TaKe 25 | SPRInG 2013 | € 3.99
The creative team behind clan
TOM Van aVeRMaeT oscar® nomination for death of a shadow
THe PRODuceRS ISSue
dirk Impens, peter krüger, Bart Van langendonck, Jean-claude Van rijckeghem
FelIx Van groenIngen the Broken cIrcle BreakdoWn
toon aerts hannelore knuts pIeter duMoulIn trIggerFInger Janet Van den Brand JakoB VerBruggen hans Vercauter
Best of the Fest
International Short Film Festival Leuven
LA Shorts Fest
Best Narrative Short
Best European Short
Seminci - Valladolid International Film Festival
Fargo Film Festival
European Film Awards 2013
La Samain du Cin辿ma Fantastique
Short Film Nominee
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
ACADEMY AWARD速 NOMINEE BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS in
a film by
TOM VAN AVERMAET
A.M.P.A.S.速 OFFICIAL SCREENINGS US Press Contact
LOS ANGELES Linwood Dunn Theater Saturday, January 26, 7:30 pm Saturday, February 2, 10:50 am Friday, February 8, 2:50 pm
Tatiana Detlofson MEDIAPLANpr E email@example.com P +1 310 663 3465
Contact A.M.P.A.S.速 for New York and London screenings.
c ntent i TAKE 25
Bart Van langendonck academy award nominated producer unveils his talent barn
hannelore knuts top model from catwalk to film set
peter krüger about being on the border between documentary and fiction
the Baron new game fund inspires creative minds
Jean-claude Van rijckeghem about the creative partnership between producer, director and scriptwriter
dirk Impens maverick producer talks about the unique relationship between producer and director
Jakob Verbruggen the young director who brings new life to old genres
tom Van avermaet what inﬂuenced the director of oscar nominated live action short death of a shadow
clan meeting up with three partners in prime: Malin-sarah gozin, nathalie Basteyns and kaat Beels
talent Matters FelIx Van groenIngen an extra 12-page special celebrating the work of Felix van groeningen whose the Broken Circle Breakdown premieres at this year’s Berlinale 7 i-opener | i'm the same i'm another I 9 shortissimo Perfect drug; Rosa, anna’s Lil’ sis; het zwijgen van helena I 56 Icons I 58 Monitor Triggerfinger | www.ﬂandersimage.com
Being BoWIe TOP MODEL HANNELORE KNUTS MADE HEADLINES LAST YEAR IN HER FIRST FILM ROLE WHEN THE OPENING SCENE OF THe InVaDeR FEATURED HER WALKING ON A BEACH COMPLETELY NUDE. NOW SHE’S TURNING HEADS AGAIN IN A NEW HOUR-LONG MUSIC VIDEO IN WHICH SHE PLAYS GLAM LEGEND DAVID BOWIE. text lIsa BradshaW
PoRtRait cIcI olsson
It’s not even Knuts’ first time playing the rock star: photographer Steven Meisel dressed Knuts as Bowie alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for a 2001 shoot for US Vogue. But it goes even deeper than that. When cast for her androgynous look, ‘photographers explain the atmosphere of a particular shoot to me, and I often think about David Bowie,’ says Knuts. ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth is a reference for me.’ Bowie’s appetite for make-up, ever-changing hairstyles and flamboyant costuming is certainly easy for a fashion model to embrace. Yet in Dave, which premiered at the Flanders International Film Festival in Ghent last October, Knuts sports a simple grey suit to play a rather shy and vulnerable Bowie who is moving through time, trying to eliminate other versions of himself.
Dave is the 23rd instalment of a 24-hour project by Flemish DJ team Radio Soulwax, in which they create visual content for their own mixes according to a variety of themes. Dave contains only Bowie songs and intermingles the narrative of the Bowie doppelgangers with creative interpretations of how each of his album covers were made. ‘Every scene in the film is a little story,’ says Knuts, ‘based on anecdotes, gossip, facts and album covers. It’s one big eclectic scene.’ Radio Soulwax wanted a woman to play Bowie ’because a man would just make it look like they were trying to copy him, and they wanted to avoid that,’ Knuts explains. ‘You can’t really touch a man like Bowie. This is more of an homage. They also wanted to accentuate Bowie’s androgyny.’ Knuts had only a month to prepare for the role. ‘I was a bit naive thinking it was going to be a little video shoot,’ she recalls, ‘and then when I got there, it was a whole movie set! I got nervous; but in the end, not preparing really saved me.’ She’s the first to admit that she’s ‘not an actress’ and knows that if she had overstudied the role, ‘it would have come across rehearsed and clumsy. I just did it naturally. I was a woman playing a man, and Bowie is a man who often plays a woman, and so we met there in the middle.’
circle of friends
Dave was shot last summer in Ghent over seven days, ‘but we did 14 days worth of work in that week!’ Knuts laughs. The film was directed by Wim Reygaert, a writer and director with Caviar and also the frontman of rock band Drums are for Parades. Acting in the film next to Knuts were actor Sam Louwyck (Lost Person’s Area, Bullhead), Das Pop singer Bent Van Looy and Nicolas Karakatsanis, the soughtafter DoP of films like Left Bank and Oscar contender Bullhead. (In Dave, he plays a memorable Freddy Mercury.) ‘It was a coming and going of friends,’ confirms Knuts. ‘We were working really hard, but we were also having fun. It was beautiful teamwork.’ She felt the same about her role last year in The Invader, which was directed by her partner, Nicolas Provost. It was also a non-speaking role and featured a nude Knuts in an unforgettable first close-up shot. ‘The scene really worked,’ says Knuts. ‘I believe in Nicolas’ work, and I trust him as an artist. That first scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. It really sticks with you.’ Knuts is firmly at the top of the fashion modelling scene. In 16 years in the business, she’s walked runways all over the world and been photographed for editorials and covers of fashion, art and lifestyle magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Pop, A Magazine, Self Service, New York Magazine and several versions of Vogue. Yet she never planned to be a model, choosing to study photography at the Antwerp Fine Arts Academy. The Academy’s fashion department, however, got her onto the local catwalk, and she soon wound up on a runway in Paris. ‘Before I knew it, I was walking all the catwalks in Milan and Paris without ever having to do a casting,’ she says. ‘I was really lucky.’ A huge celebrity in Belgium, Knuts took part in the local version of Dancing with the Stars. ‘The things you have to think about to make it look as easy as it looks!’ she exclaims. ‘But I really like getting to know how it works, and I really like the competition.’ Having just turned 35, Knuts is still a popular model but also pursues other interests, including her first love, photography. She recently did a shoot for the French men’s line Arnys and has walls full of her photos in her New York apartment. She has also designed a handbag for Belgian leather brand Delvaux and recently even designed a bicycle. ‘I like to keep my options open,’ she says. ‘Creating is all the same – whether it’s a photo, a bag or a bike. It’s finding the balance in beauty.’ The Invader
i’M the saMe i’M anotheR Szabolcs (30) is on the run with nine-year-old Tess. He nervously tries to hide the little girl as they take a ferry. On the boat, Tess discovers that her parents have died. Devastated by this news, she adopts some obsessive behaviour. The two end up in a small cottage near the sea where Tess learns to express her mourning and obsessions by using her creativity, while Szabolcs slowly starts to accept his new role in her life. Their time of mourning and grief together makes them soul mates. They become interdependent for life. But will Szabolcs be able to hide her for the outer world? I’m the Same I’m Another, a psychological drama that depicts the relationship between a young girl and a Hungarian adult, is the follow-up to lost Persons area, Caroline Strubbe’s feature film debut that received its world premiere at the 2009 Cannes Critics’ Week. It reunites the director with Zoltán Miklós Hajdu and Kimke Desart. Flemish producer is Tomas Leyers for Minds Meet.
40 th Ghent International Film Festival
(8 -19 October 2013)
submit your film now! Send a screener (multi-region DVD) along with some publicity material (press book, some stills, CD with the soundtrack if available) before August 1st, 2013 to Wim De Witte. Fill out the online entry form: www.filmfestival.be/productinfo.cgi
Ghent International Film Festival
• The place to be for film music concerts • Prizes in cash to local distributors
who release the winning films • Competition for European Shorts in cooperation with the European Film Academy (European director - produced in 2013) • National & international media coverage • More than 130,000 visitors Soundtrack Awards – • Instigator of the World 13 th edition: 19 October 2013 More info (incl. festival regulations) on www.filmfestival.be Subscribe to our newsletter!
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shor t i ssimo
PeRFeCt dRug TOON AERTS' SHORT FILM PERFECT DRUG CONFIDENTLY COMBINES ASIAN GENRE CINEMA WITH 1970s AMERICANA, BINDING THEM TOGETHER WITH A STRONG DOSE OF SURREAL HUMOUR. THE 13-MINUTE BLAST OF STRANGENESS COMPETES AT THIS YEAR'S CLERMONT-FERRAND FILM FESTIVAL.
