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Netherlands Film Fund to Rethink Strategy as Report Confirms Dutch Films Struggle Internationally

The Netherlands Film Fund is reconsidering the way it finances films to put more money into fewer titles following the publication of a ‘Benchmark Study’ report by UK-based consulting firm Olsberg SPI that looked into why Dutch films are not performing to their fullest potential at the international box office.

The research was commissioned by former fund head Bero Beyer a year ago. The aim was to explore why Dutch films lagged behind those produced out of similarly-sized markets by Danish, Swedish, Belgian and Austrian producers when it came to securing international distribution and berths at major film festivals.

“People need to have the time to really develop the scripts and to start making the film when they really think that it is ready, not over hastily,” said Sandra Den Hamer, interim CEO of the Fund.

She talked of giving filmmakers “the freedom, the support that actually they need and also to think more about visibility of their films. Why do you want to make this film and for whom?”

Meetings between the Fund and producers and filmmakers’ associations about future policy are already underway.

“We feel it is time to rethink,” said Den Hamer. “But this is not something we only want to do by ourselves [at the Film Fund] We want to have these discussions with the producers, directors and writers. it’s a reality check about what is happening.”

Changes have also already been made to some of the Fund’s working practices. For instance, there are now fewer funding rounds. The idea here is to give filmmakers more time and free them of too much administration.

As budgets have risen by almost 20%, partly due to inflation, applications to the Fund rose to 2,300 a year in 2022 compared to 1,400 in 2019. The figures reflect features, animation, documentaries, series and shorts but the report focused only on features.

Deep dive

The study was unveiled last weekend in a session at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht. It trawls data from 2010-2022 to look at numbers of films produced, box office results, awards at top festivals, and Oscar and EFA recognition.

At the research underlined, no Dutch film has been awarded a top prize at any of the Cannes, Venice, Berlin or Sundance film festivals within the period. It also showed the Netherlands has a significantly higher output of feature films than the other countries analysed. Between 2010 and 2022, the Dutch industry produced 487 features. That compares to 272 in Denmark, 355 in Sweden, 264 in Belgium and 204 in Austria.

“I commend them [the Dutch]f or being so open about this. If there were countries that thought they weren’t doing very well, possibly the last thing they would want to do is this deep dive,” said Olsberg SPI executive chair Jonathan Olsberg.

Den Hamer, who took over as interim chair from Beyer earlier this year, said the priorities of the Fund needed to change in line with the transforming market place.

“In the years before the pandemic, a lot of the activities of the Fund were very much focused on growth and ambition.”

During the Covid period, the Fund concentrated on supporting filmmakers.

“When we opened up after the pandemic, the world had changed,” Den Hamer continued. “The public in the Netherlands was not going back to the cinemas as much as we wanted.”

Anxieties about the international performance of Dutch movies, already present, were further fanned in Cannes last year when several Belgian titles were chosen in official selection.

Local commentators began to ask why the Dutch industry couldn’t keep pace with other countries of comparable size like Belgium when it came to festival recognition abroad and box office performance. This prompted the Fund to commission the research.

Den Hamer pointed out some Dutch films are performing well at festivals, especially documentaries, children films, animation and VR productions.

And there are notable exceptions. Ena Sendijarevic’s second feature and Dutch Oscar entry Sweet Dreams, also recently nominated for the European Film Award, won two awards recently in Locarno. Dutch-based UK director Steve McQueen’s Occupied City was in official selection in Cannes this year and Bianca Stigter’s Three Minutes – A Lengthening was in Venice last year.

“The reason to be open about the results of this research is that we feel it is time to re-think and to reflect together with the Dutch film industry what is the role – in this completely changed world – of funding agencies but also what kind of films do we want to make,” Den Hamer stated.

She said she expected to stay in the job until the latter part of next year. 

“I will lead the Fund in this period of transition and then, at a certain point, I feel it is time for a new generation,” she said.

Source : Screen Daily