Please tell us your creative process – are most of the briefs open and you then come up with the creative ideas yourself and make the film?
The best projects are like that, yes. I really love creating concepts, because somehow they feel like the most playful part. You get to look at everything around you as an inspiration and be really obsessive about one particular subject. And after I film it, I get to move on to something completely different to be obsessed by.
When advertising agencies or brands ask me to interpret a certain script or concept, I always try to wiggle in that bit of obsessive playfulness and I think it works!
Do you work in a systematic way – playing around with ideas for a client or do you have a file of experiments you apply to various jobs?
I have a few wishlist concepts and storyboards stacked away in my studio, but somehow I always end up thinking of something new for a client. The challenge of creating something fresh that fits well with the client’s needs is one that I really enjoy taking on.
For instance, Golden Boy. How did that come about and how did you sell the idea of using your hairy hamster for a beauty ad?
The idea for Golden Boy came about when I was asked by an Australian company to make a film for their new app. The brief was incredibly open: film anything you want, as long as you shoot it with our new app. So I started thinking: What do I want to film more than anything in the world? Long haired guinea pigs. That was pretty much my whole thinking process.
A few years before, I had graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven with film portraits of Persian show cats. While researching that project, I stumbled upon pictures of show guinea pigs. They looked amazing, but cats were my main obsession back then.
This time though, guinea pigs were all I could think of. So when the app company announced that they would have to postpone the project, I decided to go ahead and make the guinea pig film as a passion project.
No actual brand was involved in the end, but I am delighted about the positive reception that I received from many cosmetics brands.
What were the main challenges of making Golden Boy?
Well, Golden Boy was an absolute pleasure to work with! He is of course a pro: he had been going to many a pet show long before I ‘discovered’ him. And he was very comfortable being groomed by Dana Jansen, the owner.
Do you have regular people you like to collaborate with? Sound effects, for instance, play a key part of your videos.
Sound is the trickiest part in film, but collaborating with Flavia Faas has always made it a joyful process. I like how she’s a little nutty in the way that she plays with the concept of sound, but is extremely meticulous in how she puts it together to match every detail of the visuals.
My brother Yme de Jong is a sound designer and we also work together on quite a few projects. It’s perfect, because he knows exactly what I want and vice versa.
Where did you learn the film techniques you use – everything from animation to live action?
I did not go to a film school and I was educated as a designer. The focus on concepts at the Design Academy Eindhoven is a lot bigger than the focus on techniques. So I may have learned a bit in school, but a bunch more in making it up as I go along. Which is fun! Youtube is a dear dear friend and teacher.
And wherever I don’t know how to do something, there’s always a skilled professional that can do it for me.
What would be your dream directing job?
Somehow I have never directed a music video, so that is something I would love to do some day soon. And I would also want to make a proper fashion film that is stylish and luxurious, but still quirky, cause that’s how I like ‘m.
List five inspirations that have connected with you recently:
– I would love to go see Bernini’s sculptures at the Galleria Borghese, because some of them play like movies when you walk around them.
– And this is as important as a classical sculptor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqTXIKmROX4
– I’ve been looking at a lot of René Magritte’s portraits and think they are mesmerizing.
– The chapter ‘Puppy Love’ from this American Life is truly inspiring: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/233/starting-from-scratch
– These awkward teenagers are the best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H9PQ6jt9us