Three young Japanese hoods have been sent to rob a laboratory, but something has gone wrong. Parked outside a run-down motel, they sort through a sack of test tubes looking for the item they were meant to steal. Then Misha sniffs a tube: ecstatic visions give way to paranoia and body horror, plus an insane thirst for ice cream. In the end, he can't tell where reality ends and nightmare begins. Aerts is quick to point out that he is not himself a drug fiend. 'I haven't so much as smoked a joint in 18 years,' he says. 'For me, the film is more inspired by dreams.' As well as bizarre images, this produces an unsteady sense of time and place. 'I wanted to give the feeling that you jump into the middle of an action movie for five minutes and then jump out again,' Aerts explains. 'It should be a very concentrated, action-packed trip.' In the eclectic collage of influences, the language of horror cinema gave him just the right kind of energy. 'It's not that I want to make exploitative and over-the-top images,' he says. 'I just want people to be blown away.' Perfect Drug is produced by Koen Mortier and Eurydice Gysel of Epidemic. ď Š iM
shor t i ssimo
a n n a's L i L' si s In Rosa, Anna’s Lil’ Sis, Janet van den Brand portrays three sisters growing up together. Nine-year-old Rosa grows up in her own world. In this small universe she looks at her big sister with a mixture of obsession and admiration. This while she often feels excluded by her little sister who she envies. While tension between the three slowly mounts and Rosa’s resentment towards her big sister begins to tear her apart, she does everything to become the big sister. Starring Clara Criado Alvarez, Leah Guillaume and Helena Legier as the three sisters, this 23-minute short is selected for this year’s Generation programme at the Berlinale. For her graduation film at the RITS film school in Brussels, van den Brand got coaching from Patrice Toye (Little Black Spiders) and Fien Troch (Kid) on the direction side, and Ludo Troch for the editing. Van den Brand previously also made the 16-minute Arthur’s Grandpa in which fantasy and reality melt into a fantastic story about a friendship between a boy and his grandfather. HW
Helena and her brother are both in their twenties. They are with their mother in the place where they always spend their summers. But the peace and happiness that the holidays are supposed to bring on has changed entirely because of their mother’s severe illness. The pressure of a possible death weighs heavily on Helena and she turns away. She is unable to enter her bedridden mother’s room which, for her, is dirty, tainted, resided by a body that is stripped of its dignity. This while, also overwhelmed by panic, Helena’s brother keeps everything hidden from the outer world and nurses his mother in silence. Het Zwijgen van Helena (which could be translated as Helena’s Silence), starring Hans Mortelmans and Eva Binon, is written and directed by Pieter Dumoulin. A KASK School of Arts Ghent graduation film, it is selected for this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam. HW
shor t i ssimo
LAST YEAR'S OSCAR NOMINATION FOR BULLHEAD launcHeD THe INTERNATIONAL CAREERS OF DIRECTOR MICHAëL R. ROSKAM AND LEADING MAN MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS. THE FILM'S PRODUCER, BART VAN LANGENDONCK, HAS YET TO FOLLOW THEM ACROSS THE ATLANTIC, BUT THE NOMINATION HAS CHANGED HIS LIFE IN OTHER WAYS. TexT Ian Mundell
‘Industry people like international sales agents and distributors are more eager to listen to what I have to offer now,’ he says. ‘Now that they know my name, and it’s linked to Bullhead, they are at least willing to look at new projects.’ The international press also takes notice. ‘When we announced my new slate in Cannes, all the dailies picked it up. This would never have happened before Bullhead.’ And more people come to him with their projects, from student filmmakers to more established directors. ‘The downside is that you have to make choices,’ he says. ‘You can’t work with everybody.’ Even so, his production company Savage Film has an extensive portfolio that combines fiction, documentary and films in the rich area where dance and cinema overlap. Van Langendonck’s interest in dance comes from his time managing Ultima Vez, the company of choreographer and filmmaker Wim Vandekeybus. When he moved into film production in 2002, with the company CCCP, it was to produce Vandekeybus’ first film projects. The success of titles such as In Spite of Wishing and Wanting and Blush made Van Langendonck the go-to person for dance films in Belgium. Sometimes this involves adapting performances for the screen, as in The Co(te)lette Film. For this production Oscar-winning director Mike Figgis was brought in to stage
From left to right: Michaël R.Roskam and partner Anneleen Masschelein, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeroen Perceval, Bart Van Langendonck and partner Kati Van De Velde. © a.M.P.a.S.®
Beyond © Bart Dewaele
and shoot a provocative and highly physical performance devised by Ann Van den Broek. At other times Van Langendonck’s dance films document the creative process. The IDFA-selected film Rain, for example, follows choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as she teaches the classically trained ballet dancers of the Opéra de Paris how to perform one of her freeflowing contemporary pieces.
motivate and guide
Documentary is another interest that Van Langendonck has been able to pursue with the growth of Savage Film. ‘When I’m zapping on TV I usually get stuck on a documentary rather than a fiction film,’ he says. ‘Documentary talks about issues in a more concrete fashion, and that’s one of the things I like.’ Subjects of on-going projects range from the precarious lives of children in war-torn Afghanistan to the way scientists seek new knowledge in the world’s most sophisticated laboratories. Despite doing a lot to develop new talent, in both fiction and documentary, Van Langendonck doesn’t see this as a particular strength. ‘I don’t see myself as a producer-coach,’ he says. ‘As a director you need to have the talent. That’s where everything starts. Then you need to be able to develop a vision in respect to a particular project. Plus you need to be a people manager.’ The main thing he looks for in fiction is a great story. ‘If I can’t read it through in one go, I don’t go for it. Even if the story is not well-constructed yet, all the elements need to be there to make it a page turner.’ That was the case with The ardennes, a tale of crime and family ties which Bullhead actor Jeroen Perceval is developing from his own stage play. When Van Langendonck read a first draft of the treatment, the impact was immediate. ‘It was 20 pages too short, but it hit me in the face.’ Once that happens, a project takes on a momentum of its own. ‘I become enthusiastic, and that enthusiasm then reflects back on the writer and the director. I think that in this way, as producer, I can motivate and guide directors. It’s a nice feeling to be able to feed each other in such a way.’
When it comes to the actual shoot of a film, he tends to take a back seat. ‘Personally I don’t have so much experience of sets,’ he admits. ‘Sometimes I feel a bit frustrated because of that, but at the same time it’s good to have distance. And as long as things are decided and are well organised by having put together the perfect team, the set should be running almost on its own.’ Once the lights and cameras are put away, he gets more closely involved again. ‘The part I like most is the editing process and how everything comes together in post-production. Then there’s the promotion and the life you can create for a film.’ Seeing a film take off, particularly for a new director, is the ultimate reward. ‘It’s good to give someone with creative talent a platform to do their thing. And it’s always great to be involved in the launch of an emerging talent. www.savagefilm.be
‘if i can’t read a script through in one go, i don’t do it. even if the story is not well-constructed yet, all the elements need to be there to make it a page turner’
Paging MR RoskaM In the wake of Bullhead, Michaël R. Roskam has been inundated with offers. At the time of writing, he is attached to a Fox Searchlight project called animal Rescue, scripted by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island) and The Tiger, an adaptation of John Vaillant’s non-fiction book of the same name for Focus Features. Then there is Buda Bridge Bitch, a TV series for HBO that will be produced in Brussels by Savage Film. Meanwhile, Roskam and Van Langendonck are working on a new feature film, The Faithful, which is set against the background of brutal crime gangs operating in Brussels in the early 1990s. ’We will probably be shooting in 2014, with French producer/distributor Stone Angels attached as co-producer,’ says Van Langendonck. ‘It’s a great project that’s a logical continuation of what he did with Bullhead.’ The aim is to work with the same team, from composer Raf Keunen to DoP Nicolas Karakatsanis, and with Matthias Schoenaerts in front of the camera. ‘It’s a great collaboration and, as Michaël says: never change a winning team!’ • Turn to next pages to discover Bart Van Langendonck's
emerging talent barn
PORTRaIT danny WIlleMs
Bart’s barn of young and emerging filmmaking talent consists of people like:
Bart’s talent barn
4 12 9 11
MicHaël R. RoskaM see page 13 Vincent coen and GuillauMe VandenBeRGHe After film school and various shorts, long-time collaborators Vincent Coen and Guillaume Vandenberghe made their debut for Savage Film with the feature documentary Cinema Inch’Allah! This follows four BelgianMoroccan filmmakers as they doggedly pursue their dream of producing high-energy, lowbudget action movies with a multi-cultural twist. But after years sacrificing their free time, some of the group start to have doubts. Hans Van nuffel After working with A Private View on his acclaimed debut feature Oxygen, Hans Van Nuffel has moved over to Savage Film for the follow-up, equator. The idea is to tap into Van Langendonck's international experience in order to shoot a story that unfolds largely in Africa. It concerns a young Belgian woman who forces a former Congolese child soldier to help solve the mystery of her father's death. 'It's the encounter of a rich, bourgeois family in Brussels with Africa and its violence,' says Van Langendonck. 'What attracted me is the tension between these two worlds, as well as the confrontation with the remains and outcome of our own colonial past. At the same time it's a love story that contains thriller elements.' RoBin PRont and JeRoen PeRceVal The ardennes started life as a stage play by actor Jeroen Perceval, before being slated as a film project for Michaël R. Roskam. When Bullhead went global, the project passed (with Roskam's blessing) to newcomer Robin Pront. While fresh to feature films, Pront has already directed Perceval and Bullhead star Matthias Schoenaerts in his short film Injury Time. ‘This short and the earlier Plan B indicate that the project is in safe hands,' says Van Langendonck. 'You can see that these shorts match the feature film he is going to make. You know it's there.' BRaM Van PaesscHen Welcome to Chocolate City will complete a trilogy of films about the Congo that Bram Van Paesschen began with Pale Peko Bantu (for broadcaster VRT) and Empire of Dust (for Savage Film). This time, however, he will be leaving Africa in order to follow a young Congolese man travelling to work in China, joining around 100,000 other African migrants already living in the Guangzhou neighbourhood known as Chocolate City.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.
Michaël R. Roskam Vincent Coen Hans Van Nuffel Bart Van Langendonck Jeroen Perceval Robin Pront Bram Van Paesschen Guillaume Vandenberghe Pascal Poissonnier Douglas Boswell Nathalie Teirlinck Wim Vandekeybus Pieter-Jan De Pue
Pascal PoissonnieR Documentary filmmaker Pascal Poissonnier has moved from the personal to the political, in each case looking for the story concealed by appearances. In Walking Back to Happiness he investigated into his own name, only to face evasion and hostility from the closest members of his family. Then in no comment he followed two television journalists as they try to make sense of the longest, most complicated political crisis in Belgian history.
douGlas BosWell With a background in TV and the internationally successful short Romance to his name, Douglas Boswell is making his feature debut with The Labyrinth, a fantasy adventure for kids. Written by Pierre De Clercq (Come As You Are), it concerns a 14-year-old boy who finds his computer can access a parallel world mirroring his home town. It seems like a game, until he realises what happens in the labyrinth also affects reality. 'The script is really great, a very touching story,' Van Langendonck says. 'It sparkles.' The Labyrinth is set to shoot in summer 2013. natHalie teiRlinck International film festivals have been quick to adopt Nathalie Teirlinck. Her student film anemone screened at Locarno in 2007, then her first independent short, Venus vs Me, picked up a European Film Award at Berlin in 2010. Now she has a home at Savage Film, where she is preparing her first feature film, tentatively called Tonic Immobility. WiM VandekeyBus Van Langendonckâ€™s association with Wim Vandekeybus remains as strong as ever. In 2011 he co-produced Monkey Sandwich, the choreographer's first dialogue-driven film, and he is the main producer for the highly anticipated feature Galloping Mind. This is the story of twins, separated at birth, who meet aged nine during a street robbery and so discover the common fate inflicted upon them by adults. After a long search for the right locations ('One of the key scenes in this film is a bridge, where a lot of things happen,' Van Langendonck says.) the film will be shot in Hungary and Romania this summer. PieteR-Jan de Pue Young photographer Pieter-Jan De Pue has travelled from the Amazon basin to the Middle East in search of images, but it is Afghanistan that has captured his imagination. Returning repeatedly to document the work of charities and foundations, he is also preparing a feature documentary about the country's children. Their stories are connected by a thread: the explosives recovered by children from around Bagram air base are passed to children mining lapis lazuli, which in turn leaves the country under the protection of child soldiers. The Land of the Enlightened is tentatively scheduled for 2014.
Land of the Enlightened
oliVia RocHette and GeRaRd-Jan claes (not pictured) Olivia Rochette and Gerard-Jan Claes had only just graduated when choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker suggested they should document her production of Rain in Paris. Van Langendonck already knew their work, having seen the graduation film Because We Are Visual while part of their film school jury. 'It was clear that they had talent and a clear vision of what the film should become,' he says. Rain premiered internationally at IDFA. MattHias scHoenaeRts (not pictured) Actor Matthias Schoenaerts will make his debut behind the camera with Franky, a documentary about a school friend he rediscovered when making Bullhead. While Schoenaerts had become a success, Franky had experienced years of personal hardship. 'Matthias became intrigued by the courage of this guy and the fact that their lives were so completely different,' Van Langendonck explains. 'When Matthias was at the Oscars, Franky was in jail.' Schoenaerts' hectic schedule after the success of Bullhead and Rust and Bone makes progress difficult but he remains committed to the project. 'It's really personal, so it's going to happen. He's already filmed quite a bit with DoP Nicolas Karakatsanis (Bullhead, The Loft). I've seen the rushes and they are just mind-blowing.'
