Everyone knows the store at Eye Filmmuseum as the ultimate place for film lovers. But besides that the popular store, in the top 10 of the world’s best museum shops, has an exclusive collection on offer, shop manager Marjan Vos also innovates with sustainability. She set up a system in which used film banners can be upcycled into unique bags. She developed the bags together with sustainable bag maker Marie-José Hamers, who is now being contacted left and right for new collaborations. Among others cinema company Vue Cinemas joined in. We talked to initiator Marjan, artisan Marie-José and Diederieke van Herwijnen of Vue Cinemas about this wonderful initiative.
Marjan, where did you get the idea to do something with the old film banners?
Marjan: Reuse is in my blood, I was raised like that. I think it is a shame to throw something away that is still fine and has been only used so briefly. I was at a Patti Smith concert once and there the guitarist shouted: ‘Support your locals!!’. This inspired me to focus on local artisans and not on China. I was just in the process of setting up the shop at Eye Filmmuseum, so the bags were a logical step for me. It went really fast, I was tipped to contact Marie-José when I was looking for good craftspeople around Amsterdam. Her first test model was immediately right. Folded from one piece and voilà, a wonderful shopper!
Marie-José: The shopper eventually became a classic and from there on I designed other accessories. I can cut two bags from one banner and from the leftovers I make small bags, smartphone cases, tablet covers or laptop covers.
Where do you get the banners from?
Marjan: We ended up at Gofilex (De Filmcentrale), because the banners of the museum alone were not enough. Of course we had to explain it first. It also takes time for them and they have to make sure they put the right banners aside. But they thought it was nice, perhaps because we did everything ourselves. They, too, would otherwise throw everything away and so it was something important to them as well. Innocent as we were, we thought everyone would find this a great idea. But it quickly became clear that we had to contact all distributors one by one, they did not all agree. I think they jumped to the conclusion that this would make someone very rich. But that is not the case at all, the approach really is sustainability. And also that I can commission Marie-José and she in turn has another assignment for a sheltered workshop. We do it because it is a very nice bag with a great story and because otherwise the material disappears in a landfill. It’s fine for me too if they stop making banners. Then we will find another material to make bags.
Can you tell us something about the creative process?
Marie-José: Once in a while we get a phone call from Gofilex that another set of banners is ready. Then we go to Zeist with my car to pick them up. On the way Marjan and me brainstorm about new products. Each banner comes in an aluminum suspension system that has to be disassembled one at a time. That is done at Eye Filmmuseum and the aluminum goes to the scrapper. I collect the banners at the museum and see which ones are usable, not every banner has an interesting image. Part of the bags is produced in a sheltered workshop in Amsterdam. I produce the rest myself or have it made within my own network, but always locally! All in all, it’s pretty time consuming. I wonder whether it is possible to think of a more sustainable approach to the aluminum suspension system. Perhaps one good universal system can be developed which can be recycled.
How many banners have already been reused?
Marie-José: Pooh, that’s hard to say, I did not really keep track, but it must be at least two thousand.
And, do they sell well?
Marjan: They have always sold well, also with tourists. It is very appealing that it is a sustainability project and that is also how we promote it. We have adapted the model over time based on customer feedback. For example, they now have more pockets and even a zipper.
Other companies see the bags at Eye Filmmuseum and approach Marie-José for their own unique line. For example Vue Cinemas, an English company that operates 21 cinemas in the Netherlands (the former JT Cinemas). Diederieke van Herwijnen is part of the programming team at Vue Cinemas Nederland and coordinates the upcycling project.
How did upcycling banners start at Vue?
Diederieke: At Vue we use so-called ‘large formats’ to promote films. It’s a piece of cloth that is stretched over a light box which really stands out in our cinemas. Such a large format is only displayed a couple of weeks before it is replaced. The cloth was then destroyed, just like standees used to be. What a shame! Besides this we are completely digital and no longer have paper posters, also because of the environment. With that in mind, we started looking for a way to reuse the material from the large formats. That’s how we ended up working with Marie-José. Our bags are also made in a local sheltered workshop and we donate our proceeds to Stichting Bio Kinderrevalidatie. It seemed like a great opportunity to be socially responsible and to convey a green message to our public.
How did you convince your distributors to participate?
Diederieke: We are very pleased that many of the film distributors are participating in the project. Disney is one of the distributors that makes extensive use of our ‘large formats’. When we approached them with this idea, they were immediately enthusiastic, they did not have to be convinced. Disney is also closely involved with Stichting Bio Kinderrevalidatie as a film distributor. Bio-Vakantieoord Foundation was founded in 1927 by the Dutch Cinema Association. The NVBF is still connected to this charity and at Vue Netherlands we also feel very involved. We thought it would be nice to contribute in this way. Everyone deserves a break once in a while and to enjoy a nice holiday without any worries. Stichting Bio makes this possible for families with a (multiple) handicapped child.
Which films got a special bag?
Diederieke: We are still in the initial phase of the project, but at the moment we have bags for sale of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2 and Beauty and the Beast. In early December we expect to be able to offer new bags of, among others, Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther. We see true fans looking for the most beautiful bag of their favorite movie!
Upcycling or digitizing promotional materials is a great step in making the cinema industry more sustainable. It’s encouraging! What else is being done or developed at Eye Filmmuseum and Vue?
Marjan: In the museum shop we use old film posters as wrapping paper and our employees really have fun with it. The most beautifully wrapped presents are sold and costumers love it. If someone needs a carrier bag, then of course no single use plastic, but a reusable bag of recycled plastic. I developed this in collaboration with the product design department of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. As an alternative to the disposable bottle we sell the Dopper and the one of Join the Pipe for only € 3.50. I am glad that Join the Pipe has adjusted their pricing so that we can compete with the disposable bottle. We are now offering the reusable bottles throughout the building as an alternative. Waternet will soon install a water refill station outside our building too. It’s now our job to tell tourists that you can safely drink water from the tap in the Netherlands! Furthermore, I do not buy any junk, I try to buy responsible products.
And at Vue?
Diederieke: We try to implement sustainability on many levels, but one of the examples is that we are currently working with suppliers to see how we can improve waste separation.
A lot has already been done! Now with the holidays around the corner we think a unique bag by Marie-José is the ultimate Christmas gift for film professionals! Where to get them? The Eye Filmmuseum bags are obviously sold in the museum shop. The ones of Vue you can buy in the following cinemas: Vue Alkmaar, Vue Amersfoort, Vue Den Bosch, Vue Hilversum and Vue Hoorn. You can also check out Marie-Josés website to have something custom made. For example, sound engineer Fokke van der Saane ordered a special bag for sound equipment from naturally tanned leather.