vaflaureates01Ian Mundell talks to the latest batch of VAF Wildcard laureates: six recently graduated filmmakers, selected by a jury, who receive between €25,000 and €60,000 plus coaching from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) to make their first assignment in the real world. All six VAF Wildcard winning shorts will be shown as a part of this year’s Short Film Corner in Cannes.



Jeroen Broeckx | Documentary, 18’

30m3fiAll human life can be found in the modest 30m3 space of the lock-up garage, from dinner parties to ping-pong, from band practice to taxidermy.

Curiosity inspired Jeroen Broeckx to investigate the secret life of garages. 'When I used to ride around on my bike I always rode a bit slower to see what was inside,' he recalls. 'I found what happened in all these garages a bit poetic. People do everything but park a car in them.' He started out by asking friends and family whether they knew of anyone who used their garage in an unusual way.

Then, as the project gathered speed, he contacted local newspapers, radio and Tv stations, who put out requests for suggestions. In the end he visited around 50 garages before making a selection. 'I think that everyone in Flanders knows someone with a strange garage.' After such an intensive research period, the shooting was relatively straightforward. He visited roughly two garages a day over a period of two weeks, filming what was going on. 'Always opening the door, closing the door, from the inside, from the outside,' he recalls. 'It was a very simple concept.

'And although he interviewed the garage owners, he decided to leave that material to one side. 'I discovered that the garages themselves say a lot about these people,' he says. 'It was stronger without explaining what they were doing.' Instead, he asked a friend to compose music to match the feeling of the images; at one point in the film you can see her playing the score (where else) in a garage.

Since graduating from the RITS film school in Brussels, Broeckx has been working for TV production company Woestijnvis, doing reports for topical entertainment show Man Bites Dog. He will start looking for inspiration for his next documentary in the months to come. 'It will be similar in style, but not in subject. Something deeper, about society,' he says.

Little Ryan

Aad Verstraelen | Animation, 4’

littleryanfi01Little Ryan lives on top of an air traffic control tower and dreams of flying away. But he is a young bird and hasn’t quite got the knack of flying.

When birds take their first flight, they risk their lives. Yet they have to do it. 'That's a little bit the moral of my story,' explains Aad verstraelen. 'If you want to achieve something in life, if you have a dream, you have to take a risk and conquer your fears.'

From that starting point he came up with the novel setting of an airport, the cheeky name Little Ryan and a classic cartoon conflict with an air traffic controller. 'It's a feel good movie,' he says. 'I want the audience to follow the story and enjoy what they see on the screen.' In order to do that he adopted a traditional style. 'I grew up with American animation. It's a little bit commercial, but I like that style and it worked with my script,' he says. 'It had to be understandable, colourful and with simple characters, but still appealing.'

His training at the Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg had been in 2D animation, but he made the switch to 3D computer animation for his graduation project. That meant learning new software skills, but it was worth it. '3D animation has always been more interesting for me, so I chose to specialise. There's also more work in 3D, animation, so I wanted to present myself in that way to the outside world.'

The move paid off and since graduating Verstraelen has been working at Walking The Dog, a Brussels animation studio currently busy on the French feature film La Mécanique du Coeur (Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart). When that assignment ends in the summer, he will think about his own follow-up project. 'I want to take that experience with me to make my own film, and take it to a much higher level.'

Maturing as a Tree

Hans Galle | Experimental, 23’

maturingfinews01A filmmaker tells a friend about the movie he is trying to make, and how he keeps getting distracted by random but beautiful images that don’t fit into the plan

Hans Galle's experimental film Maturing as a Tree is a reaction to the way he had been taught at KASK, the film school in Ghent. 'Because we were all trained in professional filmmaking, I felt that we were following a model,' he says. 'Sometimes it's a good thing to question that.' His previous attempts to make conventional short fiction films had certainly been unsatisfactory. 'I still wanted to work with that material, but I decided to approach it in another way,' he explains. 'I wanted to create flexibility, a way that anything that happened or anything that I produced was useable.'

Images from past projects, fragments of script and video messages from people wanting to be in his films all went into the mix, along with other sequences filmed on trains, in lifts and in the countryside using the cameras in mobile devices. Then he recorded himself explaining to a friend what he was doing, including his indecision and susceptibility to distraction. 'I was looking for a way to connect everything and when I had the voice-over I knew that it would all fall into place for the spectator. That was kind of exciting.' The result is a portrait of the filmmaker at work - or not at work, depending how you look at it - in which the beauty of chance images finally wins through.

Galle is not yet sure how he intends to use the VAF Wildcard award, nor what kind of films he wants to make in the future. 'I'm sure that I want to find this liberty in any project that I do, but it doesn't mean that it needs to be filmed on an iPad,' he says. 'In this case it was the right answer.'


