in Amsterdam to discuss an adaptation of The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, the debut novel of celebrated Dutch author Arthur Japin. “I think it is a fascinating story told in a fascinating way by Arthur. My family is from Ghana and the project is about two Ashanti princes who find their way to Holland in the 1800s. It is a story about identity, about trauma, about family, things that we can all identify with,” stresses Basoah.
“It is a very recent collaboration between Arthur and me. It is very early days with the project so the reason I am here is to find out much more about the Dutch film industry, to talk to potential co-producers and potential talent and just to really gain an understanding of how the industry works here, and how I can co-produce with the Netherlands.”
“I am talking to writers and a script doctor to really get into the idea of the script and the story and to see what expectations are audience -wise, both for the Dutch audience but also thinking internationally. There is no script yet but the point is to meet the talent, see who this will be helmed by, whether a Dutch filmmaker or a UK filmmaker. This is why I am here, to learn more.”
Dutch appeal for the UK feature documentary Heineken in Africa: A Multinational Unleashed (working title; screenwriter, Olivier van Beemen; producer, Mike Chamberlain, Tearaway films; Dutch producer, Volya Films) is likely to be considerable. Producer Chamberlain met Dutch writer Van Beemen at the UK launch of his book Heineken in Africa.
“I was already interested in the beer industry and its capability for exploitation, monopolies, cartels and price fixing, and when we learned what Heineken was doing in Africa it became clear that this is a brilliant subject, so potentially a brilliant feature documentary,” commented Chamberlain. “It has enough in terms of content and story but there is quite a lot to do to make it a feature doc, finding the right director and choosing the right parts of the story – but it could be a very good international film. Obviously the Heineken brand goes across the world and everybody can connect to it. It sponsors James Bond, the Premier League, F1, you name it. It’s not about neo-colonialism, it’s about how multinationals behave.”
Chamberlain claims that the IP is “legal-proofed” and that Heineken has never sought to sue the author or the publisher. He is also close to securing a South African director for the project. “Once she comes on board then we will get the treatment done.” Chamberlain was also in Utrecht to gauge interest both from the Dutch and international sales, distribution and investment sectors.
Dutch screenwriter/director Charlotte Scott-Wilson attended Stories and Beyond with her project Burma Roots, produced by Fable Pictures (UK). “We were approached because I am developing my feature in London as a UK film and the Netherlands Film Festival was looking for British films with a Dutch angle, and I am the Dutch angle,” commented Scott-Wilson. “So we brought the project here because we are really curious to hear how the story would resonate with the industry and to find co-production options and creative input.”
The €10 million story is based on the life of Scott-Wilson’s grandmother who, as a young Anglo Burmese woman growing up in Myanmar, had to escape the Japanese invaders by undertaking the Great Trek to India.
Together with producer Hanna Price, the director met with a cross section of sector representatives, including potential co-producers, financiers, distributors, sales companies and script analysts. “It would be maybe interesting to have a co-production with Holland to access Production Incentive money, to have a Dutch crew and post-production done here,” Scott-Wilson conceded, citing the successful example of Dunkirk which benefited greatly from its collaboration with the Dutch industry in 2016.
Netherlands Film Fund International Consultant Ellis Driessen expressed her satisfaction during the event. “It is such a brilliant format. Normally there are just producers’ meetings but this really focuses on writers seeking advice and discussing their projects with open-minded industry professionals, so it is very rewarding. And I see happy faces.”
Written by Nick Cunningham