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Holland Film Meeting

Holland Film Meeting 2023 Wrap

Head of Professionals & Talent, Sterre de Jong underlines how much of the success of the 2023 Holland Film Meeting, which ran September 22-24, lay in the physical, face-to-face, one-to-one interaction between rights holders/creatives and the top-level Dutch and international professionals in attendance.

“What we definitely noticed this year is we had a lot more people physically present in Utrecht,” she comments. “They were a lot more involved. We had hundreds of meetings. And you really see that the energy of people being physically present is just palpable.”

“We have a lot of experience now with online formats and it definitely gives you something in terms of sustainability and in terms of making it work online, but we do feel that for those essential meetings, you need to be there physically,” de Jong underlines.

Since its launch in 1988 the Holland Film Meeting has been considered one of Europe’s must-attend project development events, and widely acknowledged as an essential hub for the formation of strong ties between the Dutch and international film industries, as well as strengthening holistically the Dutch audiovisual industry.

The Utrecht-based invite-only event was aimed at industry professionals and consisted of pitch presentations of the projects in selection, one-to-one meetings (online and on-site) and an awards ceremony for all the projects, with in-kind prizes awarded to successful projects. The three sections are BoostNL, New Dutch and Stories & Beyond.

Nineteen projects were rigorously developed during August and September before their HFM roll-out to leading financiers, sales, distribution and festival professionals.

022 20230922 Utrecht Nederlands Film Festival 2023 NFF23 HFM Pitches Day 1 FOTO MOMENTTOM NFF

Compared to larger events, the HFM offers a nurturing environment creating a safe and intimate space. “I love to see how projects were receiving valuable, direct and constructive feedback from the industry professionals we invited to Utrecht, which is precisely what these projects required,”

We have also noticed a growing number of returning participants, including well-established producers and directors, which is highly satisfying and confirms the industry’s trust in our event.”
--Sterre de Jong

One such producer was Emjay Rechsteiner of Staccato Films who has been a stalwart of HFM over the years, and who, many years ago, delivered what for many was one of the event’s most entertaining and innovative pitches, for the 2004 feature Sportsman of the Century. This year he presented the project Boni by Edson da Conceicao and Timo Ottevanger, about the revered eponymous liberator of slaves in the Amazon jungle. Likewise, Annemiek van Gorp and René Goossens (De Productie) were back with Marcel Visbeen’s Everything Will Be Fine, starring Fedja van Huêt, Katja Herbers and Dirk de Lint. Other Dutch directing luminaries in attendance were David Verbeek (Full Contact, Dead & Beautiful), Mischa Kamp (Boys, Romy’s Salon, Winky’s Horse) and Erik de Bruyn (Wild Mussels, J. Kessels) with the new projects The Thief’s Mantra, Jasmine and Keelin’s Return respectively.

A lot of matchmaking know-how went into the process of uniting projects with investors and feedback. “The industry professionals were specifically targeted, based on the wishes and ambitions that the selected projects had. So we were extensively involved in the whole matchmaking process.”

De Jong is confident that the shape of the event will be maintained, with the BoostNL, New Dutch and Stories & Beyond sections continuing to take centre stage. “I made a little joke during the HFM Awards where I said we've been reshaping our identity over the last couple of years, also due to Covid. But I think we have reached puberty and now we’re growing into that adult identity of what the HFM is. I think we were like a phoenix in the sense that we lost our fire for a couple of years, but now we've rekindled that fire by adapting to current industry standards, so we can now only grow. But the core essence of the programme with those three schemes is going to stay.”

In the upcoming year, De Jong, will talk to more international industry stakeholders and similarly timed international events, such as Finnish Film Affair, to broaden the international scope of HFM. “We're looking to see if the Dutch sales agents would also use the HFM to present work that has already been finished. Of course we are primarily aimed at development and showcasing Dutch works and talent, but I think it's also a great platform to be used for presenting works-in-progress and films that have already been presented to the market and which still need that extra bump in additional sales.”

004 20230922 Utrecht Nederlands Film Festival 2023 NFF23 HFM Round Table 1 FOTO MOMENTTOM NFF

In 2024, HFM staff will also be bringing forward the selection process for BoostNL, New Dutch and Stories & Beyond so that they can use events such as Cannes to give an exclusive preview of what's on offer at the HFM.

During The Netherlands Film Festival, UK-based Olsberg SPI presented a study that indicated how the Dutch industry is underperforming both in terms of quality and the exportability of its product, when compared to the similarly structured industries of Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Austria.

De Jong found the findings sobering but nevertheless points to the international potential of the HFM selections, as evidenced by the winning projects. “The producers that we meet, and the directors and the storytellers that we have in our programme, are very much looking forward to expanding the borders of what Dutch cinema needs to be. And I think that's something that we really see as well in the two projects that won the HFM awards. The Global Audience Award was won by a Curaçaoan project (Mester Muri) . “They had such a strong visual presentation and it at no point felt like the type of Dutch films that I usually see coming by at our festival, which I love,

Likewise the Cam-a-lot & Filmmore Best Live Pitch award went to Her Name Was Laboni, a project from a Mexican-born director (Claudio Montesano Casillas) working with a Dutch producer (Loretta van der Horst) about a Bangladeshi story (the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in which over a thousand workers were killed). “What we are now seeing at HFM is how people are finding stories that differ a lot from the typical drama, wartime films or romantic comedy stories, but actually something more universally recognizable and which a lot of international audiences will see. I believe the Dutch industry is gradually embracing a more universal perspective. And I hope that in a couple of years we'll have a very different report to what the Olsberg report currently presents.”

Want to know more about the 3 HFM trajectories?

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