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Interview with director Matthias Hoekman

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

During my study I experienced the joy of creating something, anything, out of nothing, and to share this joy with other people, during the process and when you show it to an audience. Even if it’s your mom and dad. For me, film is pure magic, touching people’s heart or soul for a moment.   

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I think your environment is the most important part. And life, the people you meet, stories you hear, experiences you have, that’s all for free. So, it’s possible to create this environment yourself, like I did:  watching a lot of movies, reading books about it, and learn by trial and error. If I could go back in time, I definitely would go to an institute, because the environment there is all about film. But essential, no.    

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

It’s a constant battle, but that’s the fun of it! You need to overcome all sort of little things, during your writing, while directing and editing, but when you do, you experience this little, brief moment of joy, that is trapped between the moments of wondering, frustration, fear, doubt, desire… But those little moments…this feeling you conquered something, is just heavenly. There are moments you need to step away from the project, get your head clean. To step away, for me, is harder than to get started or keep going.     

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

It can be a little scary to share your script with others. And when you work with your crew and cast there are like 7 million opinions on the script, the art direction, the shots etc. The trick is to pick out the best, the things that fuels the story, not the ones that turn the story in the wrong direction. If you can balance this, and act with love for the story and the people, the film will become even better than you ever imagined.   

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

There were none. Just make the best of it. There’s this limited budget you work with, the limited experience you have. But just go for it and accept these boundaries and make them your strengths. I don’t like no for an answer, but you get them a lot. I just stay focused on the yesses, without compromising the story.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

It wasn’t really hard, but I had to convince a lot of people, that there wasn’t a scene of light or joy in this movie, where the audience could take a breath. I just wanted to have the audience a really bad experience, like the real people had this story is about.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

We always wanted to work with Twan Peeters (dop) and he introduced me with Yin Lee (sound design) and Natalia Tsupryk (music). Zara was the daughter of a friend. I asked Astrid van Eck and Bert Hana myself they were already very experienced, and I really appreciate the trust they gave me. The important thing is that the cast and crew is loving and caring, not just for the story, but for the people who are bringing this story to life too. During the production and on set it’s about trust and having fun and exploring each other’s talent. People are investing a lot of time in your film. You create a memory for the rest of your life, so you better make it worthy.   

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

The cynical me would say the mainstream audience just want some lame entertainment to forget about their own pity life for a moment. And they are provided by an industry that only cares for the dollars. But that’s just a small part of me, coming out on days when I’m frustrated about my own life or when the weather is really bad… I think you shouldn’t worry about what the audience want as a filmmaker, but if you can adjust your story so it appeals a greater audience, you should. You need to guard your intentions, and the soul of your film, though. I think they get away with lame movies, but truly score with a good one.           

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

For the first short film The Peeker I received Best Director at the international film festival Film by the Sea in the Netherlands. Being new to the scene, this was such a boost. But even without the awards, as a visitor I just love film festivals. They are a gift trough of stories and a warm place of appreciation for filmmakers.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think any filmmaker should do whatever they want. Tarantino is inspired by other filmmakers, but he creates his own world with that, using safe cinema styles and unconventional storytelling at the same time. Suits him, and I’m loving it. I like to be original, but what is original? If you haven’t seen anything like this before, you can call it original. A lot of stories are already told, it’s your perspective that can make old stories original and fresh.