After its screening in Amsterdam, one of our festival volunteers spoke with Peter Stead, screenwriter of the 2016 Dutch short film Day of Reckoning dir. Gideon van Eeden.
Interviewer: Emily Higginson[08/10/17]
Hi Peter. Is this the first festival that you’ve shown the film at?
This is the second. It was at the Raindance Film Festival because we are MA students so it was part of Raindance’s showcase last week. But this is our premier in a sense that it’s a Dutch film, a Dutch production, and we’re in Amsterdam.
How has the experience at Lift-Off been for you?
I think it was really good, really down to earth, no nonsense, very well organised, and a great venue.
Are there any films that stood out to you tonight?
I liked the one about the boy losing his father, Vigor directed by Philip Besamusca. I understood what was happening in the story, whereas a lot of short films seem to try to confuse you, to just throw you off balance too much. Then, after a while you just zone off because it’s too many images. But that short was my favorite… other than ours!
If you were to gauge the atmosphere in there, how do you think the film played to the crowd?
Well, I think we had a crowd that was 50% our lot, so very supportive. But I do think it came across very well and I was very proud of the classical narrative structure that we took, it was building the story stone by stone and that was what I was proud of, without it being too avant-garde/too clever, but still giving the audience an emotional punch.
What was the creation process like? Was it centered more in London, were you located there or here in Holland?
Holland. I actually met Gideon, our director, for the first time yesterday, and before that everything was done by Skype. I graduated last year, and he had advertised for scripts and I responded through the Raindance Facebook page – 20 scripts, down to two scripts, and then he eventually picked mine. Originally it was about a British soldier and his wartime experiences in the Second World War and so we had to transfer it from the British experience to the Dutch experience- from a battlefield experience to an occupation experience. We used the word ‘Bijltjesdag’, which means ‘day of reckoning’ and is a word that comes from the 1700’s in Holland, but really gained coinage after the Second World War. That was when Germany pulled out and there was a period of lawlessness where the Dutch citizenry sorted out Nazi collaborators. So as a title it had a really good double meaning, which is what you look for in a title.
If you were to decide on a title for your original vision of the script, centring on a British soldier, what do you think that would have been?
I already had a title called ‘By the Sword’ because it’s from “live by the sword die by the sword”; so he (the lead character of the film) takes a life, and then by the end the life takes him – even though it’s a projection of his psyche.
Was it at all disappointing for you, as a British man, to see your script transition into a narrative of Dutch culture? Do you wish you had seen it in the form of British storytelling?
No, no I don’t care where it’s made, I don’t care what language it’s in. All I care about is an ability to direct and execute, with a director that understands the script and doesn’t just try to impose a vision that has nothing to do with the script. In a way it made more sense, because after four years of occupation, everyone in Holland was under a breaking point; people were starving and people were hiding Jewish people and were risking getting deported themselves. It’s an incredible experience actually, very different to the British experience. The British obviously suffered a lot as well, and we had the Blitz but we were never occupied, so it’s a very different experience that enhanced the film. I couldn’t be more pleased about how it turned out.
Once you sent the script off did you have any involvement or preview into how the film was turning out?
Yeah I was a little bit involved, but ultimately I considered it job done from my point of view, and so when you’re a writer I think you just give it to the director but like directors do he asked me for feedback, for consultation and we worked on the script a little bit more. He also sent me early edits and I gave my feedback, and he was really open.
Are you working on else right now? Would you and Gideon do another collaboration anytime soon?
Well he’s doing another project, so he may bring me in he may not. In terms of my projects, I’ve written 6 features and a TV pilot and some shorts and comedy sketches and one of my short film scripts ‘Vampire’ made it to the finals of the competition ‘Table Read My Screenplay’ but that’s something I’ve now developed into a TV pilot and bible. I’m hoping to pitch that series but it’s early days now.
Final question, do you think that indie cinema can continue to make its way into the climate of mainstream filmmaking?
[Haha] Well then it would stop being indie, wouldn’t it?
Emily also interviewed Ronald Schuldink and Raphael Oettel, directors of music video Kiss the Devil, which screened in the local showcase with Day of Reckoning.
So Kiss the Devil is the premier single from debut album Movano Camerata by the band The Grand East. Was this the first time you worked with The Grand East?
Raphael Oettel: Yes, it was the first time we were working with them.
Ronald Schuldink: Though none of them were in the movie, none of them wanted to be.
What are your impressions of the festival so far? Do you feel your product was well received?
RS: We spoke to one guy, he really liked it!
RO: But all the videos were really great as well, so it’s difficult to say.
Is this the first festival you’ve shown it at?
When was the music video actually completed?
RS: Almost a year ago, yeah I think eight months ago.
RO: The guys in the band released it to promote their album, and to promote the record label.
Was there a reason you wanted to take this specific video and show it at festivals?
RS: Yeah, it was our first creative commercial video I think we made. Normally we do promotional videos for companies in the east of the Netherlands.
RO: So we thought we’d go show it in the big, big wide west!
For young filmmakers in Holland, what are your tips for making it in the commercial film world? Any insights or wisdom?
RO: I’m not sure, I think we’re still looking or searching, trying to find our way. I guess it’s like trying, doing, filming. Try to make stuff and then during the process you find out what’s working and what’s not working and next project you can make it hopefully better.
RS: I think most of it isn’t really rocket science as well. It has so many different aspects that you have to learn a lot. I think the only way you can really do that is by gaining experience so, just do a lot.
So in terms of your own careers, after this first festival do you have any goals?
RS: Cannes! I would like to do a documentary, that would be cool as well.
RO: Yeah definitely Cannes festival. I would also like to do more of this kind of stuff [music videos], not more of the promotional thing. With the promotional thing it’s like repeating almost the same structure and same story we try to tell, so I would like to do short movies and music clips.
Winners, Special Mentions and Season Award Nominations from Amsterdam Lift-Off 2017 can be found here: