Gijs Determeijer in his freshly painted, new office with matching sweater.
Multi-disciplinary production company 100% Halal is doing quite well. At the end of 2014 they moved into a bigger office on the Jacob van Campenstraat in De Pijp. And last week their film Prince, young director Sam de Jong’s feature film debut, premiered at the Berlinale in Berlin. It was received very well. The minimalistic movie with a surreal touch was for the largest part shot in Amsterdam Noord, one of the fastest growing and most upcoming neighbourhoods in the city. It is about a Dutch-Moroccan teenager bound for a criminal career.
We asked producer Gijs Determeijer, who is one of the owners of 100% Halal, together with Gijs Kerbosch and Roel Oude Nijhuis, how he is experiencing his company’s success.
Before the interview Determeijer shows us around in his new office. “We’re still working on the final touches, like some art on the walls.” And we sit down in the conference room, where the heating is still not working properly and the big ass TV not attached to the wall yet.
Congratulations with Prince. Must be great to shine at the Berlinale?
Yes, for sure. Last year we were already represented there, when they showed Sam de Jong’s short film ‘Marc Jacobs.’ This year we’re showing three films; a short film by Mees Peijnenburg, Un Creux dans mon Coeur, Prince and a South African co-production, Necktie Youth.
A still from the feature film Prince
You seem quite successful in picking up these young, talented directors
True. Though there are a lot of young, productive, multi-talented directors nowadays, who like to do commercials as well as fiction. The pool of talent is simply growing. And I think they feel at home at 100% Halal, cause we do it all.
How do you know De Jong?
Almost 4 years ago we met Sam when he was still in film school after seeing a De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig video he shot. We then did a job for United State of Fans\TBWA with him for the launch of a new Ajax shirt. One of those films where you shoot spontaneous reactions in the street. I then for the first time noticed De Jong’s talent to handle well known football players with ease and make ordinary people shine. Which is what he also did in Prince. He casted most of the actors from the street in Amsterdam Noord.
How does he make them act properly?
The roles they play are very close to their personalities, so for a large part, they play themselves.
Why do you think the film was so well received in Berlin?
People find it refreshing. It’s visually stunning, with a strange storytelling-pace. It is a genre-crossing film; a love story, a crime drama, and a high school teenager film, and it’s driven by a great electronic soundtrack. Everyone who worked on this film was a debutant in a feature-length film: the DOP, the editor and so on. So you really feel the energy of the makers on screen.
How is it that your company is so productive?
Many times we finance the productions ourselves, so that we have the freedom and flexibility to quickly make things happen. De Jong, for example, wrote his script in February 2014 in two weeks time. Five months later we started filming. In the meanwhile we also shot a short music video with him for The Opposites and short film for the NTR.
So you fully financed it?
No, no, not entirely. Vice also participated. And the Filmfonds [best known institute for financing Dutch movies, AAB] helped us. They have a new subsidy for low budget films, with a much simpler application process.
So the Filmfonds has finally discovered the long tale of film-making?
You could say that. The Filmfonds acknowledges there is a market for smaller budget films.
What do you prefer; making commercials or feature films?
We really enjoy both. In features there’s more creative freedom. But we also really like to make commercials; to work with inspiring creatives, and have a bit of budget. And I think the two complement each other. You take what you learn in features and you apply it to commercials and vice versa. So investing in our portfolio always pays off.
Yes, clearly. In the past years we’ve doubled our turnover each year. Four years ago we made just 2 TV commercials. Two years ago we made close to 50 and in 2014 more than 75.
And you never have trouble to focus your energy?
The only focus is moving forward. All our departments – film, commercial and photography – feed into each other. And especially the cross-overs are extremely interesting. It opens a world where we create content that is paid for by the brand, without it having any influence whatsoever.
As in branded content?
Well, not entirely. Branded content often has an obvious link to the product. The link can be much more subtle. We have the talent to make great content. And when brands like it, they can participate. This is actually what is happening with Prince right now. First the film was made. And now Vice is trying to find the brands to help activate it.
How was the collaboration with Vice?
Great. I really admire them. They see no limits, are not afraid to try new things, to widen their scope of content; music channels, food networks and news. And they’re really innovative. Take the news-item about IS. They were the first news agency to do an item from within IS. This is comparable to CCN getting embedded in the US army during the Gulf war. It changes the way networks bring news.
What’s your ambition?
It’s great to be categorized among older brothers CZAR and Hazazah, but we also want to make international work and show the world what Amsterdam is made of. Fiction-wise we want to reach the Dutch Film Festival, but also Sundance Film Festival and the Berlinale.
What are you doing now?
We’re now pushing Prince to try to get it in cinemas around the world. We want to get it played in the Arthouse theatres, but also in the popular theatres – like Pathé in the Netherlands. This way we show that Arthouse is not just women above 50 anymore. The scene is getting younger. And with Prince we’re really hoping to introduce teenagers to Arthouse.