New Dutch Studios Bank On Foreign Interest

The opening of First Floor Film Factory, nicknamed “Polderwood,” last March in the below-sea-level city of Almere, was only the crowning of the international advance of Dutch studio facilities.

Besides the First Floor Film Factory, which has two stages and a backlot, the Netherlands has NOB, Amsterdam Studios, JE studios and a number of smaller studio complexes which offer more modest facilities.

In this area initiatives have been mushrooming lately, although some of the smaller studios offer barely more than an empty hall.

All this in a country which made 12 feature films last year and has only four tv stations, three public and one private.

Large or small, they all try to convince international producers of the general advantages of producing in Holland.

Costs are relatively low, as long as the dollar does not stay too far below the 2 Dutch guilder mark. Currently it runs 1.89 guilder. Craftsmen generally speak fluent English, the country is stable politically and economically, and the crews are mostly non-union.

Technicians got their experience in the ’70s and ’80s when they tried to build something of a domestic film industry. According to the Dutch, their lighting and sound men, set decorators and carpenters, actors and production managers learned to work long hours, to improvise and to refrain from unreasonable personal demands.

Amsterdam Studios and NOB say they are booked up.

Amsterdam Studios, formerly known as Cinetone, says it has a waiting list. The international users include feature film producers, like Allarts Productions for “Prospero’s Books,” and television companies.

When Cinetone went bankrupt in 1988, the heads of the set construction department, the brothers Goedemans, bought it. They now run the place, while continuing to do their old job. Tonny van Rooyen, in charge of acquisition and administration of Amsterdam Studios, says some British producers, mainly of commercials, who made inquiries about rates could not believe these were 24-hour rates instead of hour rates.

The bulk of television production still gravitates to the large facilities complex at NOB in Hilversum.

NOB, formerly part of the state television board NOS, the studio and facilities company went private in 1989 and now serves both the public broadcasters as private producers, including those who work mainly for the commercial channel RTL4.

It takes some time to adjust from the bureaucratic traditions to private competition with other companies, so the NOB as a whole is still in the red.

The studio facilities turn a profit and are constantly booked up. One hall, Studio 21, is permanently used by private producer John De Mol, who shoots all his expensive game shows there. De Mol is already constructing a new stage on the NOB studio lot.

His main competitor in television production, Joop Van Den Ende, constructed a studio in the village of Aalsmeer, some 15 miles from Amsterdam. It is being used for game shows, comedy series, soaps and also accommodates the offices of Van Den Ende’s JE Productions.

Some industry observers however feel that the acquisition skills of the Dutch studios lag behind their potential drawing power. In a market where the sudden emerging of so many new studios makes the offering side much stronger than the demand, some tough competition is expected and only those who understand the rules of that specific game will be able to survive.

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