The young award winning filmmaker Daan Bunnik‘s newest project “Head-butt” has been selected for the European Short Pitch organised by Nisi Masa – the European network of young cinema. We’ve recently caught up for a quick chat.
Why was it important for you to apply to the European Short Pitch?
At Bristol Encounters I met head of script department Wim Vanacker and he explained how Nisi Masa aims to bridge the gap between filmmaker graduates and the professional world. This was exactly what I was looking for. Coming from an art academy, I don’t have an entire team around me. Therefore it is hard to make the next step towards my new short film. Applying to the ESP seemed to me the perfect opportunity to develop further as a filmmaker and to establish myself in the professional film industry.
How do you define a good script and how did you see your chances when you applied?
Once on an industry day I heard a question: ‘what kind of films would do well in your festival?’ For me this is an absurd question. You make films because you want to tell a specific story, not because you want your films to be liked by others. Of course when that happens it is nice, but it can never be the starting point. If the story comes from a desire to be told and the writer is strongly connected to the topic then you have two very important starting points from where the writer can find the essence of the story. Besides these criteria there are of course numerous criteria that could still make the script good or bad, but the base is there.
I did not know how my chances where because I had no idea who and how many would submit. All I knew is that I submitted a script I was happy with. I have written scripts where I felt I was not sincere enough or I did not have a really strong desire to tell the story and therefore those scripts were not strong. This script is sincere and I do feel a strong desire to tell the story and felt a strong connection to the topic and therefore I felt good about it.
Tell us about where you come from and how you got involved with films.
I was born and raised in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where I lived with my parents and two older brothers. When I was 17 I had no idea what to do. Our school organised us to go to open days at universities. At one of these, I saw a course called media & culture which sounded really interesting. At the open day they talked about how to analyse film and television and I thought; ‘hey that is what I do every day’. When they finished I woke up my friends and went home a happy man.
During my film theory studies I discovered that I actually wanted to make films instead of analysing them, but I was too afraid to admit it. The course practice filmmaking changed that. We made a short documentary and I loved it so much that I had to conquer my fear of not succeeding as a filmmaker. I decided to do an internship on film sets and bought my first camera to make my own short films. With one of those films I got accepted to the Piet Zwart Institute master programme Lens Based Media.
Why is your film important to make and what does it tell the audience?
In my childhood I shared a room with my brother and therefore we knew each other through and through but we did not speak about our emotions to each other. I felt that my brother was frustrated with a lot of things, but I did not know how to talk to him. We did do a lot together, sport/gaming/watching films but during all those activities I could never make the step to talk about our personal issues.
This paralysis to really talk to each other about how you feel is something I encounter with all my male family members and friends. I feel that almost every man has issues talking about how they feel and therefore I try to confront myself in my films by making films about topics that I have not spoken about. After I’ve done that, I can only hope that the audience experiences the emotions in the story in so that it might serve as a starting point for discussion between their family and friends.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I could write a book about it, but to put it short is that I experienced emotions that I have not fully processed and by making films about them I try to find a way to confront myself with the topic so I can bring it in the present where I can process the old situation and accept the new situation.
What do you think about short films in general? How do people around you relate to this format?
Having visited several short film festivals this year I realise it really is its own art form. I also was one of those people who thought it is a step up to feature films. But, as you see for instance in the city “I love you” omnibus films (Paris, je t’aime etc) where established feature directors struggle to make good short films, it turns out that good short films are hard to make. It takes great skill and creativity to tell a good story in less than 30 minutes. Having seen almost 1000 short films in this past year I feel that the subject focus is one the most important factors of a good short film. To simplify your subject to its essence is also essential for a good short film because then you can get to the heart of the story and you can take full responsibility for the film you make, because you know exactly what you want to tell and what you tell.
Then, when a short film manages to tell this simple story in a complementary form, the short film can do everything with the audience any great masterwork has done before. It can make you laugh, make you cry, make you aggressive, make you annoyed, it can blow you away, it can make you feel less lonely, it can make you accept, it can make you reject, it can change your life, it can make you appreciate your own life, it can do nothing – or it can do everything.