photo above: Martijn van der Vaart Photography

What do the productions Zomer Zonder Mama (Summer Without Mom) and Redbad have in common? Besides that they both shot on location in a protected nature reserve, they also had the same location manager: Willem Doorman. Willem has been trying to introduce sustainable solutions on set for years. For example he often uses electric gators for transport, as can be seen in this video report on Prooi by Dick Maas. Ofcourse a nature reserve requires extra care in terms of environmental impact: Zomer Zonder Mama shot scenes in a shifting sand area in the province of Utrecht and Redbad, among others, in De Alde Feanen National Park in Friesland. A great opportunity to take a closer look again at how our local Dutch productions introduce sustainable measures on location.

Zomer Zonder Mama: Plowing through drift sand

Telefilm Zomer Zonder Mama, directed by Sanne Vogel, is a Joco Media production. The film is about 10-year-old Suzan who during a summer vacation at her grandmothers’ makes friends with a girl the same age; Rana. Rana is a refugee from a nearby refugee camp. This summer had two weeks of shooting for this production in the Soesterduinen, Utrechtse Heuvelrug region. As the largest and last place in the Netherlands where sand can still drift freely, the area is protected by the province of Utrecht as a geological monument. The reason why the team wanted to shoot there specifically was because of a scene around a tree house near a refugee camp where the tents and the tree house could be in the same frame. For an impression of the set that was built in the dunes, see a drone shot made by Ciro Naastepad below:


Willem explains: ‘It was a nice challenge to shoot in a nature reserve. Of course you have to strictly follow all the rules regarding wildlife and pollution. What made it even more difficult was that the shooting days fell exactly in the code red weather of this summer. The first day of shooting it was 38 degrees Celsius!’

Because of these extreme temperatures, there was an increased fire risk and so smoking on set was strictly forbidden. In addition, obviously, a lot of water had to be drunk and therefore also available. Willem used Locatiewerk’s Water Browser and bottles by Join the Pipe to provide the crew with tap water. And it worked! The Waterbrowser has 2 tanks of 1000 liters, one for clean and one for waste water (which is pumped back into the tank with a submersible pump). ‘Because it’s on a trailer it is easy to refill. On this set we consumed about 400 liters of water per day, so that had to be done every 2/3 days‘, says Willem. ‘I did not have to drain the dirty water tank once in 2 weeks, probably because of the hot weather. I think a lot evaporated. In the end we had a total of 500/600 liters waste water that came mainly from catering.’ He also used the mobile WC Flex toilet unit from Locatiewerk, which reduced water consumption even further. Additionally, waste was separated into plastic and residual waste. Here, too, the disposal proved difficult, as is often the case. ‘So it’s great that GFM is still doing tests to improve this. It would for example be more convenient to have larger containers‘, adds Willem.

Electric gator

So Willem uses electric gators on set where possible, like in Prooi. A gator is a small transport vehicle, a kind of quad pick-up with a roof (see photo on the right). Unfortunately, the electric version could not be used for Zomer Zonder Mama because of the fine sand in the Soesterduinen. Willem: ‘Electric gators still lack the power to drive through the sand of the dunes. Dune sand is much finer than beach sand. A gator has less pressure per m2 than a human foot, but still it cannot manage. Four-wheel drives barely manage in that kind of sand.’  Still, a diesel gator is not a bad choice for transport on set. ‘To put it in context, if you drive for 4 hours full throttle, a diesel gator uses 1 liter of fuel. So that is still relatively little‘, Willem explains.

All in all everything went well in the Soesterduinen. BOA’s (special investigating officers) passed by the set to check if all the rules of the nature reserve were complied with. And they were very satisfied.

Redbad: a mud and muck production

Still from Redbad shot in nature reserve ‘De Alde Faenen’

That the reality of working in film is often far from glamorous when on location, was once again proven on the set of Redbad. Redbad, by director Roel Reiné and produced by Farmhouse Film & TV, tells the story of the Frisian king Redbad (Radboud) and his fight against the Franks. The film was also shot in different nature reserves, but was a very different beast than Zomer Zonder Mama: a production with a much larger crew and cast and many more different locations. In addition to a number of foreign locations, in The Netherlands they shot in Earnewâld (National Park De Alde Feanen), Moddergat and Bakkeveen in Friesland, on Ameland and in Eindhoven at the Open Air Museum. Willem illustrates the impact of the production: “We had, among other things, 150 horses. That is disastrous for the soil! ‘ To contain all this force in the nature reserves of De Alde Feanen and the dunes of Bakkeveen, Willem worked together with an ecologist. The impact of the production was thus well attuned to the surrounding nature. And here, too, Willem used gators for transport on set.

Is your interest peaked to use an electric gator? The original model is by John Deere, see here for the specs. There is also a Dutch version on the market. Frisian Motors sells their own model FM50. You can also rent them here for the Northern Netherlands (Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe). Or you can occasionally find them on offer on second-hand platforms where you can resell them after use.

With these two productions, Willem Doorman shows how to keep the impact on your location as small as possible by tuning to the specific production. The role of the location manager is of great importance in sustainable production. Zomer Zonder Mama will air on KRO-NCRV next spring. Redbad was released in cinema this past summer in The Netherlands . For future screenings check the website.