Chai Locher and Wiendelt Hooijer have been on board with The Green Film Making Project from the very beginning in 2011. Since the start of the project Chai has been connected as Project Manager to manage the team while maintaining contact with project partners and industry professionals. Wiendelt has been serving as Project Leader, focusing on financial management, practical implementation, website maintenance, as well as providing technical support for events.  These two fine gentlemen are the subject of this latest installment of the ‘Who’s Who in Green Filmmaking Online Series’. Here, they reflect on their experiences with green filmmaking over the past three years, in order to explain where the future of the Dutch film industry lies. [photo: Anne-Claire Breij]

How did they get started out in green filmmaking?

Prior to the project, Chai and Wiendelt both had years of accumulated experience in the film and audiovisual production industries. They also both came from families that paid close attention to sustainability, while holding great value for the natural world. But what was it exactly that led them to draw connections between their sustainability influences, and film production? Wiendelt explains: “I started this project because I felt a need for some new and inspiring energy in my own life. And the people who were initially involved in creating the idea for this project had some great and fresh insights as to how film could be organized. To this, I was able to contribute my knowledge, and attention to the creative processes behind the industry”. Chai adds, “I realized pretty early on, that every industry would have to make the transition to more sustainable ways of working. The film industry, was no exception. I knew that it could not ignore the changes that needed to come about. In addition, I knew that the film industry is in a very unique position because of it’s great visibility. This visibility simultaneously provides the film industry with great responsibility. And so, there is a real opportunity here for the industry to take a leadership role. It’s like Jeroen Jansen, Director of the ASN and partner of the project, said: If the film industry makes a sustainable shift, then no other sector would be in a position to say that it can not do the same“.

How did the Green Film Making Project project come about?

In 2010, Chai was asked to give a seminar on green filmmaking during the first Strawberry Earth Film Festival. Following the success of the festival the founders of Strawberry Earth, Mette and Ikenna began to seek for funding in order to host the first Green Film Making Competition in 2012. Wiendelt’s connection to the project came soon after: “I heard through the grapevine that Strawberry Earth was looking for someone who was connected to the film industry, and who also had an affinity for sustainability. I was also already connected to Chai, who I knew from the film and television producers association, VERS (formerly NFTVM). I understood that he was already involved in the project, and so I contacted him. From there, I met the founders Mette and Ikenna for the first time, in their office in Amsterdam-West”.

The 1st Green Film Making Competition

Chai: “We launched the concept for the 1st Green Film Making Competition during the second Strawberry Earth Film Festival in 2011. At this point, the Green Film Making Competition began to gain prominence within the Dutch professional sphere. Thekla Reuten, one of our finest actresses, also committed to act as ambassador for the project. Most importantly, the EYE Film Institute, Dutch Film Fund, the NFTA, the NBF and VERS began supporting the project as its official partners. In 2011, we then organized our first seminar in which we shared the sustainable developments that were taking place in the international film industry. From here, the Dutch Film Fund was committed to providing the qualifying filmmakers with the production budgets needed, to participate in the competition”.

Subsequently, the Green Film Making Competition’s jury selected the top six submitted short film proposals to participate in the competition. These film crews were to produce their films as sustainably as possible. The films were then screened at the EYE in Amsterdam. The winner of the first Green Film Making Competition was producer Trent (OAK Motion Pictures), who together with director Anëlle Webster, created the film ‘Leven’. According to Chai, it was this first competition that displayed the great potential of green filmmaking. At this point, Strawberry Earth became committed to submitting a new application for renewed funding to its partners at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, DOEN and ASN Bank: “The first round yielded so much energy, that it managed to help us secure financing for another two years of the project.”

Recap: The Green Film Making Competition 2012 from greenfilmmaking on Vimeo.

Transitioning From Competition to Project

After the clear success of the first Green Film Making Competition, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, DOEN and ASN Bank were willing to support the project with financing for an additional two years.  A collaboration with the Dutch Film Fund, also ensured that the short films produced for both the NTR’s KORT! programme, as well as the ONE NIGHT STAND programme (both national talent development programs) were all to be produced sustainably, in competition. These filmmakers became the participants of the second edition of the Green Film Making Competition in 2013. During this process, the participating filmmakers discovered that they had a stronger desire to collaborate, not compete, in their work towards sustainable production. Therefore, The Green Film Making ‘Competition’ was formally changed to The Green Film Making Project. Wiendelt cites this change as, “a logical progression”.

The collaboration to take place amongst the filmmakers, yielded exceptional quality from the sustainably produced short films. From this collaboration, another successful product was born: the first Dutch sustainable film production guide entitled, How to Green Your Film Production (so far). For this guide, the best practices of our participating production houses and green filmmaking experts, were compiled into an easily accessible guide, alongside their on-set experiences in working with sustainability.