Walking Back to Happiness
fRank tHeys (not pictured) Visual artist, theatre director and filmmaker Frank Theys has a longstanding interest in how science and technology changes our view of life. In the documentary series Technocalyps (2006) he explored ideas about transhumanism, the way technology changes the limits of what it means to be human. Now in Lab-Life he is examining daily life inside some of the world's leading laboratories and the challenges science presents to society. Venus vs Me
UNDERLINING THE GROWING SYNERGY BETWEEN MOVIES AND GAMES, A NEW GENERATION OF FILMMAKERS SUCH AS HANS VERCAUTER ARE INCREASINGLY LOOKING TO GAMES AS A NEW WAY OF TELLING THEIR STORIES. INSPIRED BY HIS DAUGHTER, VERCAUTER IS DESIGNING A TABLET GAME BASED ON THE GLOBALLY FAMOUS CHARACTER OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN. THE PROJECT IS SUPPORTED BY THE BRAND NEW VAF/GAME FUND, WHICH THE FLANDERS GOVERNMENT HOPES WILL BE ABLE TO PUSH THE GAMES INDUSTRY TO THE SAME HEIGHTS AS ITS LOCAL MOVIE SCENE. TexT andy FurnIère
PORTRaIT Bart deWaele
PLay on NEW GAME FUND INSPIRES CREATIVE MINDS
As a youngster in the 1980s, Hans Vercauter spent many hours in his room, writing code on an ancient computer – just to make a cursor move erratically across the screen. ‘One of the most frustrating moments of my childhood,’ he sighs. Thankfully for his five-year-old daughter, times have changed. When Vercauter gave her a tablet PC, she was seemingly able to simply intuitively grasp how the device worked. Vercauter immediately inquired on Twitter whether anyone was interested in working with him to develop a tablet game. Peter De Maegd, founder of production company Potemkino, didn’t have to think twice.
The scenario of the game revolves around the stories of Baron Munchausen, a German nobleman of the 18th Century who was legendary for entertaining guests with stories of his own fantastical and impossible adventures. ‘He is the ideal character to stimulate the ingenuity of young children, especially six- to nine-year-olds,’ says Vercauter. At the start of the game, unimaginative creatures banish the Baron from the town of Munchausen and turn the world black and white. Through seven adventurous levels, players lead the Baron back to Munchausen, as he brings
colour back to the world, with the help of friends he meets along the way. The game should broaden young minds by rewarding unconventional ways of overcoming obstacles. To reach the moon, for example, the Baron can simply climb up a gigantic beanstalk. But if children come up with the bold idea of holding the tablet upside down, which lets him fall down towards the lunar landscape, they will be in for a surprise. The variety of possible ways to complete the game will encourage children to play the game multiple times. In a subtle way, the setting will teach children about history while also featuring references to amuse older players. The background music during a sequence in which a princess is abducted from a sultan’s harem, for example, comes from a Mozart opera with the same theme, 'The Kidnap from the Serail'. This will make it fun for parents to play with their children as an alternative to bedtime stories.
Visually, The Baron will have the feel of a classic picture book. Responsible for the vintage look of the characters and scenery is Flemish animator Michélé De Feudis, known for his deceptively simple but daring work for film, TV programmes, commercials and music videos. De Feudis
is also front man of Flemish rock band Horses on Fire. The technical expertise comes from game developer Monkube, a specialist in mobile games with comic elements and creative stories. The multi-disciplinary team has been brought together by Peter De Maegd, producer of recent TV series The Spiral for Caviar, which was broadcast simultaneously in eight countries and which included an online social game. De Maegd is keen to explore all the possibilities of interactive storytelling that the tablet game format can provide. At one point, for example, children have to blow into the tablet's microphone to put wind in the sails of Baron Munchausen’s ship. The producer envisions a global market for the game, as Baron Munchausen is famous around the world through books and the film by director Terry Gilliam. Initially, De Maegd plans to create versions in Dutch, English and French, but he is also considering Russian and German versions as well as dreaming about an animation series for TV. With a budget of €26,900 from the VAF/Game Fund, the team will create a prototype of one game level to test on a trial audience. If they can raise the additional funding and investments, they want to finish the game by the middle of next year.
gaMe Fund The Baron is one of the first 13 projects the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) has supported through the Game Fund, launched at the end of last year. Minister for Media Ingrid Lieten and Education Minister Pascal Smet together assembled an annual budget of €750,000 to stimulate the development of different types of games. €200,000 is invested in games for the education system, while €550,000 is allocated to both entertainment games with a cultural or artistic value, and serious games useful to – for instance – the care, medical and heritage sectors. Games are defined as ‘serious’ when they teach users important skills through simulations of real-world events.
the FoRtunate TexT Ian Mundell PORTRaIT toM VerBruggen
WHEN EVERYTHING COMES TOGETHER, THERE'S NOTHING TO BEAT BEING A FILM PRODUCER. 'FINDING AN AUDIENCE WITH A GOOD FILM IS AMAZING,' SAYS DIRK IMPENS OF MENUET. 'IT'S A BIG KICK. IT'S ORGASMIC.' IMPENS FELT THE LOVE EARLY ON IN HIS CAREER WITH DaenS, WHICH WAS NOMINATED MORE
GROenInGen'S THE MISFORTUNATES, WHICH WAS A HUGE SUCCESS AT HOME AND IN FESTIVALS ABROAD. VAN GROENINGEN’S LATEST, THE BROKEN
INTERNATIONALLY AT THE BERLINALE. However, Impens wasn't so sure it would happen with van Groeningen's most recent movie. Where The Misfortunates attracted a young audience with its mix of comic bad behaviour and deep emotion, The Broken Circle Breakdown is about a more sobering subject: a couple driven apart when their small daughter develops a terminal illness. 'Given the subject of the movie I thought it would be difficult to find a large audience,' he admits. But with more than 250,000 admissions in its first month,
The Broken Circle Breakdown
that a certain scene should have been different,' Impens says, 'and Felix still believes that the way it is finally edited is the best way. Probably he is right.' The fact that they can speak so frankly is one of the strengths of their relationship, which goes back nearly 10 years to Steve + Sky, van Groeningen's feature debut. 'He knows that if I try to convince him of my opinion, it's from the very best of intentions,' Impens says. 'It's not because I'm the producer who only thinks about money.'
the film quickly established itself as the most popular indigenous film of 2012. 'I'm surprised and very relieved,' Impens says. 'I've never had so many reactions: very emotional, very strong, very powerful reactions. People are really moved by this film.' Yet the film also works for the director's loyal followers. 'It's a very different film from The Misfortunates, but for me it's the same van Groeningen universe, the same style of filmmaking,' Impens says. 'It's weird and a little crazy. It's edited in a strange way. It's strong, it's funny and it's emotional.' The way the film was edited involved some heated discussions between producer and director. 'I still believe
While Impens feels that every relationship between producer and director is unique, there is a common thread in the role he plays. 'You can only do one thing, which is to be their shrink,' he says. 'I mean that in a positive way. What these people need in the first place is to be supported. They all have their doubts and their difficult moments, when they need a shoulder, sometimes to cry on, but mostly just to feel that there is someone behind them.' He doesn't get involved in day-to-day shooting, but likes to be there at the script and editing stages. 'You have to be there whenever they have doubts about the script, and then in post-production to tell them honestly and constructively: "yes, it's very good, but...".' His ultimate aim is to help, not to take over. 'I've learned over the years that their films are not my films. I help them to make the film they want to make.' The most important thing he looks for in a new filmmaker is a strong work ethic. 'If you want to make a film, just work hard,' he says. 'But it shouldn't feel like working,
In Flanders Fields
whatâ€™s next? Impens has two first features in development at present. One is by Lenny Van Wesemael, who recently made the short Dancing With Travolta for Menuet. Den Derby is an autobiographical tale about a large family under financial and emotional stress in the early 1970s. 'It's a beautiful, enchanting story,' he says, 'about a daughter losing a father, looking back and wondering what went wrong.' Meanwhile Tim Mielants has written a feature film after working on the Menuet TV series Code 37. His project is De Patrick, about a man whose only dream is to be left in peace to run a nudist colony. 'Tim is a very gifted guy when it comes to working with actors,' Impens says, 'but he is also very stubborn, in a good way.' The other big project on the horizon is van Groeningen's next feature, which is just beginning its development. 'He's working on a story which is very personal, based on something he went through in his adolescence,' Impens says, having seen a first treatment. 'It's very strong and very moving. Very sad, but also crazy. And maybe that's who Felix is.' These two sides to van Groeningen's personality are what distinguishes his films. 'He enjoys every moment of life, even the sad moments.' Impens confesses that the prospect of such a sad tale makes him a little nervous, but then he brushes aside the idea that it won't work commercially. 'I don't worry about it any more. I had the same fears about The Broken Circle Breakdown and it turns out that I'm wrong. And in this case, I love being wrong.'
'If you want to make a film, just work hard. But it shouldn't feel like working, if everything turns out right, because it should be fun. it should be something you really want to do, that you crave, that you dream about'
if everything turns out right, because it should be fun. It should be something you really want to do, that you crave, that you dream about.' On top of that they need a good script, a personal style and something that they want to share with the world. Sometimes all that is apparent from previous work such as student films, but the surest test of a new director is for Impens to make a short film with them. 'You know up-front that you are going to lose money, but it's the best way to see how people work,' he explains. The result may be a green light to go on to a feature film or a decision to stop there. His recent experience has been positive. 'So far I've been very lucky and I haven't produced a short film that didn't work out well in one way or another,' he says. 'I'm born for luck.' One of his most successful shorts has been Dura Lex by Anke Blondé, about a young mother confronted by a visit from the police. The film has screened at a dozen festivals around the world, picking up awards along the way. 'In that case it is pretty obvious that Anke is a very talented director, so we will see where that leads.'
ReMeMBeRing daens Dirk Impens claims that he doesn't think too much about Daens, the historical epic that earned him and director Stijn Coninx an Oscar nomination back in 1993. One reason is that it was a long time ago. The other is that he vowed never to repeat the experience. 'At a certain moment I was sure I would go bankrupt,' he says, 'but in the end it worked out.' The size of the production was only part of the problem. At the time, local stories were not popular with cinemagoers and a film about a radical Flemish priest in the 1890s, campaigning for the rights of working men and women, looked like box-office poison. 'Flemish cinema was not something you could be proud of then,' he recalls. When the film was finished and ready to be distributed, Impens knew he needed 400,000 admissions in order to break even. 'That was totally impossible. Crazy. It had never been done before. But we made it, and even doubled that number.' The experience taught him two important lessons. 'If you work hard, if you believe in something, go for it and never give up, that pays off,' he says. 'But on the other hand, oh Dirk Impens, you should be smarter next time! You made it, but never take that kind of risk again.' He has been more cautious since then, but the memory of Daens has come back a little with the series In Flanders Fields. Set during the First World War, it is one of the most expensive TV productions ever mounted in Flanders. 'I'm very happy to have the experience of Daens,' he says. 'Now I can take some very tough decisions that I wasn't capable taking back then because I didn't have the courage or the authority.'
