Producer on the Move 2014 – Netherlands
- Cineuropa met up with David Bijker, producer at Bijker Film en TV and European Film Promotion’s Producer on the Move 2014
David Bijker is one of the founders of the Amsterdam-based production company Bijker Film en TV, which hit it big in 2012 with the children’s film Cool Kids Don’t Cry [+see also:
film profile], a massive hit in the Netherlands and at festivals worldwide. The firm’s latest project, Secrets of War, which adapts another popular local youth novel, is again directed by Dennis Bots, and was co-produced with Belgium and Luxembourg. It is set to be released in the Netherlands in July. The company already has two further feature projects with Bots at various stages of production.
Cineuropa: Could you tell us a little about your background, and why and how you wanted to become a producer?
David Bijker: Bijker Film en TV started producing programming aimed at children in 2000 – first non-fiction, and then fiction material as well. Those productions were so successful that it allowed us to move into feature films for youth and family audiences, and that part of the audience has become a focus for the company. Children are great to work for and with, and we aspire to tell stories that are relevant for our core audience, that entertain and inspire. Feature films are especially well suited to stories that will resonate internationally and that can be told in a concentrated, cinematic way.
To what extent do you see yourself as a “typical” Dutch producer, and what is the one thing you do differently from your Dutch colleagues?
Internationally speaking, the Netherlands is a relatively small player, with lower budgets for features than other countries, though nonetheless we are known internationally for our high-quality youth and children’s films. We’re also used to co-producing across borders and exploit the synergy with foreign partners. Compared to our Dutch colleagues, we’re different in the sense that we also produce TV, commercials and events. The knowledge and experience from those projects can be funneled into our feature projects, which helps us to stay creative and smart.
Cool Kids Don't Cry, about a girl in primary school who gets leukemia, was a huge critical and audience success; what do you think made this film so special?
Of course, the film was well directed and acted, and we had a very strong screenplay. But what was special about the project was that it was based on a true story. The girl in the film was called Anke in real life, and she was a pupil of Jacques Vriens’s when he was still a teacher; he then adapted her life story into a novel, as suggested by Anke herself. A decade later, we filmed the adaptation. When Jacques agreed to adapt her story into a novel, Anke said, “I’ll become world-famous!” and now that the film has screened all over the world, this has indeed become a reality. Normally, even films based on reality are not directly inspired by just one true story, but this one is.
The upcoming Secrets of War was co-produced with Luxembourg and Belgium. Despite the different languages, do you feel that the Benelux countries are more natural production partners for Dutch film than countries further away? Why, or why not?
Within the Benelux, Belgium is the most obvious partner, given the short travel distances, the language advantage and the generous financing opportunities. Co-producing with Luxembourg is also a good opportunity, though a little more complicated because you’ll have to take travel days into account, and there are some language issues and specific requirements for shooting and post-production. For a Dutch production company, shooting in Germany, Scandinavia or Eastern Europe is also worth investigating, as they offer good opportunities.
How would you describe your ideal film project?
Our ideal film project tells a story that moves you, both in terms of its contents as well as visually; it’s produced by the filmmakers with heart and soul; and finally, it’s seen by a large international audience. It’s a project that should make the filmmakers and partners proud to have been involved.
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