Michael Van Ostade | Fiction, 23’

nigredofimagSarah’s teenage son has died in an accident, but the knowledge hasn’t registered yet. As she moves around the family home, signs of the pain to come gather around her.

Michael Van Ostade was drawn to loss as a universal theme, but decided to explore an aspect of it rarely touched on in films. 'I wanted to know what happens in that really short period just after you've heard something bad has happened,' he explains. Focusing on this time of denial meant getting a controlled performance from lead actress Ina Geerts. 'I wanted her to be very cold and distant,' he says.

Meanwhile, events such as a bird crashing into a window (a tricky special effect) show that death is close. 'A lot of other things try to wake her up to the fact that something has happened. It is only at the end of the movie that she finally breaks.' He chose to film in a wide-screen, cinematic way, which meant paying more attention to locations, lighting and set dressing. 'I love the fact that my characters can disappear into the decor,' he says. This was time consuming, but also a boon. 'It gave us time to figure out how Ina would move throughout the scene,' he says. 'I want the framing to be perfect and all the space to be used.'

Nigredo was Van Ostade's bachelor project at Sint-Lukas film school in Brussels. Now he's working on his graduation film, Songs from the Outside, described as a fantastical science fiction musical. His inspiration comes from films such as Punch Drunk Love and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with its famous five-note alien message. 'I love this way of using music in a narrative sense, so the movie will be built on that. It won't be Les Misérables.' Beyond that, he already has ideas about how his VAF Wildcard award project should look. 'It will be Bullhead, but with a Twilight Zone twist.'

Pater Familias

Bram Cartigny | Documentary, 30’

paterfamiliasfimagWhen Bram Cartigny was a small boy his father left the family without explanation. Now about to leave home himself, the director delves into a family secret to reveal a personal tragedy. Or perhaps not.

Cartigny's aim is to nudge viewers into questioning the constant stream of images presented to them as true. 'I think it's dangerous that people don't think about what they see,' he explains, 'so the idea was to write a personal story where I deceive the audience. It's a dangerous line to cross, but I wanted to see how far I could go.' His family was happy to cooperate, even though the film presents a rather lurid picture of their lives. 'I explained what I wanted to do and they said it was no problem,' Cartigny says.

Meanwhile the film had to look the part. 'It is kind of clichéd, but that's what convinces the audience that it is a genuine documentary.' And although the quest for his father is false, there is a thread of genuine emotion running through the film. 'The movie is also about loss, and there are some true stories in there.' Placing the film in a category still causes Cartigny some difficulty. 'If I say it's fiction, a lot of what I want to make clear to people is lost, but if I say it's a documentary I'm kind of lying,' he says. 'It should be watched as a movie, not as fiction or documentary per se.'

He intends to move more towards genuine documentary once he graduates from Sint-Lukas film school in Brussels. Before then he has to complete his master project, which once again lies between documentary and fiction. Over the course of a night, it follows three young men making their way in business, one of whom is already questioning his goals and expectations. 'They are real, and they play themselves in a fictional story,' says Cartigny. 'So it's still on the borderline.'

Tsjernobyl Hearts

Emillie Verhamme | Fiction, 21’

tsjernobylheartsfinewsTeenagers Jules and Adrien revisit their old home, not only to find the new owners knocking down walls. Althought perfectly polite, the youngsters seem in no hurry to leave, to the discomfort of all concerned.

Tsjernobyl Hearts is a film about the way social codes are embedded in society. 'I wanted to explore that on a physical level,' explains Emilie Verhamme. 'I started with the concept of boundaries: if my property ends here, at a certain point, then your property starts there. But can we also push those boundaries?'

Although the concept of unwanted visitors has a long and disturbing history in cinema - think of Funny Games - Verhamme did not want to go to extremes. Her idea was to create a situation of social unease rather than menace. 'The threat in underneath, it's unconscious.'

She also built boundaries into the way the film was shot, drawing up a Dogme-style list of rules: only one lens could be used, with available light and no focus puller. Then it was up to cameraman Michael Van Ostade (a VAF Wildcard winner in his own right) to work out how to respond. 'I wanted Michael to search for the boundaries that were there and to cross those boundaries, or not.'
She also worked with the actors in a way that built unease. 'I would tell something to one actor but not the other, and it was interesting to see the reaction and the response.'

Tsjernobyl Hearts is Verhamme's bachelor film at Sint-Lukas film school in Brussels, but she is already on a fast track after her short film Cockaigne was selected at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Offered a place at the prestigious Binger Filmlab in Amsterdam, she decided to skip the usual master degree and start work on her debut feature film. She doesn't want to discuss what it will be about yet, but hopes to shoot it 'as soon as possible'.

Published on Friday 10 May 2013

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