Menuet has been increasingly active producing television drama, following up three series of the cop show Code 37 with Deadline 14.10, a drama exploring big city politics and the newspaper business. Impens is currently producing two new programmes: In Flanders Fields, charting the fate of one family living through the First World War, and Zuidflank, about a wine making family. After that, three more series are in the pipeline. Increasing the amount of TV work means he can be more selective with movie projects. 'I don't want to produce too many films, because it demands a bigger emotional and psychological commitment from me than TV.' Even so, as a producer he takes a more hands-on approach to television. 'To put things bluntly, I have the final cut,' he says. 'The relationship between the producer and the broadcaster is very strict. I pitch them something, they agree and sign the contract, then I'm the one who has to deliver.' www.menuet.be
diRk iMPens (°1957)* (1992) - daens (1995) - Manneken Pis (1996) - eveRything Must go (1999) - Man oF steeL (2002) - viLLa des Roses (2004) - steve + sky (2007) - with FRiends Like these (2009) - the MisFoRtunates (2010) - tuRQuaze (2012) - the BRoken CiRCLe BReakdown * selected filmography
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THE FULL FELIX At film school students are taught that a movie is made three times. You write it, you shoot it, and you edit it. Felix van Groeningen never forgot this lesson. At every stage of filmmaking, the director will push things to the limits. He writes versions of the same story until he goes crazy himself. While shooting, he keeps on going until the whole crew is exhausted. And while editing he takes radical measures to get to the point where the film is the rollercoaster it was intended, but never foreseen to be.
Poster visual The Broken Circle Breakdown
FeLix Rising WHAT SETS FELIx VAN GROENINGEN’S HEART RACING IS THE MOMENT WHEN HE CAN MATCH AN ACTOR WITH A ROLE. ‘WHEN I SEE THOSE TWO THINGS COME TOGETHER, FOR ME IT’S LIKE THE FEELING OF FALLING IN LOVE,’ HE SAYS. CAPTURING THAT SENSE OF ExCITEMENT IN A PERFORMANCE IS WHAT HIS CINEMA IS ALL ABOUT. ‘AT THE MOMENT ITSELF, IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA, IT HAS TO TOUCH ME.’
‘Felix is the only director I know who never stops touching a film up. To begin with, he works flat out on his screenplays – if he feels he has to, he writes 20 versions. While he’s shooting the film, if need be he turns the screenplay inside out all over again, and in the cutting room there’s no one who dares to take such radical measures as Nico Leunen and him. These two nutters work like galley slaves and are not afraid to constantly question themselves’ – Dirk Impens (producer)
The director of such films as The Misfortunates and The Broken Circle Breakdown is happy to admit that he finds writing difficult and that visual style is not uppermost in his mind when conceiving a film. But his interest in working with actors goes back a long way. ‘I always wanted to be an actor, but I was never really comfortable when I did little theatre projects with other people, or casting calls for TV,’ he recalls, ‘so that didn’t really work out.’ Instead he started to make short films with a borrowed video camera, before going on to the KASK film school in Ghent. While this provided further technical grounding, his artistic development came from participating in the city’s Victoria theatre company where a lot of inspiring stuff was going on. Together with his friend Pol Heyvaert, he was invited to devise a show for the company. ‘Pol had the idea of having a performance with young people, where they would come out onto a catwalk and then tell a little story about themselves,’ van Groeningen says. After a successful theatre festival presentation, the show toured Europe for three years. ‘The piece constantly evolved, and it was there that I learned to love to work with people, to see what they bring and what you can do with it. My way of working was founded there.’
Cinema was less of an influence. One exception was seeing Kids, Larry Clark’s film about New York teenagers experimenting with sex and drugs. This changed van Groeningen’s ideas about the sort of stories he wanted to tell. ‘With this theatre play and a film like Kids, I just started looking around more. I tried to see what was
going on with people and what was going on with me, and to use these things to make films.’ His short films, mainly made with young, non-professional actors, focused on dialogue and character, so when it came to his feature debut he decided to emphasise the visual. ‘I felt that, as a director, I lacked a visual style,’ he recalls. And being a debut, he wanted to make his mark. ‘For my first film I wanted to do everything different. Everything!’ Steve + Sky (2004) tells the story of a romance between a petty criminal and a part-time prostitute who meet in the nightclubs that line the highways between Flemish cities. ‘That first movie began with three or four lines - it’s a love story involving these people - but I didn’t really have a clue why. You just start working on it and you give it a meaning. It went so quickly that I didn’t really have time to think about what I was doing,' he says of the film.
‘Felix is in-between an auteur and a filmmaker who sets out to please an audience. His authorship is there, but he’s very conscious of the audience. He’s also extremely open to suggestions, and that’s why we work well together’ – Nico Leunen (editor)
groups of people
‘His films cover very different subjects, but they all have his signature. And they are difficult subjects, but he also sees a lot of beauty in the grittier parts of life’ – Ruben Impens (DOP)
All stills from Steve+Sky
Realising that the story in Steve + Sky had a lighter weight, van Groeningen returned with a film that put visual style at the service of the narrative. ‘We still made definite choices about how it looked and how we filmed it, but those choices don’t pop out, they follow the story.’ With Friends Like These (2007) is about a group of young people struggling with changes in their relationships, with death and saying goodbye to childhood. ‘I thought it was beautiful to tell a story about friends who grow apart,’ van Groeningen says. ‘You know that it’s happening, but you can’t do anything about it.’
‘One of Felix’s greatest strengths is that he can motivate people and get them all moving in the same direction. Partially because he’s so motivated himself. He is very well prepared, much more than some other directors. He works with the actors in advance of shooting and re-writes scenes then. He never shoots a script the way it is written; it’s like he’s always kneading the dough’ – Ruben Impens (DOP)
It also developed a recurring theme in his work. ‘I was always fascinated by groups of people, what the codes are between people,’ he explains. The same was true of The Misfortunates (2009), based on a book by Flemish author Dimitri Verhulst. Set in small town Flanders in the 1980s, it tells the story of Gunther, a 13-year-old boy growing up in a family of gamblers and drunks. Failing at school, he seems set to follow in the dissolute family tradition. But then he starts to think that escape may also be an option. The Misfortunates was van Groeningen’s break-out success, screening at Cannes, Toronto and other international festivals, as well as topping the box office for domestic films at home. This raised the stakes for what to do next. It also generated attention, so a lot of scripts came his way, but none really touched him. ‘It’s not my style. I can’t decide to make a movie like that. If I want to make something it has to start from inside.’
Stills on this page from With Friends Like These
That connection came when he saw a musical stage play ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown Featuring the Coverups of Alabama’. This tells the story of Elise and Didier, two completely different people who are right for one another. She runs a tattoo parlour and he plays banjo in
‘Making a film is never a picnic for Felix. It’s more like ploughing a field, and then ploughing it all over again, and again. Only to end up pulling up the potatoes with your bare hands. In other words, it never stops being hard labour’ – Nico Leunen (editor)
‘Felix becomes better and better at what he does. He masters the technique better, and he is also becoming older and more mature, so that he is becoming clearer and clearer about what he wants to tell’ – Dirk Impens (producer)
Stills on this page from The Misfortunates
a bluegrass band. They fall in love and have a daughter, Maybelle. But when the little girl falls victim to cancer, they lose one another again. ‘I was moved by it because it’s so beautiful,’ van Groeningen recalls. ‘It starts off so small and becomes so big. I had the same feeling with The Misfortunates, where the book just grabbed me at a certain point and touched me very, very deeply.’ In adapting the play he opted to give the film a ‘classic’ look, something the young director of Steve + Sky would have rebelled against. ‘Now that I’m a little more relaxed about making films I’m less scared of going for the cliché, and using those clichés and trying to make them my own,’ he says. The use of bright, simple images to create a larger than life feeling was not about appealing to a wider public. ‘I have the audience in my mind, but I cannot live with compromise,’ he says. ‘Everything has to fit, and making a decision just to make a film more audience friendly doesn’t do justice to the movie.’ In the end, The Broken Circle Breakdown quickly established itself as the most popular indigenous film of 2012.
‘Felix’s films are, in a way, fearless. He’s not afraid to take on the big emotions, to let the actors really get it off their chests. Some directors would say it’s bad acting; Felix isn’t afraid to let emotions run wild. But he still avoids pathos. It’s intense, but it’s also very real’
Stills on this page from The Broken Circle Breakdown
– Nico Leunen (editor)
While certain actors, such as Koen De Graeve and Johan Heldenbergh, recur in van Groeningen’s films, his need to feel a spark of excitement when casting generally drives him to seek out new faces. In contrast, his technical team has grown more solid with each film. ‘For The Misfortunates and The Broken Circle Breakdown it was almost exactly the same crew. I would work with the same people over and over, if I could.’ They include art director Kurt Rigolle, sound man Jan Deca, costume designer Ann Lauwerys, make-up artist Diana Dreesen, editor Nico Leunen, director of photography Ruben Impens and first assistant Sofie Tusschans. Producer Dirk Impens is also a long-time collaborator and has been instrumental in allowing van Groeningen to keep making films at a steady rhythm. ‘It seems so simple now, but for a lot of my contemporaries it’s not.’ Their relationship is very frank. ‘Dirk is there from before there is a word on paper until after the movie is gone and forgotten. He is there for every decision, if I want, and also if I don’t want!’ That doesn’t mean he interferes, but that he fights for the film. ‘He respects my creative freedom, but if he is not certain about something, he will say so.’ This is something van Groeningen values in his collaborators. ‘We are all very tough on each other, in the sense that we want to make the best film and we are not going to say we like something if we don’t like it.’ Some of these relationships are more complicit than others. ‘With Ruben, we need less and less words when we are on set,’ he says of his regular director of
‘Felix has changed a lot as a director. What has stayed the same is that he creates a great atmosphere on set. He demands 100% but he gives 100%. There’s a huge sense of commitment and artistic responsibility. You can feel him searching for things and you want to search with him. You want to jump into the same pool. He just drags you into it’ – Johan Heldenbergh (Steve + Sky, The Misfortunates, The Broken Circle Breakdown)
‘I usually write scripts on my own, but working with Felix was a very enriching experience because he opened up new perspectives. It was a very open kind of collaboration. It could go anywhere, and it went everywhere. It was instructive to see how far Felix could go in making an emotional chronology rather than a narrative chronology’ photography. ‘We have the same opinions about things, and when I don’t know what to do he is the first one I go to for help.’ Meanwhile editor Nico Leunen is expected to be more questioning, looking at the images with a fresh perspective. ‘I’ve learned over the years that very often it is with the first cut that you really see what a character’s arc is, what works and what doesn’t. The editor is very important in this process, and deciding which direction to move the character.’ For the future, van Groeningen has two projects under way. One is an adaptation, which he wants to keep under wraps, the other an original story about a bar, peeking directly into city nightlife. ‘It’s a fascinating environment, because it’s like a metaphor for a town or a country,’ he explains. ‘Of course there are a lot of movies about that, but not really about the inside and how it works.’
push to the limits
At film school students are taught that a movie is made three times. You write it, you shoot it, and you edit it. Van Groeningen never forgot this lesson. And at every stage of filmmaking, he will push to the limits. He writes versions of the same until he goes crazy himself, while shooting, he keeps on going until the whole crew is exhausted, and while editing he takes radical measures to get to the point where the film is the rollercoaster it was intended but never foreseen to be.
