Case Study: Lejla A film about life, love and doubts about important life choices.
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Case Study: Lejla

A film about life, love and doubts about important life choices.

After his film study in Amsterdam, the Dutch film director Stijn Bouma (28) immediately worked on several short films, worked for a cinema and did an internship at the production company Circe Films. His second year film Lejla was selected for the Cinéfondation competition in Cannes. The film is about Lejla, a young woman from Sarajevo, who has the feeling that her life does not offer any perspectives. Her job in a Fastfood restaurant and the caring of her alcoholic father is everything she has. Until she meets and falls in love wit Vedad, who makes it possible for her to flee. But Lejla has doubts...

"I allowed them [the actors] to translate their own dialogue, thereby making it their own already."

08 maart 2019

Getting started

“We had an assignment at film school to do an adaptation of one story from ‘The Dubliners.’ So I picked the story of Eveline and translated it to present-day Sarajevo, where the same problem was very important as well.”

“I wrote the script myself, with my mentors and fellow students giving some feedback. I don’t think I wrote a lot of different drafts, which is because I did a lot of thinking and planning ahead – in terms of treatment etc. The script was written in English but the actors were going to speak Bosnian. I allowed them to translate their own dialogue, thereby making it their own already. Other than that the script didn’t change much during the shooting.”

Managing the process

“Usually classical music is always in the background when I wrote. I took good care to really imagine the film as much as I could, to really see and play the film in my head before I would write down everything in text. So I already had a clear vision of the shots, the atmosphere and rhythm of the film. Together with my DoP we went through all the shots, but it all went quite smoothly as I knew very well what I wanted and most of the times – also how to achieve it. The producer was the academy who helped us with equipment, locations, permissions and things like this, but they didn’t really restrict me in terms of choices. Furthermore, I was producing part of the film myself, making decisions so there were not really any arguments.”

Preparing for the shoot

“The crewmembers were all fellow students from my school, the cast I found through simply asking people around me and then inviting persons I thought might be suitable. We also did one day of technical preparations, visiting the most important locations with the technical team and other heads of departments. In the end we shot around 5 days, based on the locations, actors availability and proper time to give ourselves for each scene. The film was funded by a small budget given to us by the school and in the end by some post-production money from the Dutch Film Fund.”

A successful shoot with minor difficulties

“We had a great shoot, with very little difficulties. Because of our good preparation I guess. The only thing that didn’t go so well was a shooting at a local marketplace, in which one of the food-sellers was acting. But she became impatient after a few takes, so we were not able to do a lot. Also one night when shooting, it started raining, so we had to cover up the camera and all, but were able to keep shooting. In the end we didn’t need extra shooting days.”

The final edits and corrections

“First I started editing myself. Then, after I did around two or three versions, an editor got involved and we spend another weekend editing the latest version I had built. The script was not too much different from the edit, however we did change the beginning and threw out a few other scenes we deemed unnecessary.”

“The sound design was done by Jesse Maasdam, in the Netherlands. I like to work with sound a lot, to create a symphony let’s say from natural sounds. There is barely music in the film, only a piano piece in the end that was interpreted by a friend of mine, Hidde Hoogstraten.”

“Het Raam did the postproduction for this film. We spent about one or 2 days color grading the film. The way we shot the film was already quite close to how it would be graded, so there was not much difficulty with the material. Het Raam also made the DCP for us.”

30 international film festivals and 3 awards later...

“Wouter Jansen, of distribution company Some Shorts picked up the film. So we were very lucky with that, he did a good job of sending the film all over the world. We had about 30 screenings all over the world. And won about 3 awards with the film. Personally my schedule and the festival’s conflicted at times, so I didn’t visit much festivals outside of the Netherlands.”

“If I may give a tip for other new directors it would be: Be passionate and not afraid.”

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