We are in a very robust period for theatrical documentary in the Netherlands. This was the message from Frank Peijnenburg, head of Screen NL at the Netherlands Film Fund, speaking at IDFA this week.
Audiences for docs at Dutch cinemas are rising. New sources of funding are available. New sales agents are selling docs in the international marketplace. The Netherlands Film Fund has 2.5 million euros a year allocated to documentary. This doesn’t include the distribution support or the extra financing that filmmakers can access through the cash rebate, which was recently raised to 35%. In the past, only one or two docs would reach the 10,000 admissions mark at Dutch theatres. Last year, there were seven.
The Fund looks to support around 20 feature docs each year (including minority co-productions). On majority productions, the Fund will invest 100,000 to 200,000 euros. “The production incentive helps producers find extra money. The budgets are rising, the possibilities are bigger,” Peijnenburg says.
Underlining the health of the sector, a whopping 27 titles from the Netherlands are in official selection at IDFA. These include The Long Season by Leonard Retel Helmrich and The Red Soul by Jessica Gorter, both in the Feature-Length Competition; Back to the Taj Mahal Hotel, directed by Carina Molier and which is in the Mid-Length competition; Instant Dreams by Willem Baptist, which is competing in First Appearance; and Love Letters by Tara Fallaux, in the Competition for Short Documentary.
“In a globalizing marketplace, we concentrate quite a bit on international coproduction, with both minority and majority participation of the Netherlands,” Peijnenburg says, pointing to the active collaboration and coproduction treaties in place with Flanders, Scandinavia, Wallonia, South Africa, Germany, Canada, China and France.
Peijnenburg also points to the stable and prolific production companies specializing in documentary in the Netherlands; outfits like Selfmade Films, Witfilm, Pieter van Huystee Film, Zeppers Film and Submarine in the production arena. There are also distributors like Cinema Delicatessen, Amstelfilm, Cinemien and September Film. Some producers are also self-distributing with Film Fund backing. The Fund runs various talent development initiatives, among them ‘wildcard’ schemes and the Teledoc campus in collaboration with the public broadcasters, supporting 25-minute documentaries from up-and-coming filmmakers.
Broadcaster support for documentary may be wavering but the Film Fund’s focus has always been on projects with a theatrical potential, not on titles solely aimed at the small screen.
“As there is less money available on the TV side, we get more applications. That is understandable, but our approach is cinematic,” Peijnenburg says. “For us as a Film Fund, it is important to support films suitable for theatrical release, with high production values, the potential to stand out and reach audiences.”