‘Felix has an image in his mind and he persuades you to do it. He knows what he needs and he pushes you. Sometimes you hate him for that, but that’s good’ – Veerle Baetens (The Broken Circle Breakdown)
– Carl Joos (co-scriptwriter on The Broken Circle Breakdown)
the FeLix CoLLeCtion
On a hot summer night, Saïd makes an intimate video letter. The death of an adolescent who looks you straight in the eyes. One camera, one shot and one beautiful human being.
WitH fRiends like tHese
(Dagen zonder lief) When Black Kelly gets back from New York, she discovers that more has changed than just her hair colour while she’s been away. Reunited with the old gang, she realises that life went on during her absence. Dir: Felix van Groeningen; Prod: Dirk Impens (Menuet); Scr: Felix van Groeningen, Arne Sierens; Cast: Wine Dierickx, Jeroen Perceval, Pieter Genard, An Miller, Koen De Graeve; DOP: Ruben Impens; Ed: Nico Leunen; Mus: Jef Neve; Running time: 100’; Year of production: 2007; Sales: Menuet
Dir: Felix van Groeningen, Pol Heyvaert; Prod: Kung Fu; Cast: Kader Bouchta; DOP/Ed: Felix van Groeningen, Pol Heyvaert; Running time: 9’; Year of production: 2001
steVe + sky
Sky is a strikingly good-looking hooker. Steve is a small-time dope dealer who got caught by the police carrying the wrong dose. They meet each other in their friend Jean-Claude's night club. Steve and Sky get together. But not completely, or then a little too much. Steve rejects love because he's afraid of losing himself. Or so he thinks. Sky is in love and cannot stand to be without Steve. Or so she thinks... Beats of Love... beats everything. Dir/Scr: Felix van Groeningen; Prod: Dirk Impens (Menuet); Cast: Titus De Voogdt, Delfine Bafort, Johan Heldenbergh, Romy Bollion; DOP: Ruben Impens; Ed: Nico Leunen; Mus: Soulwax; Running time: 100’; Year of production: 2004; Sales: Lifesize Entertainment & Releasing
About the things that matter in life: girls, boys, motorbikes, relationships, sex – you know how it is… Dir/Scr: Felix van Groeningen; Prod: KASK (graduation film); Cast: Sam Louwyck, Lies Pauwels, Trixie Withley, Sylvie Buytaert; DOP: Ruben Impens; Ed: Dieter Diependaele; Running time: 41’; Year of production: 2000
tHe BRoken ciRcle BReakdoWn
Elise is 28 and owns her own tattoo parlour. 36-year-old Didier is a Flemish cowboy who plays the banjo in a band. Although in many respects they are as alike as day and night, somehow their characters match perfectly and the arrival of their baby, Maybelle, makes their happiness complete. Life is good until one day, fate intervenes, and they lose their daughter. Dir: Felix van Groeningen; Prod: Dirk Impens (Menuet); Scr: Felix van Groeningen, Carl Joos; Cast: Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse, Geert Van Rampelberg, Nils de Caster, Robbie Cleiren, Bert Huysentruyt, Jan Bijvoet; DOP: Ruben Impens; Ed: Nico Leunen; Mus: The Broken Circle Breakdown Band o.l.v. Bjorn Eriksson; Running time: 100'; Year of production: 2012; Sales: The Match Factory
(De helaasheid der dingen) Gunther Strobbe, 13, lives with his father and three uncles at his grandmotherâ€™s. After a series of failed marriages, the Strobbes moved back in with their aged mother. The all-male family lives in the filthiest shack in town by the principle: 'God created the day and we party our way through it.' Gunther daily faces enormous quantities of alcohol, picking up women and shameless hanging out and doing nothing. Everything points to Gunther suffering the same fate. Or will he yet manage to escape his misfortune? Dir: Felix van Groeningen; Prod: Dirk Impens (Menuet); Scr: Felix van Groeningen, Christophe Dirickx, based on the novel of Dimitri Verhulst; Cast: Koen De Graeve, Johan Heldenbergh, Wouter Hendrickx, Bert Haelvoet, Valentijn Dhaenens, Kenneth Vanbaeden, Gilda De Bal; DOP: Ruben Impens; Ed: Nico Leunen; Mus: Jef Neve; Running time: 100'; Year of production: 2009; Sales: MK2
Book: van Groeningen (F), Stockman (E), Gardner (D). FLX. Ludion Publishers, 2009, 136pp (with interview in English). A number of quotes in this publication were reprinted in this special.
FeLix and the gang
with JEROEN PERCEVAL with RUBEN IMPENS, SOFIE TUSSCHANS and JOERI VERSPECHT (r)
at the PalM SPRInGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAl with DIRK IMPenS
with RUBEN IMPENS
with RUBEN IMPENS
with JOHAN HELDENBERGH with KOen DeGRaeVe (l) and KENNETH VANBAEDEN (r)
with VEERLE BAETENS
Interview Ian Mundell cover portrait Thomas Vanhaute With thanks to journalists Lisa Bradshaw & Eric Stockman, set photographers Fred Debrock & Thomas Dhanens and Oona ‘Menuet’ Demaret.
PETER KR端GER'S FILMS CAN BE SEEN AS
SHOT IN THE LANGUAGE OF FICTION. 'I'VE ALWAYS BEEN ON THE BORDER BETWEEN THESE GENRES,' HE SAYS, 'anD I'Ve DIScOVeReD THaT IT IS a VERY INTERESTING PLACE TO BE AS A FILMMAKER.' TexT Ian Mundell
PORTRaIT Bart deWaele
A cinephile from a young age, he postponed going to film school in favour of studying philosophy. 'I thought: I need content,' he recalls. After graduating he skipped film school once more, setting up the production company Inti Films with fellow would-be director Peter Brosens. Although Krüger's inspiration up to that point had come from fiction, his first projects were documentaries. 'I had the feeling that with documentary I could immediately start making films myself.' This made him to look at the possibilities offered by factual filmmaking. 'I discovered that you could have cinematography in documentary, you could work with sound and image in a creative way just as in fiction film, but by using reality.' His first creative documentary was Nazareth (1997), which looked at faith in villages bearing the same name in Israel, Ghana and Flanders. He followed that with documentaries shot close to home in Belgium or as far away as Mongolia. But it was in Antwerp Central (2011) that Krüger's desire to explore the limits of fiction and documentary really took off. This meditation on the cultural, historical and symbolic life of Antwerp's Central Station blended archive footage, documentary and performance in a highly creative way. Selected for numerous festivals, it won first prize at the International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal.
Krüger's latest project continues this development. n is inspired by the life of Raymond Borremans, a Frenchman who left Europe in his twenties to travel in Africa. Initially working as a musician, then running a mobile cinema, he became obsessed with the idea of writing an African encyclopaedia. He began work on it in 1934, but when he died more than half a century later in Ivory Coast, only the volumes up to the letter N were complete and had been published. When he died, a woman cast a spell on him. It is this peculiar biographical element that provides the film’s narrative line. A restless spirit that drifts around West Africa, seeking to understand himself and the disrupted world that surrounds him. In 2006 Krüger put on a stage play inspired by the story, but this still left a lot to say in the film. The film n begins with an old white man dying in a small hospital in Ivory Coast. He becomes a spirit, driven to retrace the steps of Borremans' life, not in the Africa of his time but in the Africa of today. 'The film is essentially about the confrontation of a western spirit, a western way of thinking, with Africa,' Krüger says. The spirit encounters people doing Borremans' jobs today, such as a musician and the operators of a mobile cinema. These are real people that Krüger met during his research. 'They are documentary characters, but they play a role within the narrative of the film,' he explains. Krüger was also struck by the parallel between Borremans' encyclopaedia project, which aspired to categorise Africa, and the process of elections and establishing national or ethnic identities that went on in Ivory Coast after his death. The spirit also encounters these aspects of the modern Africa, and their violent outcomes. 'This is how the film becomes political,' he explains. 'It's not just a nice story about Borremans, but it's about how defining people can lead to atrocities.' We see how the encyclopedic mindset of drawing borders, defining and categorising loses its innocence when put to practice.
end of an evolution
The situation in Ivory Coast was very fluid while Krüger was making the film, and he took advantage of elections, outbreaks of violence and the intervention of UN peacekeepers to gather images. Sometimes this was only possible with traditional documentary techniques, but where possible he used a more cinematic approach. 'We were shooting in a very fictional style, with a focus puller, with lights, with travels, with steady-cam, with helicopters,' he explains.
docs i 'You can't just go somewhere and film like this. You have to prepare everything in advance.' This was particularly challenging in settings such as refugee camps. 'We were essentially there as journalists, but we were looking and filming in a way that has nothing to do with journalism.' In this context, staging events for the camera was the only way to reach a documentary truth, he argues. 'If you don't do that, when you arrive in a village hundreds of people run up to your camera and the feeling of reality that you want to create is destroyed. The people in the audience see nothing and feel nothing. So somehow you need fiction to be able to shoot reality.' Having pursued this idea of blending fiction and documentary for so long, Krüger now thinks he has reached a conclusion. 'I see n as the end of an evolution,' he says. 'I don't think I can go further. My next film will be a fiction film and, if I was to do a documentary again, I would go for something completely different.' Currently at the script stage, his fiction project is called Continental Drift. While a break with the past in some ways, the film will continue certain themes and ideas. 'It's inspired by the things I've seen in Ivory Coast,' Krüger says, describing it as a story about globalisation and economics, connecting Africa and Asia. 'A lot of elements will come from reality. That's something I don't want to lose. The big danger in fiction is that you feel that it's fiction! You have to believe that it's reality.' www.intifilms.com
PETER KRüGER, PRODUCER Since setting up Inti Films in 1993, Peter Krüger has followed a dual career as a director and a producer. 'I'm looking for films that will have a long life, that you can see in 20 years, maybe 100 years,' he says. That means choosing projects with a strong sense of identity as well as a story to tell, such as Episode 3: Enjoy Poverty by Renzo Martens. Shot in the Congo, this approached Africa's poverty as if it were just another resource for exploitation. 'It's a unique point of view, shot in a way no-one else would do it,' says Krüger. The same goes for films he chooses to co-produce, such as Kinshasa Kids by Marc-Henri Wajnberg, or Thierry Knauff’s short Vita brevis. Apart from his own film n, Krüger is currently producing the feature film Drift by Benny Vandendriessche and Dirk Hendrikx. Following a death, the main character stops speaking and takes to the road alone, searching for a new way of expressing himself through physical action and rituals of his own devising. 'It is a film visualisation of different phases of grief,' says Krüger.
