– The international benchmark study commissioned by the Netherlands Film Fund also delves into what the industry can do to strengthen the position of Dutch movies
Brimstone by Martin Koolhoven, an example of a high-performing Dutch feature
Aiming to strengthen the Dutch film sector and explore the reasons behind Dutch features’ struggles in intercepting foreign audiences, the Netherlands Film Fund recently commissioned an evaluation and analysis of the status of local features benchmarked against the output of those from comparable European countries. The study was conducted by Olsberg SPI.
In detail, the research was divided into two phases. Phase one was based on a quantitative approach, “with the intention to establish a standardised benchmark of film performance across the five comparable European countries identified – being Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands”. Meanwhile, phase two followed a qualitative approach, “in order to build an understanding of some of the factors that explain the results of phase one”. Phase two required analysts to involve industry stakeholders, such as “producers, directors, distributors, sales agents, festival personnel and key industry body representatives”. Moreover, it required the analysis of three works that were examples of high-performing features – namely, Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone [+see also:
Q&A: Martin Koolhoven
film profile], Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round [+see also:
film profile] and Lukas Dhont’s Girl [+see also:
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile]. “These three films were used as case studies to further unpack the range of elements that come together to result in a high-performing film, and to feed into the final key findings and insights,” the report further explains.
Olsberg SPI backed its chosen benchmarked countries as “they share similar market conditions”. In particular, they boast “similar public policies, […] film-funding bodies acting broadly similarly” (supporting filmmakers from idea to distribution), the presence of “additional funding opportunities”, the presence of “festivals and schools supporting the sector” as well as shared “international recognition and markers of quality”, such as “participation in and awards at major events, often driven by key recurring artistic talent who are able to represent their country with high-quality productions”.
Zooming in on the three “excellent” titles picked for this study, the success of Girl has been attributed to “the advantages of a co-production” (“The co-production with producers in Belgium enabled the film to receive further, crucial production support,” and “having this agreement spread the resource demand” but “increased potential exposure and visibility”), the allocation of public funding throughout the film’s life cycle and, of course, its “powerful social message”.
For Another Round, the report highlights as key factors “the strength of the creative talent pipeline, […] the robust distribution of an easily translatable storyline [and] the multiple sources of experience”, as the picture was staged by veteran producers across Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, which enabled the “creative contribution of renowned talents from these countries, alongside fundamental production support”.
Finally, Brimstone is the Dutch production that came closest to the high benchmark. The study mentions as key factors in its success “significant support for the development stage of the film, […] the creative ambition backing the film”, the “cross-over” vision between “artistic and accessible”, the presence of “internationally renowned creative talent” and its visibility, strengthened by a “significant festival presence”.
Brimstone had a “Hollywood-comparable budget of €12 million”, with 12.5% of that amount provided by the fund’s Dutch Crossover scheme. It racked up 238,488 EU admissions and grossed €1.9 million at the worldwide box office. In terms of VoD, it is currently available in 16 European territories. It played at important festivals such as Venice, Toronto and Sitges, and snagged six Golden Calves.
The release of the Olsberg SPI report came a few weeks ahead of the Netherlands Film Fund’s announcement of some important innovations within its funding system.
“We already started renewing our way of working before the publication of the Olsberg SPI report. After the COVID-19 years, we introduced various measures aimed at giving more creative and financial space to filmmakers. Fewer deadlines, less of an administrative burden, and subsidies in various categories were raised. The key findings of the report will be part of the input for our new Policy Plan, which we will have to submit on 1 February 2024 to the ministry,” Marieke Van Zalk told Cineuropa, speaking on behalf of the Dutch body.
“Meanwhile, we will reflect further on the findings of the report with the Dutch film sector. Because for us, the report makes it clear: we can take better care of our talent, opt for quality instead of quantity, and look beyond merely producing films, with more attention to audiences. What are we going to focus on and how do we ensure that together we will take responsibility for getting there? That’s a plan we can only make together.
“This autumn, we will launch a combined development scheme for artistic and production development. Also, we will start asking filmmakers to think about their audience and the positioning of their film in relation to the existing market at an early stage, from the development phase onwards. By selecting [projects] carefully, we want to support a small, diverse number of productions with more resources.”
The Olsberg SPI study can be accessed in full here.