BONKERS Signs Bram Schouw
Bram Schouw, the Dutch film director, has won many awards with his short and commercial films, including the Craft Film Direction “Lamp” at the ADCN Awards 2015. With the 2016 awards open for entry, ADCN's Emmy-Koos Meijer asked him about his success, recent projects and future dreams.
Q> Last year, not just your winning film for Warchild was nominated, but also the one for Menzis and All Those Sunflowers for ID&T. With just 6 films nominated in total, that means you directed half of all nominated work in the Film Direction category.
BS> I knew I was nominated for these three projects, but I was not aware of the fact that there were only six nominations for Film Direction in total. Wow, so that really is fifty percent!
Q> It must be a sign you have mastered the craft of Film Direction. Or were you just having a good year?
BS>As a director you can really only make a good film when you have a good script and a great team. When a film stands out, it often is a shared effort, which was definitely the case with these three nominated projects:
Delight Agency came to me with the idea for “All those sunflowers” for ID&T. The short film is inspired by a tragic and defining moment for ID&T – the loss of one of their co-founders. His story lives on, through the people at ID&T and with this film. All Those Sunflowers still travels film festivals worldwide and will be having his online premiere soon.
DDB & Tribal Amsterdam knew exactly what they wanted to make for Menzis. The creative team had even prepared elaborate moving storyboards that worked quite well already. Still they gave me enough freedom and trust to make the project my own. Key person in the process was Roger van Boxtel from Menzis – who showed believe in the project and us as a team, which made directing this film a wonderful ride.
For the winning film I made with Doom & Dickson, we interviewed three old men who experienced the 2nd World War as a child. Three sessions, each for two hours straight, that made a big impression on all of us. For Jan, the man we used for the final film, it was the first time ever he spoke about this traumatic period in his life. Sixty-five years later the war still haunts him. Jan is the real hero of this campaign. I am glad this project was so well received and won the “Lamp” at the ADCN Awards this year.
Q> What have you been working on since then?
BS>I shot a tv series (Overspel) and am currently working on my first feature film “Broers” (Brothers). We shot the first part during the summer in France, and this winter we are going to film the rest. It is my most personal project until now, a dream coming true to actually shoot for the cinema.
Also, after 10 great years, I left Hazazah – the production company where I had been directing commercials since graduating. I am now proud to be represented by BONKERS. It feels like the end of a chapter, and of course the beginning of an exciting new one.
Q> What’s the difference between making short, commercial films and feature films?
BS>Of course the process is different. A movie is to me much more complex; it is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You have to be more analytic, while with something short you can rely on your guts. If something feels right, it most of the time is. It’s the challenge to find this fine balance between intellect and intuition. But I focus more on the similarities. It is both about capturing an idea, a story in images and sounds. I try to be as artistic as possible in my commercial work and to start with myself in everything I make. Every story, every film, long or short, needs and receives full devotion.
It is very important to me that I don’t have to choose between making short, commercial films and feature films. I enjoy making both and they are equally valuable. A music video made by Daniel Wolfe (SOMESUCH) can be just as impactful – or even more so – than an entire television series.
Q> What was the hardest project you ever worked on in your career? What took the most blood, sweat and cheers?
BS>I don’t really think in problems, but every project is different and presents different challenges. Sometimes, during editing, you find out that something just does not work, or that it actually does. Even Steven Spielberg sometimes makes films that simply don’t work. And that’s okay. Film is like a magic box that nobody fully understands. I love that about our medium. It makes you humble and obliges you always to stay open to spontaneity and and to not limit yourself too much.
Q> Have any brilliant film direction jobs caught your eye lately? Any things that made you think: “I wish I had done that”?
BS> Jonathan Glazer is a filmmaker that always touches me in his sincerity, for both his films and commercials. He avoids repeating himself or others, and has his very own approach. To me, this authenticity has the most value in directing and inspires me the most.
What I like in Paul Geusebroek’s work is how he creates a big feeling in such a short time. Watching some of his films is like getting a shot of confidence. Paul has a natural way about it, because it is profound.
In film I am very much inspired by the work of Iñárritu and Audiard – especially their older films I can watch and learn from each and every time again.
Q> This year ADCN added 6 new Craft categories, based on feedback from the members and juries, including Film Editing and Cinematography. What are your thoughts on this?
BS>Imagine Matthijs van Heijningen’s work without the eye of his DOP Joost van Gelder. Maybe it would be a good idea to kick off this Cinematography award with an oeuvre Lamp for him. Johan Kramer, another authentic voice, has a very profound recognizable style. I think that his free spirited way of working can only succeed with the collaboration with his fine editor. So yes, I think it is a very good idea that there will be Lamps for outstanding craftsmanship in all categories.
We have an interesting movement of young Dutch cinematographers going on, who start to get noticed abroad as well. E.g. Martijn van Broekhuizen, Menno Mans, Jasper Wolf, Daniel Bouquet: enough people to enter work for the ADCN Awards 2016.
Q> After receiving a “Lamp” at the ADCN Awards 2015 and making your own feature film, what do you now dream of for the future?
BS>Of course I hope the feature film I’m making, “Broers”, will pave the road for future film-projects. Where as in commercials I look very much forward to new collaborations. Someone might have said, “making film is not a democratic process”, but you can’t do it without working together. Directing is like conducting an orchestra: trying to let the violinist play his violin like he never did before. When all the different parts come together, to have synergy, is what makes a project truly inspiring.
Originally posted by Emmy-Koos Meijer for ADCN