Case Study: Wild Director Jan Verdijk on his award-winning short film Wild.
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Case Study: Wild

Director Jan Verdijk on his award-winning short film Wild.

Wild is about Twan, Iris and their 9 year old son Jacco who seek the hilly and picturesque south of the Netherlands for a weekend of quality time and relaxation. Twan, clearly the self-proclaimed head of the family, starts to behave erratically and turns his family, the locals, and even the flora and fauna against him.

"Reality is crazy. It constantly gets my creative juices flowing."

05 mei 2019

Finding ideas in real life

"As much as I can, I try to find inspiration in the things that are happening in the world. I read the newspaper every day and almost every time there is at least one story interesting enough for screen adaptation. Reality is crazy. It constantly gets my creative juices flowing."

"Wild is about an egocentric man who gets confronted with new rules that apply in this new beautiful world he enters. Here everything is in harmony, so his misdemeanor falls out of place. In the end, he gets taken care of, and balance is restored. In this beautiful world, there is simply no room for assholes. To create this perfect, harmonious micro-cosmos, the story needed to take place in the most beautiful area of The Netherlands. The most southern point, right near the German and Belgian border, provided the right atmosphere. Hilly landscape, a lot of nature, picturesque villages and old-fashioned architecture."

"For some time I had this idea to make a short film about a man who keeps his surroundings in his grasp by misusing his powerful position in society. In the same period when I was trying to put something about this subject on paper, the #MeToo discourse started. It immediately became clear that this was a turning point. So for me it was impossible not to implement this in the story. Still, I never intended to make a film specifically about sexual misbehavior but in a more general way, about male dominance and how old standards suddenly become not so standard anymore."

Writing the script

"In total, it took me about 3 month to finish the script. But most of it was written in the first two weeks after I got the initial idea. I had this very clear image about the ending. I knew what the final shot had to be, and that made it easy for me to write. During that process I was mostly on my own. Sometimes I consulted the producer, because it can be dangerous to stay in your own writing bubble, but they gave me a carte blanche, also during shooting. I did not change anything about the script while I was shooting, but during the edit thee short scenes got cut out completely. The thing is, you make the same film three times. Once while writing, one time during the shooting, and later in the edit. And everytime it is a different film. In my opinion, a director should let go of the image in his mind when something interesting, possibly better, happens in front of him. Kill your darlings easily when they don't work the way you hoped they should."

Knowing what you want to tell

"I worked with most of the crew before. And most of them were so cool to say yes again. All the cast members were new to me. I did the casting myself because I knew quite early who I wanted for the roles. Luckily they liked the script and said yes immediately. That was quite easy actually."

"For me it is very important to know exactly what to shoot during a shooting day so extensive preperation with the DOP is essential. Together with Thijmen Doornik (the DOP) I decided what kind of atmosphere/look would suit the story and based our choice of camera and lenses on that. Later we created a shotlist which contained every shot, camera motion, etc. We did a breakdown of each scene and constantly asked ourselves what it is we want to tell with that scene, that angle, that movement. Based on that I started planning with the first AD René Jonkers. We needed three days to shoot everything. Ideally it would have been four days, but because of budget limitations that was impossible. Budget was given by the Netherlands Film Fund and CineSud."

A big crew, animals and special effects

"Production was a bit bumpy. We had a big crew, 25+ people walking around in an area most of them were not familiar with. We had a lot of company moves each day, animals on set, special effects, guns, fire, a main location we had to clear very early on the last shooting day. Despite all that, we were able to shoot most of the shots we had in mind. A couple of weeks after shooting I went back to Limburg to shoot some extra wide shots of the surroundings. We did not have time for that during the main shooting days anymore."

Telling a story efficiently

"The editing process was very interesting. I learned a lot there. Wild is a film with a lot of suggestive elements (like the interaction between the father and the animals) not much dialogue, and a surreal twist in the story, which we (the editor Joshua Menco and I) had to slowly and subtly introduce to the audience. It was a challenge to find the right balance between putting emphasis on the relationship between the father and his family, and the father and his surroudings. At the bottom line, the editing was a masterclass in 'how to tell your story as efficiently and clearly as possible, without losing the ambiguity so you don't bore the audience'."

Finding the right musical piece

"Hans Nieuwenhuijsen signed for the music. He got involved at a very early stage. I knew I wanted to use existing classical music for a big part of the score. But there is A LOT of classical music, and that makes it very hard to find the right piece. So I needed some guidance, and Hans helped me with that. I think we did well here. We exchanged various musical pieces of a lot of different composers, tried a lot during the editing and when we finally made a choice, Hans started working on re-creating the classical pieces we chose, and also composed some additional music for specific timings in the film."

Colours for a perfect little world

"Color correction was done by Barry Clarke at Captcha. I am very happy with the look of the film. I wanted it to be vivid in color, especially the first 2/3 of the film because we were creating this perfect little world. But in the last scenes it becomes darker, and more blue-ish, because we wanted to accentuate the nasty fate of the father. The DCP was made by Feverfilm."

Cinemas and screens

"Festival distribution is happening as we speak. Hidde de Vries from Kapitein Kort is helping me out with that. The world premiere took place at Imagine Film Festival 2019, in the cinema 1 at EYE Amsterdam. Great screen, great sound, great cinema. The film won the Méliès d'Argent for best short film there."

Keep it small

"A piece of advice I would give to other filmmakers is to keep your film/production as small as you can. Too often I see a short from a young director that is too ambitious and fails to convince. And kill your darlings without too much hesitation when they don't work the way you hoped they should."

Shorts Lab

Wild was one of the selected Shorts Lab 2018 projects (former: CineSud Talent). Want to know more about CineSud Talent? Check Funding & Labs.

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