More than meets the eye: the professionals behind the best of Belgian cinema

Published in The Spread

From casting directors to editors, directors and composers, these are the craftspeople who are responsible for most of the product – but don’t always get as much of the spotlight.

When people are watching a film in the theatres or at home, they mostly only pay attention to its narrative or the famous actors and actresses. But they forget that filmmaking is a long process which is impossible without the help of many others. A film could not have the same dramatic effect without a proper soundtrack or sound effects made by a sound mixer, and a good cameraman is an essential sidekick to help convey the director’s message. These are only a few examples.

Making a film is about pre-production, the shooting or production itself and eventually post-production, which involves all the montage. You could not imagine, how many important professionals are involved in every stage of film production.

This article is not about the film itself, but about the people behind it, because many hands make light work. These profiles hope to make clear how these people work, how they feel about what they are doing, and why they are so passionate about their jobs. On top of that, a 24-hour journal by one of our respondents offers a unique insight into what making a film is all about – read on to find out!

prod4Chafic Amraoui & Max Moutschen

Age: 27 & 25

Function: Casting managers

Nationalities: Belgium

Organisation: Hakuna Casting

Why and how Hakuna grew: Hakuna Casting came to life only in 2014 as an initiative of two friends, Nabil Mallat and Chafic. Along with the help of the director Bilall Fallah and many other participants, a new casting agency was born! The goal and positive mindset of the Hakuna Crew is all about pointing at diversity.

In a land like Belgium, where so many different kinds of individuals live together, one should definitely realize that not only natives or Flemish/French-speaking people can act or show their face on television. Commercial television focuses on political correctness, but still stresses the cultural and racial differences too much. There is also the strong division between Flemish and Walloon television, that never actually seem to cooperate.

That’s why Hakuna tries to fade out these lines and differences between people and wants to show that talent is everywhere, no matter what size you are, what the colour of your skin is or what your sexual orientation is. Yes, Hakuna Casting aims for ‘diversity’, and in their opinion a Belgian native is equally diverse in his own country as someone who originates from Japan or Mexico.

Working methods: Hakuna makes up a database of actors by organising events like open casting days, like most recently on the 11th of July in Brussels. Headhunting is a 24/7 job. Hakuna also takes care of the coaching of actors who have no experience in front of a camera or on a stage.

Works: The feature films Image, Black, and Belgica; the short films Broeders, Sonar, and Hand in Hand; the music video 03 by NoMobs; commercials for Dash, Unibet, and IP: Creative Solutions.

Duration of casting: Depends on the client; sometimes a selection of actors only takes 1 day, sometimes our actors have to wait for over a month before the client decides!

Do you work with famous Belgian actors or directors? Yes, the directors Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah are booming business in Belgium!! And some of the actors who played in their films and who are known by the mainstream audience join and support Hakuna as well (like Matthias Schoenaerts for example)!

Dream: To keep on working with talented people from any possible background on an equal level. Although they might differ in some way, they all belong to one race, and that’s the human race. Any talent is welcome to the Hakuna family.

Motto: “A generation of new talent!”

Find out more about Hakuna on their website

prod3Ben Verrept

Age: 24

Nationality: Belgium

Function: Director & film student at KASK School of Arts in Ghent, Belgium

Works: Constant & Cécile (short film), The Notorious Visitor (short film for The 48 hour film project), The Desk (Admission for KASK)

Favourite part of film production: Shooting the film itself is without a doubt the most exciting, because it is THE moment where everybody has to perform, but also where everything could go wrong. You have to focus, and clear communication with the cast and crew is of upmost importance. Proper preparation and a motivated team make the work lighter. There is nothing more pleasant than to work with people who feel you and cooperate with you to achieve that specific goal. For example, an actor who keeps on redoing a take until he thinks it’s perfect – that makes shooting a film so fun!

Another thing is that we shot all the short films on location. Standing in a church or in the woods is absurd and fun at the same time. You have to ask people for their permission to shoot there. Most of the time they love to cooperate, like in The Notorious Visitor, where we shot a scene in a shop. 