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Food oF loVe
JEAN-CLAUDE VAN RIJCKEGHEM LIVES IN A COBBLESTONED qUARTER OF GHENT THAT IS FULL OF RESTAURANTS. SO HE ONLY HAD TO STEP OUT OF HIS DOOR TO DO THE RESEARCH FOR HIS LATEST SCRIPT BRASSERIE ROMANTIqUE. IT TURNS OUT THAT CHEFS AND STAFF ARE ONLY ALL-TOO EAGER TO DISCUSS THE PECULIARITIES OF THEIR CUSTOMERS, NOT TO MENTION SHOW OFF THEIR PROWESS IN THE KITCHEN. WITH SCENES INTRODUCED BY INTERTITLES BEARING MENU COURSES, THE FILM FOLLOWS BLIND DATES, NEW LOVE AND OLD qUARRELS IN A CHIC RESTAURANT ON VALENTINE’S NIGHT.
TexT lIsa BradshaW
PORTRaIT Bart deWaele
Brasserie Romantique tells the story of Pascaline (Sara De Roo, Hotel Swooni), who owns a restaurant with her brother, Angelo (Axel Daeseleire, Hell in Tangier). It’s Valentine’s Day, and the restaurant is fully booked by couples looking for a little romance. For the strongly ensemble piece, the camera goes around to each table, revealing the conversations of each one in turn. Van Rijckeghem got the idea for the script when he heard a story about a woman who ran out of a restaurant crying on Valentine’s night. ‘There is so much drama you can have in a restaurant!’ he realised. ‘So I thought, OK, I won’t just write one story. I’ll write four.’ The staff of the restaurant has to be on its toes on such an evening, but Pascaline couldn’t be more distracted. Just before the guests begin to arrive, her first love, from more than 20 years ago, walks through the front door and asks her to fly with him to his home in Buenos Aires that very night. The proposal from her old beau Frank (prolific actor Koen De Bouw, The Memory of a Killer) stirs up two decades of feelings of resentment and loss, which are released on Angelo, Frank and a hapless kitchen staff. In the meantime, the couples at the tables are enduring dramas of their own. ‘It turns out that Valentine’s is a night that restaurants really don’t like,’ smiles Van Rijckeghem. ‘There are always problems. The customers are nervous, and they’re very critical of everything. They expect love to arrive on their plates.’
‘as a producer, i only want to make films that are conceivable. as a writer, I only want to write films that aren’t too expensive. if i weren’t a producer, i probably wouldn’t be thinking about that’
love of cross-over
Brasserie Romantique is directed by Joël Vanhoebrouck, known for his work on television drama series such as Missing and Code 37. It’s his directorial debut, made much easier with the strong support of veteran screenwriter Van Rijckeghem and his production company A Private View. Van Rijckeghem, 49, has written or co-written more than 10 scripts and produced more than 20 films. Many of his films have been big hits in Belgium – and abroad – such as Oxygen, which won the Grand Prize and the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the 2010 Montreal World Film Festival, and Moscow Belgium, winner of three awards at
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onCe uPon a tiMe Jean-Claude Van Rijckeghem might not want to produce expensive historical dramas, but he gets his fix anyway – in the novels he writes for young adults. He has written four, all in collaboration with Pat Van Beirs. The last two books were about girls carving a life for themselves in distant times. The 2005 novel based on the life of Flemish countess Marguerite of Male has been translated into English under the title With a Sword in My Hand. In fact, Van Rijckeghem often writes from the female perspective in his films, too, as evidence in The Ball; The Over the Hill Band; Moscow, Belgium and Brasserie Romantique. ‘I just think that women are more interesting than men,’ he smiles. ‘I think it has to do with my wife. There’s certainly something of the character of Matty in Moscow, Belgium, in her.’
Cannes in 2008: the Grand Rail d’Or, the distribution prize ACID/CCAS and the SACD Award for screenwriting. That final prize was down to the dialogue written by Van Rijckeghem and co-scripter Pat Van Beirs. The story of Moscow, Belgium – a middle-aged mother of three (Barbara Sarafian) becomes involved with a hot-tempered 20-something truck driver – was peppered with clever one-liners but also down-to-earth conversation. ‘The essence of writing dialogue is getting into the minds of your characters,’ says Van Rijckeghem. ‘In fact, they’re not “characters”, they’re people. How would they react? If you were him or her, what would you say? That’s the only way to write well – when you’re following realistically what your characters would do.’ Though he writes to target large audience and not, he says, for only festival audiences, both the aforementioned films did very well at international festivals. It’s true, he says, that ‘the movies I love most of all and that I like making are cross-over films; they’re not purely entertainment, and they’re not purely arthouse.’
paying his dues
Van Rijckeghem studied translating, while writing film reviews for a weekly cinema magazine. His grandmother was a ticket seller at Ghent’s first cinema. ‘She was always pointing out the stars: “That’s Gary Cooper, and that’s Jean Gabin. And you have to see notorious by Alfred Hitchcock!’’’ He wisely listened and is still influenced by the dialogue of films from the 1940s and ’50s. ‘The best ones were extremely well written,’ he says. ‘I rarely enjoy a film that is only about the visuals or that is too “poetic”. If you see a film like notorious or like 12 Angry Men, you find not only great stories but stories incredibly well told.’ After graduating, Van Rijckeghem went to work for Belgium’s first-ever movie cable channel and simultaneously wrote film news and reviews for a weekly TV magazine. He got into filmmaking himself in 1990 with Paper Heroes, a documentary series on Belgian comic books, which he wrote for director Danny Deprez. Deprez then asked him to collaborate on a children’s film called The Ball, a story about a girl given a magical football by a Gypsy. ‘It took eight years to make!’ exclaims Van Rijckeghem. ‘It was the apprenticeship that I had to go through to get to writing and producing.’ In fact, Van Rijckeghem went looking for a producer for the film. He found one who told him to produce it himself, that it wasn’t so hard. ‘I can understand why that producer is bankrupt now, but in fact it was good advice,’ laughs Van Rijckeghem. ‘I’ve been producing ever since.’
‘never had a flop’
The Ball was A Private View’s first film. Van Rijckeghem founded the company with Deprez in 1994, a period before the Flemish cinema boom of the following decade. He admits it was a risk. ‘It was madness, actually. But when you’re young, you do these kinds of things,’ he smiles. The second film, about a boy who becomes convinced that his parents are aliens, Long Weekend
was called Science Fiction. Written by Van Rijckeghem and Chris Craps and directed by Deprez, it won several awards in Europe and Canada and its remake rights were optioned by US producer Lauren Shuler-Donner. But it was the 2005 comedy/drama Long Weekend that put their name on the map and decided their ultimate direction towards comedy dramas. Director Hans Herbot (Bo) and writer Pierre De Clercq asked A Private View to produce it, and it was a huge hit in Belgium. Since then, A Private View has been responsible for many of Belgium’s top-grossing films, including Moscow, Belgium; A Perfect Match; The Over the Hill Band and Oxygen. ‘We never had a flop since Long Weekend, knock on wood.’ Deprez eventually left the company, and now Van Rijckeghem runs it with Dries Phlypo, who is largely in charge of the financing. They collaborate closely on almost all aspects of production. ‘In America, it’s quite common to be a writer/ producer, but not here,’ says Van Rijckeghem. ‘It’s a positive thing for me because you’re always with the film; you can always follow what is happening.’ He pauses. ‘But I’m a writer at heart.’
king of collaboration
He’s also a collaborator at heart, writing nearly all of his scripts either together with someone or in close consultation. ‘Collaborating is very enriching,’ he confirms. ‘You feel more inspired, you get more ideas.’ Besides, he notes, ‘the essence of filmmaking is collaboration. A film never belongs to just one person.’ It’s the director, though, who often gets all the public attention for a film. ‘Film is not just a director’s medium,’ asserts Van Rijckeghem. ‘It’s a writer’s and a director’s medium, very much so.’ Moscow, Belgium, he says, is his most personal film. ‘I grew up in the building where it was shot.’ Van Rijckeghem has developed scripts with Van Beirs, Chris Craps (Science Fiction; The Ball), Pierre De Clercq (A Perfect Match) and Hans Van Nuffel, with whom he cowrote Oxygen. It was Van Nuffel’s personal story of growing up with cystic fibrosis. ‘It was immensely stimulating to be allowed to co-write with Hans and for him to trust me to make his story into a screenplay. When I am offered such a story, in such raw form, and am able to add this and that, to create the spine of the story – I love doing that. He was great to work with in that way.’
adventure of the spirit
Van Rijckeghem has written only two scripts that he hasn’t produced himself, ‘something I will probably never do again,’ he says. He wrote Crusade in Jeans, based on a Dutch novel, with Chris Craps for a Dutch production company, but the script – about a modern-day boy who accidentally gets whisked back to the 13th century – was reworked. ‘The film is not bad, but it could have been so much better,’ laments Van Rijckeghem. He isn’t likely to make such a costume drama himself anytime soon. ‘As a producer, I only want to make films that
are conceivable. As a writer, I only want to write films that aren’t too expensive. If I weren’t a producer, I probably wouldn’t be thinking about that. But as a producer, I know that we should keep it in contemporary times and we should try to avoid multiplying characters and locations.’ He doesn’t feel limited as a writer with those guidelines – in fact, quite the opposite. ‘I enjoy writing stories about ordinary people – what they call the adventure of the spirit.’ www.aprivateview.be
next uP FoR jean-CLaude van RijCkegheM Van Rijckeghem has recently finished a script called Vincent and the End of the World about a teenage boy who decides that he will commit suicide in the name of global warming. Christophe Van Rompaey (Moscow, Belgium; Lena) is set to direct the film, which they will begin shooting next year. Now Van Rijckegem is working on two scripts: one under the working title ana Marinescu with Romanian-Belgian director Teodora Mihai. The other, with Turkish-Belgian director Kadir Balcı (Turquaze), is called Marry Me. The latter is a comedy-drama about a woman of Turkish descent who becomes engaged to a Flemish man and the family chaos that ensues. ‘With each film, you learn something. You learn from each director and from each process, and of course you’re older. The screenwriter of The King’s Speech, David Seidler, is in his 70s! So I hope I always get better with age.’
in the FaMiLy
THE STORY OF THE NEW HIT TV SERIES clan CENTRES ON THE FIVE GOETHALS SISTERS, ONE OF WHOM HAS MARRIED THE DETESTABLE JEAN-CLAUDE DELCORPS. THE OTHER FOUR DECIDE THAT IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR ALL CONCERNED IF THEIR BROTHER-INLAW WERE DEAD. IN THE FIRST EPISODE WE SEE HIM LYING IN A COFFIN, SO IT SEEMS THEY GET THEIR WISH, BUT THIS STILL LEAVES A LOT OF UNANSWERED qUESTIONS. 'IT'S A MYSTERY,' ExPLAINS MALIN-SARAH GOZIN, THE SHOW'S CREATOR. ‘clan STaRTS OuT AS A WHY-AND-HOW-DID-IT-HAPPEN, RATHER THAN A WHODUNIT.’