Exceeding Expectations

Both Chai and Wiendelt explain that the initial expectations they had for the project have been surpassed. But, the greatest success of the project lies in the fact that the more wide-spread Dutch production sector has begun to take on the sustainable approach, all by itself. Chai says that,  “there are several production companies that now, completely independent of our project, are setting to work with sustainable solutions. And of course a huge milestone for us, is that the Netherlands’ Film Fund has adopted the green filmmaking approach, and they will apply it to their broadcasting practices”.

Wiendelt also cites another major success of the project this far, as its presence at national and international film festivals such as: the IDFA and the NFF, Cannes in France, and the ECO Film Festival in Mexico City. But for Chai, it was the project’s progress meetings with the participating filmmakers, that inspired him the most: “working with the filmmakers and producers in helping them to find the next ‘right’ step towards sustainability, made me realize that change was taking place – even within the bustle of their everyday work”.

Greening Opportunities for the Dutch Film Industry

Chai and Wiendelt would really like to see the introduction of a Green Calf Award at the Dutch Film Festival: an award to the film that most works with sustainable production solutions. The fact that such an award has yet to materialize, means that innovation has yet to be wholly embraced. To Chai, this is counter-intuitive: “as with other industries that have been searching for the most innovative solutions to sustainability, the film industry will benefit from this shift. I believe that there are massive opportunities, and financial gains to be made for film professionals taking on more sustainable methods. In the Hollywood model, you can already see the standardized emergence of eco-consultants on set, as additional heads of department. We can have that as a standard too, in The Netherlands.”

The Future of  Green filmmaking in The Netherlands

For Chai and Wiendelt, the future of green filmmaking in the Netherlands is headed in only increasingly positive directions. Wiendelt says: “our job was to introduce the idea of sustainable production practices to the industry, and the industry has really taken this idea on. From here, The Dutch Film Fund will be carrying the green filmmaking ‘baton’ forward for the next two years. In this time, they will develop and support a structural framework through which the whole of the industry, can produce more sustainably. And we are very pleased”. Chai believes that the film industry can continue to draw inspiration from sustainability entrepreneurs in other industries as as well, “sustainable businesses also see that change can be difficult and complicated, but that inspires them to search for their own -often brilliant- solutions. It’s nice to see that for the Green Film Making Project, working with sustainability entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors was really effective for our goals. It provides to the film industry, a new way of seeing and thinking about our own work processes”.

And Internationally…

It is clear that the international industry is also recognizing the importance of sustainable production, more and more. “The idea that you can attach certain sustainabily minded stipulations for film funding and production is starting to take off; thanks to our friends from the Flanders Audio-Visual Fund in Brussles who are setting this example”, explains Chai. He continues to express that The Netherlands has asserted itself as a keyplayer in international developments regarding green filmmaking: “The Netherlands’ sustainability efforts are being closely monitored by abroad industries. It is one of the few countries that is experimenting with the practice of sustainability at all sectors of work. Furthermore, all of the established international studios have a social corporate responsibility platform. Dutch tax shelter schemes work to get bring these studios to the Netherlands. When they are informed about our sustainability efforts, and the eco consultants who are based in the Netherlands, our country becomes more attractive for these parties to work in”.

Advice for Up-and-Coming Green Filmmakers

Chai: “Find the space to implement your ideals into your work. What I’ve learned is that this is really possible. But the complicated part comes after you’ve become inspired: when the to-do lists, busy schedules, and deadline stress kicks in. The inspiration part is easy. It’s following through to ensure that there really is movement taking place in your daily life, which is complicated. But regularly having conversations about what is going on with your heads of departments, and contextualizing the efforts as collaborative research efforts, can go a long way. Make sure that you listen to the questions and ideas that others have too. As Hollywood’s leading lady in eco consultancy Emellie O’Brien has shown us, meet others at the point that they are, not where you might want them to be. This works best when met with challenging attitudes. I know how hard it is to get a film produced in the first place. So my final tip is: never give up”.

Wiendelt adds: “When you make something with your heart, from your heart, the end product is much better. And it’s something you can really be proud of. So dare to say when you see that something can be done better, more efficiently, and more sustainably. It can be difficult to change our working habits, but it can happen too.”

He continues to say that, “every day I learn more about how making movies is a fantastic process. The meticulous collaboration of people on a set, acts an example for many other industries to follow. On set when someone has an idea, you realize it. While working with dozens of others. This is magical. And this applies to green filmmaking as well. If the work comes from the heart, it should be a peice of cake! ”

So, what’s next for Chai and Wiendelt?

Wiendelt Hooijer will focus on his new role as lead teacher of Audio-visual Media at The Utrecht University for the Arts (HKU), where he will specialize in education and technical innovation. Chai Locher will continue with his work as a consultant at the Institute for Human & Organizational Development, where he specializes in the development of leadership for sustainable change. They will both continue to support new developments in the field of green filmmaking.

If you enjoyed this article, you will also like the following from our blog: Els Rientjes, Sustainability Manager to the Dutch Film Industry, and Recap of NFF Masterclass “Green Filmmaking: the Future of Producing