But eventually, shooting a film is also a bit of improvising. It is just not possible to have everything on a piece of paper. When these things end up to work out just fine, it’s a great kick.

Duration of work: Hard to say, because it depends on how professional you want to be and what the story is you’d like to tell the audience. Script-writing and preproduction like casting, settings, rehearsals, making of storyboards, that takes the longest. The shooting itself should be a process as compact as possible, mostly because then I cannot afford to pay the people I work with and they do it voluntarily. But, of course, it’s all about the quality of the shots.

Post-production is fun as well, because you can check whether what you shot actually works on screen, but in the meantime it’s a lot of work and fumbling around. You can hire a professional editor, but still it could take weeks or months because of the synchronization, soundtrack, etc…Again, if you prepared well before the shooting and already have something in mind for the editing, your time will be spend more efficiently.

Dream: Making a real feature film that becomes selected for a couple of film festivals (Cannes, Berlinale or Venice would be epic of course.)

Motto: “People are beautiful, because they are so absurd.”

Check out Ben’s work on Vimeo

A day through the eyes of Ben Verrept

4-5.30 am: Because I cannot sleep, some inspiration comes up. Quickly take a pencil and paper and continue writing the script.

9-12 am: Finish the script and write down some suitable locations for the film’s setting. Fix a camera and call some actors I know.

1-5 pm: Time to visit some of the possible locations and check them with a camera and script/storyboard. Take some pictures there of shots I have in mind and change them when they don’t seem manageable in reality. Note down which lenses I have to use in order to get the best shots (long shot, close up, etc), in a professional situation, that would be in cooperation with the DOP.

Pay attention to possible disturbing noises, which you should normally do together with a sound technician. Also ask for permission to film at the locations when necessary.

5-7 pm: Watch some films. Change the storyboard when possible and order a camera according to the storyboard (I don’t own many of the camera types I need myself). Also, the actors confirm, after which I send them the script and inform them about what I expect from them. Are directions clear? Make appointments with the actors to meet and discuss the script.

8-10 pm: Run through the script once again. Make out for myself what kind of feel and emotion I would like to put into the film. Act the script for myself, imagining the actors doing it.

Make a list of all the props I need on all of the locations and write down every single possible difficulty (weather circumstances, noises, and so on). Shall I use music in my film or not? What kind of music? I don’t necessarily have to know that already, those things may change, but at least it leads me in a specific direction.

prod2Beth Dewey

Age: 53

Nationality: American

Function: Director

Production company: Film Entity

Work: The feature films Tweeked (which won Best Actress at the Brussels Independent Film Festival), Kill House, Erasing Eden and Pimp Girl (currently in production); the short films Outcall, Conflicted, and The Agency; music videos for Vampire Moose and The Lonely Trees; the web series Shadowlands and Living the Dream.

Influences: Kathryn Bigelow, Catherine Hardwick, Jane Campion, Agnes Varda, Michelle MacLaren

Favourite part of film production: Most definitely pre-production, because that’s where the magic happens. You first prepare and then everything else comes to life in the moment.

Duration of work: It really depends on the financing. Fund raising and packaging can take the longest. It generally takes me a couple of years – at least -to make a film from start to finish. Sometimes the film gets hung up at the end of post-production because there’s no money left and we go into a holding pattern while we finish fundraising.

Dream: Bigger, better, faster, more!

Plus, since I am  a female director in a business that is (unfortunately) still dominated by men, I also prefer to give a voice to women in my productions.

Motto: “Slates are for pussies” (something I live to regret at times)

Find out more about Beth’s work on her website 

12032260_10156016582680024_1553052085153946996_n (2)Bilall Fallah

Age: 29

Nationality: Belgium/Moroccan

Function: Director (partner of Adil El Arbi)

Works: The feature films Image and Black (in post-production); the short film Broeders, the TV series Bergica.

Influences: Great directors like Oliver Stone, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. These directors inspired me and Adil when we were still in school.

