The short film At a Glance by Ruud Satijn was part of the Short Film Competition of SHIFT Film Forum 2023. For this case-study he tells us about the journey of his film and how the film was made.
Worried and Delivered
"At a Glance is a Dutch film. Its original title is Bezorgd. We really liked this title because it means both ‘worried’ and ‘delivered’, but it is impossible to translate into English so for festivals we had to come up with something else."
"At a Glance is literally the essence of what the film is about. Writer Liesbeth Wieggers came to me with the idea for a film about, apart from discrimination, class and domestic violence, the themes of ‘am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing’, and ‘the challenge to look beyond a first impression’. A lot of subjects for a short film. To look beyond was the one we considered most important."
"We already knew each other. We made a film together a few years ago. Our first meetings about the story were about three years before the first shooting day. Those three years were not a full time writing period of course, we were both working on other projects as well, but we did make sure we kept it going and soon production company Revolver Amsterdam got involved. Its producer Germen Boelens is someone I really like working with because his primary goal is always to make sure the essence of the story is told as well as possible. A creative producer mostly but also someone who knows how to get things done."
The downside to having a very good production company behind you
"We developed together, changed a lot, and changed many things back again. A lot of drafts Always together but Liesbeth writing and I had the role of director being able and allowed to attribute to it. The script is more or less the same as the final film. We switched a scene here and there and the actors had some nice suggestions for alternate dialogue but nothing huge."
"We didn’t get selected by the Film Fund right away but felt this was a story really worth another try so went back to writing and applied again. As you can imagine we were thrilled when we heard we did get selected for the Filmfonds Shorts program. We had a glass of Champaign but realized this was only the beginning. We didn’t have enough money yet to be able to make the film with a professional crew and cast. And with the many characters and locations we had in the script, we just needed additional funding."
"The downside to having a very good production company behind you can be that they are usually very busy. Revolver just had two feature film shoots wrapped and since I already had some producer experience from before, I decided to act up as co-producer to support all the work they did. We briefly considered applying at the Limburg Film Office and shooting the film in Maastricht, but when the funding from both the Vevam Fund and the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts came through, it was clear we were going to shoot in Amsterdam."
The Cast and Crew of At a Glance
"Personally, one of the most important stages for me as a director is the casting. So that’s what we did first. Together with Shira Halevi from One Million Faces I started my search. It sounds obvious but finding the right actors simplifies the director’s job so much. But the job itself is hard. The implications of whom you choose are so big that you better make sure you think about it very well. From all the things I have to do as a director, casting is one of the things I like most and am best at. And I think with Rami Kooti Arab, Nyncke Beekhuyzen, Tijn Docter, Nola Elvis Kemper and many other greats, that really paid off."
"As with the cast, finding the right crew is also a puzzle. I’ve been around for a while so I know enough talented people, but these people are always busy so it takes a lot of coffee and meetings to ask them to make time to work on this film without getting paid very well."
"With our line producer Chantal Bartels and Production Designer Joyce van Diepen we started looking for locations. Since we could only afford four shooting days, we knew we needed locations not too far away from each other. At the same time, and most importantly, the locations must suit the visual style I had in mind."
"My DP Gregor Meerman came from another shoot but was then finally able to join the team. I told him my ideas and together we made a shot list and made final decisions on the locations."
"The team grew to about 20 to 25 people and we shot the film exactly in the hours planned, in four days. Luckily, the weather helped us with that. With almost all exteriors and a story that plays in one day, we really needed that, so that was fortunate."
"I was already talking to composer Bram Meindersma about mood, examples of other films and so on so he could already start working, but of course the editing had to be done first. Editor Katharina Wartena is Dutch but lives in Paris and was unable to come to Amsterdam in the weeks planned for the edit. Since we wanted a premiere at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht we could not postpone so I made a huge sacrifice (ahum) and went to Paris to edit the film with her. I really like Katharina’s style, visually focusing on the main character’s journey through the film. That really worked well for this story and we were on the same path during every version of the edit. We made a lot of versions, always stayed fairly close to the script and focused on pace a lot."
"After that, I went back to Amsterdam, took some time off to give Bram time to compose the music and together with Sound Designer Annika Epker and Re Recording Mixer Jan Schermer we finished the film and Posta Sound in Amsterdam."
Future Plans of a Feature
"There are always things that could have been done better but all in all I am pretty happy with the result. We just made it on time for the premiere in Utrecht. It was too late for competition but we had a nice first screening in Kinepolis there. We started international screenings at festivals early this year and it is going well. A lot of screenings all over the world and we have won four or five awards up until now, with many festivals still coming up. Which is very nice because it feels very rewarding, but hopefully it also contributes to coming across as ‘reliable to put time, effort and money into’ for a next project. A feature film I would like to make with, at least partly, the same team."
I was asked by CineSud if I have any tips for young/new directors. My main suggestion is to make sure you are able to convey your idea to others. It is of no use to be super creative and full of ideas if you are not able to explain them and make sure other people are willing to go on that journey with you. Other arts may work that way but film doesn’t. In every stage of filmmaking, you work with different people so you must be the one who makes sure the creative direction and goal is followed but without the talents of actors, DP’s, editors and so on, you won’t get anywhere. And don’t look for a producer as someone who is only there to provide money. If that is the only thing he or she is there for, try to find a different one. A creative producer really contributes to your film.
(c) All visual material is used with the filmmaker's permission.