How to create more ‘Shared Stories?’

Did you know that about 25% of all Dutch film productions are aimed at children? At the Beijing International Film Festival, four Dutch children’s films were screened: The Amazing Wiplala, directed by Tim Oliehoek (produced by BosBros), My Giraffe by Barbara Bredero (produced by Lemming Film), Mr. Frog by Anna van der Heide (produced by BosBros) and Master Spy by Pieter van Rijn (produced by PV Pictures) . My Giraffe was the opening film of the Sino-Dutch Children’s Film Summit, which took place during the festival. “The Netherlands is a strong player when it comes to series, live-action, educative and feature films for children. Together with Chinese partners we’re exploring opportunities to create shared Sino-Dutch stories,” says Doreen Boonekamp, CEO of the Netherlands Film Fund. Together with a delegation of 8 film producers and screenwriters she visited Beijing earlier this week.

Stimulating talent across borders

The NL Film Fund supports film production and film related activities in the Netherlands. Its focus is to develop and strengthen Dutch cinema and film culture, both within the Netherlands and internationally. International co-productions, initiatives with several producers, can help Dutch talent go global. Doreen explains: “We already signed a co-production agreement with China in 2015. The Dutch Children’s film sector is well developed and there’s a lot of interest in this expertise in China. Through summits, labs and discussions with Chinese partners we are creating understanding of the sector and cultural nuances in film. That understanding is essential to create good co-productions.”

The two countries have very different children’s film sectors. “First of all, there is a difference in the definition of a children’s film. In the Netherlands, a children’s film is a film through a child’s eyes. However, in China a children’s film means a child is involved in the film. Another important difference is the funding for films. In the Netherlands we were able to use the successful children’s book sector as a starting point to develop the film sector. The success of the book helps in finding funding. Because the sector is now successful there’s also a good business case for new stories. In China there’s very little public financing and private investors only want to invest if they can expect good returns.”

From understanding to script

During the visit of the Film Fund it became clear that there’s great interest in family and children’s film in China. With several Dutch movies in Chinese cinemas, such as Prooi or My Giraffe, there’s also momentum. “But it is also about ensuring a match and building trust. If we start a project there must be a fit with the interests of the public. What’s really special is that in many countries co-productions initiatives start when a script has been finalized, but in the projects in China we are being involved from the very start,” says Doreen.

Compared to an earlier meeting in 2016, there’s a different vibe surrounding the visit. “We have defined the differences and are talking about concrete projects now. The initiation of the China Children’s Film Association, an important partner in this project, is also a clear sign that the market is ready for more children’s films. We hope that through co-productions we can make an impact on this quickly developing sector.”

About the success of Dutch children’s and family films

Dutch children’s and family films have developed into a strong brand, as part of a revival that started around 20 years ago. Though many initial films were based on books, there was a clear need of original scripts. In the course of the years the Netherlands has developed many stories for the big screen told from a child’s perspective. The last 10 years over a hundred films for children and family audiences were produced in the Netherlands, drawing about 16 million visitors domestically.