Focus on Filmmakers: Jeroen Pool

Jeroen Pool The CutJeroen Pool is the director and producer of short documentary The Cut, which took home the Best Non-Fiction Short Film prize at the 2015 Winchester Short Film Festival.

The Cut is a documentary about London-based Italian hairdresser Rodrigo Mikascisti, who is not your average hairdresser. For him the outer beauty, the sculpture, is inextricably linked with the inner beauty, the soul. Anyone can cut hair, but hairdressing is about truly understanding and connecting with the person whose hair you are cutting. It’s a process in which the mirror becomes a weapon and cutting hair becomes a search for a person’s innermost feelings about themselves.

Jeroen offers us insights into the making of his first film, the process of collaboration, and the organic process of discovering subjects for films.

What training did you undertake to become a filmmaker?

Apart from a theoretical course at university, I’ve never gone to film school. I’m actually trained as a historian and hold an MA at the University of Amsterdam. I learned by doing: interning and, later, working at production companies in Amsterdam, Stockholm and London, mostly as researcher and production assistant.

This was all mostly office-based though – only later, in my late 20’s, did I actually start to work on location. But in all honesty, this has all been very limiting too; I got a lucky break to work as the production manager on a big-label music video in London, which actually (and quite funnily) was my first experience on set. I felt quite a bit out of place during this shoot.
In other words, I don’t consider myself to have any training. Over the past years I’ve mostly soaked in a lot of ideas and insights about what I feel makes a good documentary. Especially my time in Sweden, working at production company Story, was a really informative period. During that time I worked with very talented directors, so I got to learn a lot from them.

Where do you get your inspiration for your projects?

I think it’s meeting the right people or being in the right place at the right moment, combined with natural interests you might already have personally.
I met Rodrigo (subject of The Cut) by chance, and I was immediately drawn to his personality and views on beauty and society. It was a now or never moment for me; I realized that if I ever wanted to start making my own films, this should really be it.

So it was a combination of character (Rodrigo), interesting themes (the themes of beauty and society) and something that had been brewing inside of me for a long time already (wanting to create something of my own).

Jeroen Pool The Cut 2

DOP Edgar Dubrovskiy and The Cut subject Rodrigo Mikascisti celebrate at the Winchester Short Film Festival 2015

How do you go about financing your projects?

The Cut was fully self-funded. I’m hoping to get some research funding from film institutes for a new short documentary film I’m currently developing.

How do you cast your films?

The cast finds me!

What cameras do you use, and why?

The Cut was shot on an Arri Amira, but I don’t own any camera myself. I’ve just finished a short film I made on commission using an iPhone 6, which worked out pretty well.
In the end the only question for me is what camera works best to make your creative vision come alive.

What size crew do you have on your sets, and what roles are the most invaluable?

For The Cut we had a crew of about eight on set. Every role is important, especially because every person brings his or her own energy to the set. This translates into how the actual filming goes.

The people I interacted with mostly in terms of creative vision were DOP Edgar Dubrovskiy and later on editor Daan Wijdeveld. Both had great ideas of their own.

Jeroen Pool The Cut

Image © Jeroen Pool

How did you go about setting the soundtrack for The Cut?

I’m involved every step of the way in the audio process. We first used a stand-in soundtrack (Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar music) and then I asked a talented producer and friend, John Blackwood a.k.a. Zebra Safari, to make the original music. I asked him to create something that would have a similar feel. Throughout the process, we went back and forth in making changes to the music. John really made it his own and did a great job.

How do you split your time for pre-production, production, and post-production, and which is the most important for you?

It depends on the project, but for The Cut the post-production took much longer than the actual production. All three stages are important: from formulating the idea, getting the actual material for your film, to the question of how you’re using that material. Every phase is a rewrite of the film, so every phase really matters.

What’s the best piece of filmmaking advice you’ve been given?

One insight I’ve been given and that really resonated with me was given to me by documentary director Michel Wenzer, who I hold in very high esteem. He told me about how he approaches the making of his films: “The film is already done. You just have to find it. And when it’s done, you know it’s done – nobody should touch it anymore.”

What I like so much about this approach is that it really encourages you to explore the subject of your film in an open way, rather than for instance putting a pre-conceived structure on the film (i.e. “I want to find three main characters, doing this and this”). It feels very organic. It’s an approach I’d like to try for my next film.

Jeroen Pool The Cut

DOP Edgar Dubrovskiy and The Cut subject Rodrigo Mikascisti talk with British filmmaker Anna Cady at The Winchester Short Film Festival 2015

What other film makers do you most admire?

A major influence for me is the Italian director Yuri Ancarani. He makes beautifully crafted documentaries about the interplay between humans and machines. His short Il Capo, about a supervisor in the marble quarries of Carrara who is guiding the machines only by hand gestures, is fantastic.

Other filmmakers who I admire are the Swedish directors Mia Engberg and Michel Wenzer. They each make films that are personal in one way, but universal in another. Their films are poetic, almost dream-like and always question how we as societies approach people and events.

All of these filmmakers have a combination of personal relation with the subject and a great sense of craftsmanship in their work that I’m aspiring to.

How important are film festivals and competitions to you?

Film festivals are a great way to share your work with a dedicated audience. In this era of online and VOD, there is still nothing quite like having your film shown on the big screen. It’s especially rewarding when festivals are as well-organised as the Winchester Short Film Festival is – being selected for festivals like yours and actually winning an award makes me a proud man. Mind you, not just of myself, but of the whole team: the best moment was to see Rodrigo and DOP Edgar shine at the award ceremony. It’s rewarding to receive recognition for the team’s hard work.

Jeroen Pool The Cut

Image © Jeroen Pool

What advice would you pass on to burgeoning film makers?

Do it and do it in your own way and in your own time. Don’t feel trapped by how the film industry is set up, or assume that things should be done in certain ways. In the end it is only about letting your own passion, curiosity and creativity come out.

What are your future plans?

Even though I’ve moved away from London and am now based in Stockholm, Sweden, I’m working internationally. I’ve been commissioned to make a series of portrait films about the residents of a small island in the Netherlands. I’m also developing my next short documentary film, set in the cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa, Italy.

This journey of filmmaking really has just started for me, so I’m curious to see where it will lead.

 

Images © Winchester Short Film Festival, unless stated otherwise.

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