Case Study: Genekt

A student film about a father and son whose drug deal gets out of control.

Director Larry Erens and producer Maurizio Ciranni are classmates who, together with their whole class, made a gangsterfilm with a special twist. The filmmakers’ compassion and ambition led to a high-quality film which received funding from CineSud, after winning the second prize at the pitching contest in March. Larry and Maurizio told us how the production went and which challenges they had to solve.

“Probably due to the fact that this was a student set after all we shot for too long almost every day.”

Getting the idea

Maurizio: “I am a fan of action films and police series since a long time already that’s why I wanted to do something in this genre. During pitching sessions in school we then tried to convince our class to choose my story. It is a story that I wrote from scratch, specifically for the subject “fiction”. I did in fact have unfinished ideas from earlier projects but I found it nicer to be able to start something new. Actually the basis of my idea was the picture of a man in a driving car and a big teddy bear filled with drugs on the passenger seat. This idea was changed a lot and is now not really detectable anymore. This period took around 1 to 2 months which is actually quite fast but because we were close to the end of the school year it had to happen relatively fast.”

Writing the script

Larry: “Gil Vanroy wrote the script with the help of Ulrike Venken. We worked in a writers room including our teacher Christian Vervaet and myself. This was a nice way for me as director to be involved in the writing process. The script changed a little during shooting period but that was only out of necessities. For example, for one scene we needed to smoke in the villa we arranged. But just before we wanted to shoot that scene, the owner of the villa called. He said that the only thing he forgot to say was that we could not smoke in the villa. So I had to be creative by adjusting the script a little. In this case it actually worked out pretty well.”

Maurizio: “I wrote around 3 different versions myself but after it was decided that this story should go into production within our class, the tasks were divided. The idea was that a new scriptwriter, Gil Vanroy, should continue working on the story. This also brought about new and fresh ideas. But considering the fact that I was chosen as a producer I stayed involved with the evolution of the story. Together with our teacher Christan Vervaet, the scriptwriter Gil, the director Larry and a classmate we met every three to four weeks. During these meetings we exchanged ideas but in the end it was the scriptwriter who had to work on it individually and to develop a new proposal. In the end we had around ten versions of the scenario.”

From the scenario to the shot list

Larry: “For the shot list I had a meeting with the DOP, Sedrik Oliha, and our cameraman, Sotiri Wiersma. I trust on their expertise and they gave me good input for the shot list. After that meeting I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do and what was possible. It is always important to have good communication with the people involved before making the shot list.”

Preparing for the production

Maurizio: “I already gained some organisational experience at the youth movement. Sticking to the schedules and plannings is essential. Given that this project was a class assignment the different tasks were allocated within the class. For many it was their debut within their specific role (check IMDb for the specific distribution of roles). However, given that we are only 15 people in our class this was not enough yet. Luckily we could employ the second year’s students’ services who were happy to gain experiences on our set. It has also helped myself  to have been helping on master students’ sets in the same year. That’s how I could perfectly judge what was needed regarding the production. Luckily I was not alone in this either. A location scout was looking for good locations, the casting director was looking for actors, the people responsible for the costumes organised the clothes, etc…”

“Of course everything had to be financed as well. Therefore I calculated a financing plan to keep the costs as low as possible. We as students were responsible for the financing of the film. The school’s contribution was confined to the compensation for the actors. A first costs projection added up to 4750€. Together with the costs of the second, smaller short film production that we realised within the class, it amounted to around 6000€. This number divided by 15 students meant that everyone had to contribute 400€ from their own money in order to make the film. Concretely that also meant that we had to organise every event by ourselves such as a student-party, selling ice-cream in school and the successful pasta-day for parents and sympathizers. The latter brought about a nice sum of 3000€. But when the production day neared and the first shooting plans were made, it became obvious that the planned four days would not be enough. Of course this brought more costs. That is why the funding from CineSud  was more than welcome for us. Via our classmate Tim Sagl we got the idea to present our story to the CineSud jury. We applied for the pitch of CineSud during the Euregion Film Festival. Larry and I were not really timid to stand in front of a group of people, so why not. Our plan was to make it fresh, direct and outstanding because according to us humour is a strong trump. This also became apparent in the jury’s comments after we received the second place and a cash prize of 750€. Not only this was interesting for me, but also the possibility of collaborating and networking.”

“Finding actors also took some time. Our teacher could help us through his own contacts within the fiction field. Next to that, we met Guido de Craene (one of the main actors, red.) during the Euregion Film Festival in Heerlen. After a long search we found a cast which we found fits well together and worked well within the story. In order to prevent problems on the set we organised a table reading one week before the shooting started. Like this we could receive some last remarks and change some last sentences for a final shooting script. Also the costumes were fitted one last time.”

The production

Maurizio: “The production schedule and the production progress was mainly Indra Jacob’s responsibility. Luckily for me as the producer I did not have a lot of work to do during the actual shooting days and regarding the production everything was alright. In collaboration with the managing team my task particularly was to be available at stand-by in case there was a problem to be solved. Probably due to the fact that this was a student set after all we shot for too long almost every day. When I realised that, sometimes I came to the set to make people aware of this but as a classmate I could not really control that. Luckily the actors were always satisfied with the catering and nobody saw it as a big problem. I think that this just belongs to a student set anyway. The atmosphere was positive and good. Director Larry also stepped in to make everyone happy even though we might have to shoot longer. However, the days were surely tough and long for everyone. That was not to be underestimated. Within the 5 shooting days we decided to shoot some of the car and drone scenes at another moment because firstly, there would not have been enough time otherwise and secondly, we did not want to bother the actors with shots in which they do not have to act.”

Editing

Larry: “Jelle Vanroy did the edit. Most of the time I was with him during this period. We had a good workflow together even though we did not have too much time on our hands for the edit. Because we did not have a lot of time the edit did not really differ from the shooting script. I usually don’t like to play it safe but in this case we had to.”

Working with sound

Larry: “I also make music myself so I started to look in my own network. I contacted Gert-Jan van Stiphout and he was immediately down to work. He is a close friend of mine. I have worked with him before multiple times so I knew he was the right one for the job. He already had some experience in doing music for video’s but only commercials or fashion films. For him this was his first time working on a short movie. Usually when we work together we only make music. Also time was not our friend in the post production so it was definitely a bit of a challenge.”

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