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The Positive Alternative: An Interview with

Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I am an Amsterdam-based filmmaker. Experienced in commercial films and documentaries. I’ve had the privilege to co-create with many different creatives for many different agencies.

After finishing my bachelor in Media and Entertainment I started my career at Selmore Creative Agency. Then, I’ve worked for Wunderman Thompson for about 3 years before going solo. After 5 years of freelancing I recently joined 5 Media Foundation as a Documentary Director.

5 Media is a non profit media platform co-creating a sustainable future. With the aim to spark people to action and unite behind great ideas through storytelling. There is a lot going on in the world of sustainability; the type of stories that we tell are based around inspirational figures and businesses with a positive impact on the planet. We help them to accelerate change.

It is very satisfying to use the power of film and elevate stories to open people's eyes. Especially if there is a meaningful purpose involved. I guess that’s what inspired me to become a filmmaker.

I love the craft of filming and enjoy putting it together in post. I like diving into a specific topic. It suddenly becomes the most important thing in life. And when the project is finished, I move on to the next. I love how I can hit the play button and easily see what I’ve been working on. I love how tangible it is.

Director Tim Arnold

Talk about your last work. What are some of the challenges you faced during production?

My latest ‘bigger’ project was The Positive Alternative. A mini documentary series featuring 4 resilient Australian farmers whose lives and farms are dramatically impacted by rising ocean levels, extreme heat, drought, dust storms and heavy rainfall. In other words: climate change.

One of the challenges we faced was: how do we explain the unique position that agriculture holds as one of the biggest polluting industries and at the same time being a key player in the solution?

It is very easy to get lost in the narrative because you think that everything is interesting. But it is not. Just because I am very interested in this topic at the moment, doesn’t mean that it is adding value to the story.

Craft one simple message. Don’t throw too many balls at your audience.

We, my partner and I, decided to use a simple generic storyline for all four episodes: creating an emotional connection > the effect of climate change on the farm > farmers positive alternative > consumers positive alternative.

Storytelling wise, that was our biggest challenge. Production wise, we had many different major challenges. It was early 2020 and we wanted to produce a series (approx. 30 min per episode) in a country we’ve never been before with a budget of zero during a global pandemic. I guess you can imagine that we have had a few moments of ‘mental breakdown’. Long story short: we’ve invested our personal savings, time and creativity and ‘just started filming’ (with a script and shot lists of course).

I am extremely proud that this series made it to the second largest VOD platform on the planet with over 205 million subscribers.

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

I’ve always been more attracted to work on projects that are meaningful. I don’t mind to work after hours on a project that contributes to a more gender-balanced world, getting kids to eat more veggies or rescues girls from child prostitution to become lawyers and prosecutors.

Since The Positive Alternative I’ve been more interested in sustainability. Unfortunately, we are currently facing many major global issues. But, none of those issues is more urgent than the health of the planet we are lucky to call our home. I mean, the planet will survive. It just becomes unlivable for humans. Like Julia Roberts (as mother nature) so beautifully says: nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.

What started as an adventure to get more experienced in advertising, turned out to be the moment where I understood that I am strongly motivated to be a documentary director instead.

Conservation International:

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

As a commercial film editor I’ve learned that it is extremely important to tell a compelling story. And it must be idiot proof. When approaching a new project these are the two criteria I use. Do I believe that I can tell a compelling story? And, can I make it understandable for our audience?

I prefer visuals over words. So, it helps to create a vision board. Find images that set the right look and feel. Then, of course determine: the problem, the purpose, the idea and the desired result.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

I’ve never had one particular influencer. I find elements for inspiration on social media, Netflix, outdoors, cinemas, YouTube. Basically everywhere. Which is great. I soak up as much as I can.

But, it has a downside. When watching a series or film, I am always one step behind the narration because I am distracted by the camera handling or lighting setup.

Some of the work that I see makes me eager to become a better director. Sometimes films make me feel confident about myself.

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

To be honest, I personally don’t see much change after the COVID pandemic. I believe the world of advertising remained the same (other than that some brands are thriving and some are struggling) and it is still very hard to find funding for documentary projects.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

Start a flagship project. Something that ticks all of your boxes. This is your signature work. The work where you are most proud of and where people know you from. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for other people's opinion. Show your offline edits to others and ask if they understand the story. And of course, in everything you do: show, don’t tell.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

I believe that only people can bring about a change in the world. People can be inspired by many different things. Stories are one of them.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

We are very much programmed to absorb a big chunk of information every day. So, we can filter out useless information very well. We’re easily bored.

The way we consume stories is getting more and more fragmented. Unless your work made it to TV or a VOD platform, your audience does not have much time for your film. I refer to my own online behaviour. A two minute video is long. So, if you want people to watch your 4 minute video, you’d need a number of shorts to invite them as a reminder to watch the full version whenever they have a moment.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

My role at 5 Media is not only in the space of production. The first few months I’ve been working on concepts, reviewing others, creating a logo ident and writing narratives. But, some new work will be published soon. Like a short series named How I Became a Farmer. A story about Andelsgaarde. A Danish regenerative farming cooperative that lets anyone be part of and collectively fight climate change. We are also publishing the story of MADI Apparel. A sustainable fashion brand with a buy-one give-one model. For every clothing item that they sell, MADI donates a pair of underwear to women in crisis shelters, emergency clinics and disaster relief centres. I also came across a fascinating time-lapse made by Jan van IJken called Becoming. I made a short video where I’d put him into the world of his own work by cross cutting between his quotes and the magical transformation of a single cell into a complete organism.


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