TexT Ian Mundell
PORTRaIT Bart deWaele
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All of us have murderous thoughts from time to time, but FIPA selected clan takes them one step further. 'Everybody thinks: “oh, I could kill that person!”,' explains Nathalie Basteyns, co-director of the series. 'And what they think, we show!' The series was born from one of those idle thoughts that just won't go away. 'One night I couldn't sleep and an idea stuck in my head: what if a couple of sisters want to murder their brother-in-law?' Gozin recalls. 'And it was still there in the morning. After that you start asking questions: what kind of guy is he, why do they want to kill him, what are their motives?' Coming from a close family, she was fascinated by the power of blood ties. 'The question is: how far would you go for your own blood, for your own family?' She mentioned the idea to Frank Van Passel of production company Caviar and he asked her to work it up into a 'bible' for a TV series. This was pitched to An Rydant of Flemish commercial broadcaster vtm who commissioned the series.
Basteyns and Kaat Beels, who have been working together for more than a decade on both TV drama and documentaries, received the bible out of the blue. They were immediately drawn to the originality of the story. 'It's not based on The Killing or on other TV series,' says Beels. 'It's based on real life.' This also came through in the details Gozin had used to construct the clan universe. 'I've never read a script where the details are so original and important.' The combination of dark and light themes was also an attraction. 'There's humour and suspense,' says Basteyns. 'Usually in television you only get one or the other. Here you get both combined.'
'we wanted Clan to look like a really happy, shiny colourful series, with a darker side underneath that shows through once in a while' – Kaat Beels
Nathalie Basteyns (l), Kaat Beels and Malin-Sarah Gozin
Achieving the right balance was a challenge that followed them through the writing, shooting and editing of the series. 'It's a very thin line, but we wanted to walk that line,' says Beels. 'The key is credibility,' says Gozin. 'These things don't happen every day, but they could happen.' The atmosphere of the series was important. 'We made a scale from one to 10, where one is Ken Loach - really documentary style - and ten is Edward Scissorhands,' Basteyns recalls. 'And we were between seven and eight. It was a reminder for us of the reality in which clan exists.' When it came to costumes and art direction they insisted on bright colours and bright lighting. 'clan is not meant to be dark and film noir-ish,' says Beels. 'We wanted it to look like a really happy, shiny colourful series, with a darker side underneath that shows through once in a while.' One reference point was the opening scene of David Lynch's film Blue Velvet, in which an idyllic suburban scene is broken by the discovery of a severed ear in the grass. Another was the US TV series Six Feet Under. 'It's dramatic, but there is a breeze that blows through the series. There is room for humour,' says Gozin.
Casting began with the sisters. 'We saw lots of very good actresses, but they had to be believable as sisters,' says Beels. 'We saw them in different groups, then recombined them. The five we really liked had a really good energy level and chemistry.' They were Barbara Sarafian (Moscow, Belgium), Maaike Neuville, Ruth Becquaert, Kristin Van Pellicom and Inge Paulussen. Once they had the sisters, it was time to select Jean-Claude. 'It needs a very good actor to bring out all the nuances, and make it real,' says Beels. Again, they saw a lot of people before settling on Dirk Roofthooft. 'He was so Jean-Claude,' says Basteyns. Then there are the Dewitt brothers - Geert Van Rampelberg and Robbie Cleiren - who run a family insurance business. Their situation mirrors that of the Goethals sisters. 'They are all fighting for the same thing: family ties, the clan,' says Gozin. Once again chemistry was important in the casting. 'The thing Geert and Robbie have together is unique,' she says.
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The series was shot out of chronological order, with Basteyns on set for the first three months and Beels for the second three months. 'We did so much preparation in advance that we were on the same wavelength,' says Beels. 'We have the same brain,' jokes Basteyns. It also helped that Gozin was always on set in her capacity as 'show runner'. Their high ambitions for the series sometimes had to face the reality of Belgium's relatively modest TV industry. 'Our references are all from the UK and US, such as HBO, but the budgets are so much smaller,' says Basteyns. 'We had to be creative in advance.' 'There was always a ticking clock that made decisions for us,' Beels adds. 'But we got so many gifts from the cast, from the art director, from the locations, that in the end I was really happy.' It was also useful to have Van Passel as a producer. An experienced director in his own right, he was sympathetic when they needed more resources on set or asked for more time to perfect the edit. 'Where some producers might say "no, it's too expensive", he would say "OK, I know why you need it",' Basteyns recalls.
connie & clyde
clan's success with Flemish viewers is partly down to its authenticity. 'It is a universal story with universal themes, but it is rooted in Flemish soil,' says Gozin. The hope now is that the universal aspects of the story will translate into format sales overseas. But given the fate of Jean-Claude there is little chance of clan having a second season. 'The story is finished,' says Gozin, 'so if there is ever going to be a second one it would have to be completely different.' Her next project as show runner is Connie & Clyde, a 30-minute comedy drama about a matchmaking business. 'It's completely different from clan, but it will also be a mixture of things, so again there is a balancing act to be done.' Caviar is again producing, for vtm, and shooting is currently under way. Meanwhile Basteyns has taken up a position as head of fiction with deMensen, a Flemish production house previously devoted to factual programming. Her arrival has unlocked new potential at the company. 'A lot of people have come forward with great ideas for fiction,' she says. 'They're really original.' She has one project in mind for herself, a crime series with a twist which she hopes to direct with Beels. clan co-writer Bert Van Dael is currently working on the script. She is also working on a script for a feature film with Jan Pepermans. As for Beels, she is still pondering her next feature film after Hotel Swooni. One possibility is a memoir by her grandmother which describes how differing loyalties divided the family during the Second World War. 'It's quite spectacular,â€™ she says. 'I was really amazed by her story and I'm thinking there may be a film in it. But I'm not sure yet how or when it might be made.' ď Š
Running the show The American approach to TV drama, with many writers and directors working on a series at the same time, means that a 'show runner' is often necessary to keep everyone on the same creative track. Flemish TV doesn't have the same problem with crowd control, yet show runners are beginning to appear in the industry as it seeks to emulate the compelling, creative television that comes out of the USA. Before clan, Malin-Sarah Gozin worked in factual television, researching new concepts and formats, then developing them for broadcasters. As such she described herself as a creative producer. Add to that her role as the originator and main writer of clan, her fiction debut, and all the ingredients are present for her to become one of Flanders' first show runners. 'You come up with a concept, you work on it in the bible and you sell it to a channel, then it is nice to be able to follow it until the end,' she says. 'But you have to realise that it is something organic. It's going to grow, take turns. It's a winding road, not a straight road.' Director Kaat Beels is positive about the experience of working with a show runner. 'It was kind of unique for everybody,' she says. 'It takes a lot of trust, because you have to have the same idea about the series. We had some discussions on set or during the editing, but in the end we wanted the same thing.'
the Fall guy
JAKOB VERBRUGGEN JOKES THAT HE OWES HIS CHANCE TO DIRECT BBC TELEVISION SeRIeS THE FALL TO THE DANES AND THE SWEDES. 'I HAVE TO THANK THe KIllInG AND THE SCANDINAVIANS,' HE SAYS. WHAT HE MEANS IS THAT THE BRITISH TELEVISION INDUSTRY IS OPENING UP. TexT Ian Mundell
'There is an interest in the European way of filmmaking,' he explains. 'The Americans like European directors for their big genre films, because they have a fresh approach, and I think that the British, inspired by what they see coming from the Scandinavian countries, are trying to refresh their
PORTRaIT Bart deWaele
television drama. They want a fresh look, a fresh visual style and I think that's why they got me on board.' On a practical level, the connection came through Code 37. Verbruggen was one of the principle directors on this Flemish television series and went on to direct
school in Brussels in 2002 he was taken on as an assistant by directors Erik Van Looy and Jan Verheyen, eventually directing two episodes of Verheyen's fast-moving crime series Missing Persons Unit (Vermist). He went on to make dark melodrama 180 for Dirk Impens' production company Menuet, which then launched Code 37. This series featured the tough but troubled police inspector Hannah Maes (played by Veerle Baetens), who takes over the vice squad of the Ghent police force. At the same time she investigates a violent crime in her family's own history. Verbruggen's idea for giving this series a different atmosphere was to borrow elements from the western genre. 'It's in the set design, the way the actors look with their western boots and the way they carry their guns,' he explains. 'The actors were all given Rio Bravo as a reference.' The Fall also centres on a tough female cop. Police inspector Stella Gibson (played by Gillian Anderson of x-Files fame) is brought from London to Belfast to review a murder investigation. When she finds other unsolved murders are connected to the case, she becomes convinced that a serial killer is at work. In parallel, we see the serial killer going about his everyday life. The series is written by Allan Cubitt, who together with producer Gub Neal won Emmy awards for their work on series two and five of Prime Suspect, a landmark in television's treatment of women in the police force. Coincidentally, Prime Suspect was also a reference for Verbruggen while he was developing the Hannah Maes character.
a successful spin-off feature film, Code 37 The Movie. When British production company Artists Studio picked up remake rights for the series, they asked if Verbruggen would like to read the script of The Fall. 'It was a surprise that they called me, but I'm happy that they did,' he says.
Bringing new life to old genres has been a theme in Verbruggen's career. After graduating from the RITS film
His approach to The Fall also has some distinct influences, although westerns don't feature this time. One was to draw on documentary techniques, using a casual, hand-held style of camerawork. 'That brings the audience closer to the story of the police investigator and creates a heightened reality for the personal world of the serial killer,' he explains. At the same time he wanted to generate a sense of mystery around the characters. 'It's not a whodunit or whydunit, it's whether or not the killer is going to get away with murder,' he says. That means giving viewers time to get to know both the killer and Stella Gibson. 'They are both enigmas.' To achieve this he drew on the slow, stylish character development in Nicolas Winding Refn's film Drive. Verbruggen also took inspiration from Gaspar NoĂŠ's films Irreversible and enter the Void. 'He has some nice ways of treating point of view. The killer in The Fall is a voyeur and so we tried to make the audience as much of voyeur as possible.' Taking on board these influences meant deploying a range of camera techniques, from hand-held and steady cam to cranes and long tracking shots. Being able to do this was one of the advantages of working on a series for the BBC. 'Filming is the same everywhere in the world and there is never enough time, but here you could feel there was a bit more budget,' Verbruggen says.
Jamie Dorman, The Fall
This was also apparent in the number of people involved, for instance on production design. 'There are more people in the art department, and they are all working and doing things,' Verbruggen says. 'I thought: poor Belgian art directors! They work their asses off, and they're very good, but they have to do it with three people, or five on a feature film. Here there were at least twice as many people involved.' But with more money comes more responsibility, and Verbruggen was struck by the way in which the writer, producers and the broadcaster were closely involved in taking decisions about shooting the series. 'It's not that I was restricted, but I could feel that every step was being watched.' But he also recognises that, as a young director with no track record of making TV in the UK, he wouldn't be allowed to go his own way. 'I had to prove myself again, which was challenging, sometimes tiring, but also very interesting.'
