Filming On A Microbudget:
Interview With
Raymond Van Der Kaaij

By Margherita Pellegrino

When a great idea strikes a penniless filmmaker, it's time to liaise with “th' old wits.” Put together a fine screenplay, a fertile imagination and a positive and hardworking attitude, and you have the potential to overcome the problem of not enough funds.

Essentially, you have to believe in yourself and in your project: this is the work ethic producer Raymond Van Der Kaaij swears by, and the same one which has helped to create his latest work, award winning feature film Club Zeus.

We had a chat with him about the making of the film and the challenges of doing the best you can on a low budget, and the result is a very inspiring account on how not to let circumstances stop your passion…

Lo-to-no budget filmmaking Raymond tells us that Club Zeus is “a story about a group of professional hostboys who work in a hostclub in Shanghai where women come for comfort, and sometimes for hope of finding love. They are there to entertain, but also to make sure that customers return and spend a lot of money. It’s not so much about sex but more about the illusion of friendship, so in the end the story is also about emotional addiction and illusions”.

An interesting idea, inspired by the phenomenon of the hostboys (which director David Verbeek had witnessed in Tokio) but quite a challenging one, too: first of all, the movie was not going to be in the Dutch language. “Normally in the financing system in the Netherlands it is very difficult to find funds for a movie which is not in Dutch or does not have any Dutch characters” Raymond explains. “Secondly, as a producer, to get money for a feature film in Holland you have to have made two feature films, which is a very surreal rule - of course. So David wrote a plan in just a few pages for what was more like an experimental short movie, and we presented it to the experimental commission of the Dutch Film Fund (instead of the feature film section) and they decided to come on-board, so we got money for that”. The crew got financing from 2 other sources, but “all together this was really not a lot of money, only about 40000 euros”.

The lesson is clear: if you want to make your project come to life, you have to be brave, take risks, and be dedicated. “We had a clear plan in our heads, so we really knew what we were going to do and what our ambition was”, says Raymond. “Particularly we knew what the potential of the story was, so for us it basically meant that we had to take the risk to use all the money that we had for the shoot, and then come back home and make a proper edit on our own expenses and in our own free time.”

Quite inspiring, if we think that it all started spontaneously: Raymond talks of following a “momentum” and really, act when inspiration strikes. It takes guts, sure, and you need to know how to slash costs and do the best you can with what you have.

“To limit the expenses, one thing is to keep the story simple. We didn’t have a lot of locations, we didn’t have a lot of characters: everything was set up quite simply and we also left a lot of space for improvisation and made sure we stayed flexible. For the actors, we kept the crew small, and mostly local. Additionally, it was a strong subject, one we knew we could shoot on a small budget; and finally, we moved fast – we shot the whole thing in 10 days.”

It was an adventure, but one which led to impressive results – Club Zeus has recently won the Return of the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

So, what advice would Raymond give to budding filmmakers? “Sometimes, you just have to go for it  - realise that, as a filmmaker, you have a momentum and you have to listen to that feeling. It can be demoralizing because of financing, but don’t let it stop you – come up with some “creative financing”. There are other ways - crowd sourcing, for example. If you are confident, you can make it. So many good filmmakers started in unconventional ways – we have to look at those examples.” As for marketing your film, social networking sites are a gold mine for microbudget productions: they take the “word of mouth” effect to a whole new level, offer a new and young way, and not to mention free, to promote your work and to bring people to the screens: “we do a lot of advertising and it’s mainly digital and viral marketing – Facebook and Twitter are extremely important”, Raymond confirms.

He hopes that his experience can inspire other filmmakers. “There is a lot of competition around, but it’s great and everybody should participate. But you should go for it, not just wait for your turn. You can do it in other ways”.

Visit Revolver's blog
to find out more about Club Zeus and Raymond Van Der Kaaij's work

About Raymond Van Der Kaaij

After studying Business Administration and Commercial Management, Raymond Van Der Kaaij started Revolver Media in 2001 with the aim to produce and create compelling stories told in an engaging way. As the creative director and producer, he is responsible for developing new projects, setting up international co-productions and nurturing new talent. Next to fiction and documentaries, he also produces commercials, music videos, installations, interactive projects and sometimes animations. As well as low budget projects, Revolver has in development 5 films with 1million+ budgets.

As producer and co-producer, he has worked on numerous feature films and documentaries, as well as short films and a number of commercials and music videos. Recent feature and documentary projects include 22 May (Koen Mortier, Toronto 2010, IFFR 2011), Club Zeus (David Verbeek, IFFR 2011), Crips, Strapped’n’Strong (IDFA 2010, Locarno 2009), Vivere (Angelina Macarone, Tribeca 2007). He has been a member of the jury of the Arabic Film Festival and board member of the Rotterdam film industry association.

Club Zeus is written and directed by David Verbeek.

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About The Author

MArgherita PellegrinoMargherita Pellegrino moved to the UK from Italy five years ago, studied Sociology and has now finished a Masters Degree in United States Studies.

She is obsessed with cinema and the United States (especially New York) and loves to write (and talk) incessantly about both.

She would like to work as a reviewer/film critic, or maybe in casting because she has a sixth sense about people.

Margherita is presently interning at Raindance where she writes articles, researches films and filmmakers and does other more usual intern jobs.

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Filming on a microbudget