“Creating can be a lonely and vulnerable process and I try to support as much as needed”
– The Dutch Producer on the Move talks about her work with writers and directors, and her ambitions for the future
Iris Otten is one of the three producers at Amsterdam-based Pupkin Film, where she works on author driven films and authentic family content. She has produced multiple Golden Calf winning films, such as The Peter Pan Man, by Michiel ten Horn, and We Will Never Be Royals, by Mees Peijnenburg; the Emmy nominated productions Boys [+see also:
interview: Jonas Smulders
film profile], by Mischa Kamp; the IFFR Tiger Competition selected and award-winning debut features Quality Time [+see also:
interview: Daan Bakker
film profile] by Daan Bakker and Take Me Somewhere Nice [+see also:
interview: Ena Sendijarević
film profile] by Ena Sendijarevic. Iris was selected to participate in the EFP’s Producers on the Move for 2021. We had a chat with her to learn a little more about what type of producer she considers herself to be, and what it means to work in a small country such as the Netherlands.
Cineuropa: What defines you as a producer?
Iris Otten: I feel responsible for the choice of stories I bring into the world. Maybe it is because I am a pastor’s daughter. I was raised surrounded by stories, seeing the influence of my father’s sermons was impressive. I guess I want to give people hopeful stories as well. Stories about finding our place in the world. Therefore I choose the people and projects I dedicate my time to very consciously. In my work, I am highly involved in guiding writers and directors in the process of creating. It can be a lonely and vulnerable process and I try to support as much as needed. Trust is very important in that process, to be able to discuss what is best for the project. So I am supportive, but I also try and challenge them to make more of their ideas. A good example is the film Quality Time by Daan Bakker. I always had the feeling his ideas were special, but also quite experimental. And they kept on changing quite a lot as well. It really took a lot of listening and asking critical questions to streamline that process. And the result shows for it; the ideas really came to life. I feel very passionate about the projects and filmmakers I am working with and I hope filmmakers can be the best version of themselves when we work together.
How do you want to develop this quest for optimism?
I feel the urge to show more of my own identity within the company and I am currently exploring how to frame this. With this angle, I want to keep on producing artistic crossover films and family content. And I hope to attract a clear audience of people ranging from 30 to 45 years of age — basically people like myself. But then again, for the family content I produce, I like to entertain and educate children. I know they are not an easy target audience for quality drama so I try to address their parents so that they can watch our films as a family. These children are our audiences of the future. Another personal aim is that I want to produce in a more sustainable way. This period of the pandemic made me much more aware of how we live on this planet, with the climate crisis in particular. So I want to do my share and work more sustainably. Ultimately, I hope to produce local yet universal stories targeted at the international stage.
What is it like to produce such films in the Netherlands?
There is a relatively small territory in which we can work, due to a narrow language area. This, in turn, results in smaller budgets as well. On the other hand, there is a lot of opportunity in making more qualitative Dutch content and making this content more accessible to world audiences. It is not so easy since we do not have the most beautiful language in the world, according to the sales agents at least. But I think this is changing since original content is becoming more widespread and people around the world are getting used to other languages more. In terms of national releases of artistic films, it is quite hopeless due to the immense competition with international films. Luckily, the artistic Dutch film is doing quite well in the international film festival circuit with directors such as Sacha Polak, Ena Sendijarevic and Halina Reijn.
What are current projects you are working on?
Amongst other projects, I am currently producing the high-end family series Lampie, based on the internationally acclaimed children’s novel by Annet Schaap. My Producer on the Move project is The Yellow Dot by David Lammers. The Yellow Dot is a film about an ambitious and charismatic 34-year-old marketing manager called Macy. One day, at her work, while she is reviewing an eye-tracking study of consumer behavior, she sees a single yellow dot moving against all the other dots. This single dot confronts her with her own life. Where is she headed, what is driving her? What is the purpose of her life? She will only be able to find answers to these questions when she lets go of the narrative she has created for herself. It feels like a full circle: 20 years ago, the graduation film of David and myself, Alfred Maassens last day, was selected for Cannes Cinéfondation. And now we are back together at Cannes 2021 presenting his new project The Yellow Dot.