Directing transformation while undergoing it

“After my graduation as a producer at the Film Academy in 2000, I started my own production company. Over the years, I acquired directing and camera skills as well. While doing a lot of corporate films, travel programmes and reality shows, I kept asking myself questions about my relation to the profession. I felt the need to re-format established patterns and to re-develop my creative identity as a director.

In 2009, while doing research for a documentary about the phenomenon ‘2012, the end of the world as we know it’, I decided that the new Master’s Degree Programme was a great opportunity. I would be able to develop this project as well as investigate the theme of transformation and build my creative identity. To me, transformation is the most fascinating aspect in life. This fascination is always reflected in my work, in one way or another.

Transformation as a phenomenon has some interconnected aspects. First of all, there is this notion that our identity and our society can actually be manufactured. Our modern day world citizen has to deal with an overload of information and is exploring new ways how to deal with it. We went from consumer to producer, and from viewer to ‘responder’. To a certain extent, I do believe that we can design our personal and professional identity. It is the very reason why I chose to do this programme. Second, the process of transformation is something we are subjected to. We undergo transformations without completely controlling them.

My research is about the relevance of ceremonies and initiations accompanying any process of transformation. I went to Mexico in March and December 2012. The cyclic Maya calendar was coming to an end, starting a new circle. By some people this was interpreted in terms of the end of the world. I got the opportunity to film and participate in Mayan ceremonies. I worked without a script and completely intuitive. I never took the opportunity to work like this before, mainly because of my commercial background.

Currently, I am in the middle of this process of transformation myself. On the one hand side, I try to develop a more conscious, perhaps a better balanced creative identity. By acknowledging my fascination for transformation and by reflecting on it, I have much more focus during shooting. Furthermore, I see my role as a maker much more clearly. I don’t have to control the world as a condition for putting myself in a central position. It’s not that I will necessarily do so in some new project, but I now have much more confidence that I will find a form which bears my signature. And that my audience may very well relate to whatever observations I make.

On the other hand: I am subjected to the process of transformation. As a film maker and as a subject in the film, I can assure you this film is changing my life. Right now, I am starting the editing process. The question I am facing now is whether I will edit my footage myself or whether I will work with an established editor. So far, the coming about of this project has been realised all by myself. Both options have their pro’s and cons. Perhaps I’ll combine them.

Just this question alone implies the open character of the master program. The students are totally free to do whatever they want and whatever one believes to be relevant for their development is possible. This responsibility is very demanding. I hope that in the end, it’s rewarding as well.”

February 2013

Claire van der Poel

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