An important source of inspiration for our first feature film Image (2014) was La Haine (1995) by Mathieu Kassovitz, which is a rough film about life in the suburbs. Our next film, Black, is based on a book by the Flemish author Dirk Bracke, but one could definitely compare the atmosphere of the film with that of the 2002 Cidade de Deus by Meirelles and Lund.  

Favourite part of film production: The production itself, by which I mean the moments on the set. At that stage, you really get the chance to really shoot all the material you need for the final cut. It is exciting and also the moment of truth, where you have to make the right decisions. You can witness your characters and written-down scenes come to life! Shooting a film is a moment of total devotion to your work!

But also most definitely the editing, because as a director you are still involved at this stage and the film takes on its final shape!

Duration: Depends on the project of course, whether it is a short film or a feature film.

Dream: A double one. Firstly, I love conveying the message of only 1 person and making it interpretable for the rest of the world. And also, I want to make it internationally, so I can make real big ‘epic cinema’ like Ben Hur or Gladiator!

Motto: Multiple. But maybe in this context the most suitable would be: The less f***s you give, the more happy you will be!

Find out more about Bilall’s new film Black on its official website

prod1Thijs Van Nuffel

Age: 27

Nationality: Belgium

Function: freelance editor/assistant editor

Works: The feature films Moroccan Gigolos, Wat Mannen Willen (What Men Want – expected in theaters November); the short films De Weg Van Alle Vlees (The Way of All Flesh), De Smet, Lilith, Kus Me Zachtjes (Kiss Me Softly), Aller-Retour, Dit Is Ronald (This is Ronald); assistant editor on D’ardennen, Galloping Mind, Waste Land, The Land of The Enlightened, and Home (currently in production).

Influences: When it comes to editing, it is quite hard to be influenced by someone, but I do admire Nico Leunen (Belgium), who I assist regularly, for his approach to the editing job.

Favourite part of post-production: Film editing is my favourite, no doubt about that! Although I do like to keep track of the sound editing, grading and mixing as well. Right now I am assisting, which means I have to make back-ups and have to synchronize all footage that has been shot the day before. This also includes doing the pre-cuts of every scene, which is the most interesting thing about assisting, in my opinion.

Duration of editing: That depends on the film. People keep on asking me that question even when the film is still in production, which I obviously cannot answer. You never know whether there are going to be any problems and how long it will take before they get solved, but the most recent film I edited (What Men Want) only took me 13 weeks.

The process that takes the longest though, I think, is optimizing the narrative structure. Some scenes might belong somewhere else, are superfluous, or need editing to such a high degree to make them valuable for the narrative. The entire process is one of trial and error.

Dream: To be able to always make films that are valuable to film as an art form!

Sample Thijs’ work by watching the trailers to Lilith (2013) and What Men Want (coming soon).

prodHannes De Maeyer

Age: 29

Nationality: Belgium

Function: Composer

Works: The feature films Image and Black (currently in post-production); the short films De Applausman, Baghdad Messi, Land of Heroes, How to Enrich Yourself by Driving Women Into Emotional and Financial Bankruptcy, Jappegem, On the Road and 19:00; the TV shows Voor Wat Hoort Wat and Professor T.

Favourite part of film production: That moment at the end of the day when you can look back at the beginning of it and realize you started with nothing on your computer screen, but by then you composed something that is beautiful and fits on the film tracks. This also counts for the final mix of a film, the point at which I think back at the start where I was in doubt about how I would manage it and where I had no clue at all about what I would compose.

Duration of work: Depends on the kind of music and how much music is needed, but the entire process will take approximately 1 to 2 months. Sometimes it’s a bit shorter, but it could take longer as well.

Dream: To help with many other inspiring and interesting projects, like films or TV series which I would like to watch myself as a viewer. And, of course, to work with talented, fun and inspiring people in the film industry.

Motto: How about ‘turn on the volume of the sound mix, please!’

Visit hdmusic.be for more about Hannes’ work.

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