Being able to work closely with the writer, Allan Cubitt, turned out to be very rewarding. 'There are good scripts in Belgium, but if you read a BBC script you can feel the experience the writers have in telling a story and helping directors visually,' Verbruggen says. And try as he might, there was something special about working with Gillian Anderson. 'I always thought: I'm not going to be star struck, she's just another actress,' he says, 'but then at a certain point you are on set and Scully walks up to you... That's something! It's actually rather cool.' He also had to remember that she was more than just a famous face from the x-Files. 'She has 10 TV series and 10-20 films more experience than I have, so I had to be very focused and make sure I did my homework.' Similarly it was necessary to let Anderson explore the limits of her character. 'If things were difficult or for some reason
Gillian Anderson, The Fall
she was not happy with takes and wanted to keep on going, then I could help her and make a contribution,' he says. Nothing beats the feeling when that pays off in a scene. 'You see it from behind the monitor and you think: yes, that's why you're a star! It all comes down to good understanding and teamwork.'
In the immediate future Verbruggen plans to take a wellearned holiday. 'I did Code 37 and The Fall back-to-back, so I've been working non-stop for two years,' he says. 'It's a good moment to take a little break and reset my mind.' He still dreams of making an original feature film, for which Code 37 The Movie is a good first step. Beyond that he is open to offers for more TV work. 'I haven't been spoiled by the experience of working on The Fall. If there is a good project, I'm happy to come back and work in Belgium. But we'll see what the UK adventure brings.' ď Š
Under the Influence
TOM Van Avermaet Tom Van Avermaet was hooked early on by the fantastic stories cinema could tell. Now his fantasy film Death of a Shadow has been nominated this year in the Live Action Shorts category of the Academy Awards. Text IAN MUNDELL
PORTRAIT Bart Dewaele
These are difficult role models to have when you are a film student. 'I had to find the nerve to do this kind of film,' Van Avermaet recalls. 'They are hard to make. You have a lot of factors that you have to take into account. You have to create a whole new world and it has to work, otherwise your film doesn't work.' His graduation film, Dreamtime, certainly worked. Set in an antique-looking dystopian future, it tells the story of a model employee who is jolted out of his bureaucratic groove by a terrorist who casts dust in people's eyes while they sleep. The visual influences included surrealist painter RenĂŠ Magritte and Flemish filmmaker Raoul Servais, whose pioneering films such as Taxandria combine animation and live action. 'I've always been a big admirer of Raoul. In Belgium, he's the closest to the kind of films I want to make.' Dreamtime won a VAF Wildcard award in 2006, giving Van Avermaet funding and coaching for his first professional film, Death of a Shadow. Servais was enlisted to mentor the project and Ellen De Waele of Serendipity Films came on board as producer.
Then there was Matthias Schoenaerts, the star of Bullhead and Rust and Bone. He had been unavailable for Dreamtime, but liked the result so much that he committed to the follow-up, a promise he kept even after his international career took off. He plays Nathan Rijckx, a soldier killed in the First World War who has made a bargain with a mysterious collector of souls. If Nathan gathers 10,000 deaths, capturing their shadows using a special camera, he will get a second chance of life and a way back to the girl he loves. Schoenaerts is perfectly adapted to film acting, Van Avermaet says. 'When you take a shot of him with a certain lens or a certain kind of lighting, he knows how he is going to look and he knows how to play to that effect.' The story was inspired by Greek mythology, such as the love story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, with their demonic bargains and escaping shadows. More recent influences included Neil Gaiman, author of comic books such as 'The Sandman' series. 'These feature a lot of metaphysical figures and I love working with those,' Van Avermaet says.
these are some of the works tom van avermaet currently gets inspired by:
'The first time I went to see a film in the cinema, it was to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' he recalls. 'Even then I was fascinated by the effect that seeing a film in a movie theatre had on me.' This connected with his childhood urge to tell stories. 'From that moment on I became a little bit obsessed by the medium of film. I couldn't see myself telling stories in any other way.' By the time he went to the RITS film school in Brussels his tastes were already established. 'I'm a big fan of Stanley Kubrick,' he says.' I like the aesthetics of film, the visual style and the framing, and for me he is one of the masters. Then there is his successor in America, to my mind, Darren Aronofsky. He was also a big influence, especially when I was beginning film school.' Others followed, from Terry Gilliam and the early Tim Burton, to Guillermo del Toro. 'He's one of the filmmakers who is closest to what I am trying to do, together with the early films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.'
erbarme dich from Bach's st Matthew Passion
antiviral by Brandon cronenberg
the work of Robert ParkeHarrison
In this case it is the Collector, who represents Death. Here Van Avermaet was influenced by Juraj Herz's 1969 film The cremator. 'The cremator is a very morbid character, and I said: "that's what I want in my film!"' More generally he was inspired by the innovation of silent film pioneers such as F.W. Murnau and Carl Theodor Dreyer. 'Now we have lots of options, but they didn't. They still found ways to make their stories magical.' Looking forward, Van Avermaet is considering options for his first feature film. 'Death of a Shadow is a little bit retro science fiction, so I'm thinking now of something a bit more futuristic. I have a lot of ideas; I just have to start writing them down.' But he is also looking at stories to adapt, whether from books, comics or video games, which he thinks are a neglected source. 'The sad thing about video game adaptations is that they take the games with the least amount of story, so of course you get films like that as well,' he says. 'The things I would like to do are not that well known, but they have good stories for movies.' ď Š
kafka on the shore by Haruki Murakami
Planescape: torment and Heavy Rain
FROM MONTRéAL TO LES ARCS, OVER VENICE, AMIENS AND ROME ... HERE ARE JUST A FEW SNAPSHOTS OF FLEMISH FILMMAKERS ATTENDING THE FINEST OF FILM FESTS AND AWARDS CEREMONIES AROUND THE GLOBE.
2 1 - Lining up on the Lido. The world premiere of Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s The Fifth Season took place in Venice where the film was shown in Official Competition. Pictured on the red carpet are: Sam Louwyck (l), Django Schrevens, Jessica Woodworth, Aurélia Poirier, Peter Brosens, Gill Vancompernolle and Peter Van den Begin (r).
3 2 - Tom Heene’s Welcome Home received its world premiere at both Venice’s Critics Week and the Montréal World Film Fest. Pictured are Tom Heene (r) and leading actress Manah Depauw. 3 - Oh Willy… takes the Cartoon d’Or home! One of the most awarded animated shorts of the year also grabbed the top European award. In Toulouse to accept the award were its directors Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels.
5 4 - Nicolas Provost attended the AFI Fest in Los Angeles to present his short Moving Stories. 5 - The Fifth Season, Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s third feature, won three awards at the Les Arcs European Film Fest. Besides the Cineuropa Prize, the film also grabbed the Best Actress (Aurélia Poirier) and Best Photography (Hans Bruch Jr.) awards. Pictured: Poirier (l), Woodworth (c) and Django Schrevens (r).
cons i 6 9
9 6 - It was a beautiful Sunday in the country. In Montréal to present Little Black Spiders at the World Film Festival, director Patrice Toye (l) had a chat with actress and Montréal jury president Greta Scacchi (r). 7 - Gert Embrecht’s feature debut Allez, Eddy! grabbed two awards at the Schlingel Children and Young Audiences Fest. In addition to the Best Film award, Jelte Blommaert was voted Best Child Actor. It won the young thesp a brand new bike. Pictured: Blommaert (l) and Embrechts (c).
8 - Young actor Bent Simons represented Fien Troch’s Kid at Rome’s Alice In The City programme. 9 - It was raining awards at Amiens where Peter Monsaert’s (top) Offline scooped the Grand Prix for Best Feature, aka the Golden Unicorn, while Wim Willaert (bottom) and Anemone Valcke were presented with the Best Actor and Best Actress award respectively.
10 - Hasta la vista (Come As You are) became the top audience favourite at the European Film Awards. In Malta to receive the award were director Geoffrey Enthoven (l), Isabelle De Hertogh, Tom Audenaert, Gilles De Schryver, Robrecht Vanden Thoren, producer Mariano Vanhoof and scriptwriter Pierre De Clercq (r).
mon i tor
IT WAS HARD TO IMAGINE TRIGGERFINGER SCORING THEIR FIRST SOUNDTRACK. WITH
OFFLINE, THE THREE-SOME PROVIDE MUSIC THAT WORKS AS A COUNTERBALANCE.
trIggerFInger TexT chrIstophe VerBIest
As 2012 drew to a close, Antwerp-based blues rock band Triggerfinger scored a big victory at the MIA’s, the Music Industry Awards, which are Flanders’ equivalent of the Grammys, triumphing over high profile Flemish acts such as dEUS and Hooverphonic. Triggerfinger’s route to success – in its current line-up, the roots rock trio have been around since 2003 – has been slow but steady, peaking with the band’s third and latest studio album, 'All This Dancin’ Around' (2010), a high-octane collection of their signature blues rock, which is influenced by bands as Led Zeppelin and The Who, and which has gained them comparisons with queens of the Stone Age. It came as a surprise to many when the threesome were asked to write the soundtrack for Offline, the feature debut by Ghent artist Peter Monsaert. There may well be some more intimate numbers in their sets alongside their signature rockers, but it was still hard to imagine them scoring their first soundtrack. However, as the main character of Offline is a fan of heavy metal bands Black Sabbath and Motörhead, Triggerfinger do still get a few chances to rock out. But they mainly provide atmospheric sounds to support the often highly emotional
PORTRaIT dIrk WolF
scenes of the film. At times they underline those emotions, but even more so the music works as a counterbalance. Being asked to write a soundtrack might have been a surprise, yet the band were immediately drawn to the idea. 'Since we don’t have to play this music live, we were able to use all kinds of instruments we wouldn’t normally touch,' said bass player Paul Van Bruystegem, speaking at the world premiere of Offline. 'With this soundtrack we could move away from the aesthetics we are known for,' added singer and guitarist Ruben Block. The band have already said that they would be interested in more soundtrack work in the future. Until then, it will be interesting to see how the music they wrote for Offline will influence Triggerfinger’s next album that will be recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound Studio in L.A.. It would be a great shame, for instance, if 'Halfway There', the acoustic country-blues song they wrote for the end credits of the film, ends up not making it onto an album. www.triggerfinger.net/home www.facebook.com/triggerfingerpage
TAKE 25 | Spring 2013 | € 3.99 cover Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh by Marleen Daniels, styling Linda Van Waesberge
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cReDITS editor christian De Schutter Deputy Editor + Art Direction Nathalie Capiau Deputy Editor / Digital Karel Verhelst Sub editors John Adair, An Ratinckx contributors Lisa Bradshaw, Andy Furnière, Ian Mundell, Christophe Verbiest, Henry Womersley Photo credits p 3 Bart Van Langendonck (c) Danny Willems, p 6-7(c) Kris Dewitte - All other stills copyrighted by the respective producers Design
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