Dutch TV shingles crank up films

Eyeworks to produce 2 features per year, IdtV increases slate

AMSTERDAM — Two of Holland’s biggest TV groups — Eyeworks and IdtV — are rapidly stepping up their involvement in film.

Three-year old TV company Eyeworks hung out its film shingle this year. CEO Reinout Oerlemans says the film side will begin producing two features per year.

The first one, an English-language film expected to roll out at year end, “Into Africa,” is clearly intended to travel beyond Dutch borders.

The film is about the life of the late Dutch Baron Hugo Van Lawijk, an eight-time Emmy winner for his wildlife films, among them “Serengeti Symphony.” Lawijk died in 2002 in Tanzania where he’d lived and worked with his wife, famed anthropologist Jane Goodall.

Eyeworks has established a solid track record in TV — some 33 of its 36 format titles launched last year were originated inhouse. Its format “Test the Nation” has been sold to some 25 territories around the globe.

Will TV success translate to film? “We know it’s an entirely different ballgame,” says Oerlemans, one of the reasons he’s brought aboard experienced producer Rolf Koot to head up the drama unit and launch the first slate of feature films.

Koot produced several of Dutch director Jean Van de Velde’s pics, including “Leak,” which won four Golden Calfs, the Dutch answer to the Oscars. Van de Velde is currently scripting “Into Africa.”

Also on the Eyeworks development slate is “The Chairman,” a pic based a book by bestselling Dutch author Ronald Giphart.

IdtV, Holland’s second-biggest TV production company, established a film arm in 1999 under the auspices of producer Anton Smit and current managing director Hanneke Niens, but it has recently taken some major steps to increase its film slate.

IdtV is the Continental subsidiary and prime mover behind the British outfit All3 Media’s programming push into Europe. In November it announced a move into Germany and is now making some serious advances toward Belgium.

It is in late-stage negotiations to put the finishing touches on the launch of its newest outfit New Holland Pictures in Australia. That move is likely to make the biggest impact in terms of IdtV’s expansion, especially in English-language film productions.

Shareholders in the new company will be IdtV Film, Smit, Dutch production company Fu Works and Brisbane-based outfit 4 Mats.

Among productions already earmarked to come out of the new Oz outfit are “The Afghan Bride,” a remake of Karim Traidia’s Dutch-lingo hit “The Polish Bride.”

“We have six or seven co-production English-language films on the front burner — they are just waiting for the joint venture to be signed off on,” says IdtV CEO Frank de Jonge.

The film arm has racked up a number of credits, including Oscar-nommed “Twin Sisters,” Golden Calf winner “Family,” Dutch box office hit “Godforsaken” and “Cloaca,” a 2003 pic that has since been adapted to English and was also directed by Kevin Spacey at London’s Old Vic Theater.

Set to premiere in 2005 are “Alive” and “Cloaka” lenser Willem Van de Sande Bakhuyzen’s “A Thousand Kisses,” and in early 2006, Ben Sombogaart’s “Bride Flight.”

Traidia, meanwhile, is at work on “Island Guests,” one of three IdtV TV movies to be released this year.

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