film director

He is no stranger to anybody interested in the Dutch filmmaking landscape. Martin Koolhoven is a Dutch film director and screenwriter. Internationally he is most known for Schnitzel Paradise (2005), Winter in Wartime (2008) and Brimstone (2016), which was his first film in English. It was released in 2017, after it premiered in the competition of the Venice Film Festival in 2016. An incredibly creative mind, successful at addressing not only local but also international audiences.

Born in the Hague, Martin’s path to filmmaking was not straight-forward. However, once he discovered his passion for creating audio-visual productions, all efforts poured in this direction. He first went on to study filmmaking in Belgium at Sint Lucas, ultimately following the courses and graduating from the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam.

His graduation project was the television movie “Duister licht” premiered in 1997, followed in 1999 by another telefilm: “SuzyQ”. The latter would be the breakthrough of Carice van Houten and the film debut of Michiel Huisman, both stars in the Game of Thrones series. SuzyQ also helped Koolhoven receiving the “Prijs van de stad Utrecht” and be recognised as the biggest film talent of that year.

His first mainstream success came in 2005 with “Het schnitzelparadijs”. Martin was the first director to have two films in the Dutch Cinema’s Top 20.
In 2008 he directed Oorlogswinter, his third production to win a Golden Film status in terms of numbers of cinema viewers. The film was also shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination.

Following a series of various television projects and collaborations, in 2016 he premiered Brimstone, his first English spoken film. The western featured Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Kit Harington and, again, Carice van Houten. It premiered in Venice and was his fifth production in a row to be considered a Dutch blockbuster.

Nowadays, together with Eddy Terstall, Martin is also conducting a series of masterclasses about storytelling the the similarities between being a film director and managing an organisation, a department, a small municipality or a bustling club.

During The Art Department the hybrid version Martin did two talks: one about storytelling and another one about about thinking big and making dreams come true.

Talk Storytelling

“Storytelling” is a popular word, but what does it mean? Storytelling is about how you convey a message. When you tell a message as a story, people remember that. But how do I tell a story? What is a story anyway? What requirements must a story meet? In short, when is a story a story? The simple questions, but do you know the answer? Should there be drama, plot, emotion? And why are these kinds of ingredients important if you want to convey a message? In his artist talk Martin Koolhoven shines a light on which properties a story must have in order to last. Of course larded by numerous film fragments.

Talk Thinking Big

With Brimstone Martin Koolhoven has succeeded in making a western of Hollywood proportions. With a budget of almost 15 million and world stars such as Guy Pearce, Kit Harrington, Dakota Fanning and ‘our’ very own Dutch Carice van Houten the film even belongs to an absolute top production by Hollywood standards. How did Koolhoven achieve this feat?

Martin Koolhoven worked both at home and abroad, with both Dutch crews and people from other cultures. Martin tells how he discovered unknown actors (such as Rifka Lodijzen and Carice van Houten) as well as what it is like to work with international stars such as Kit Harington and Guy Pearce. How to deal with intrusive producers, vain actors, obscure broadcasters, rigid funds and financiers who do not keep the agreements. Or how producers put their physical, mental and financial health on the line again and again to make their dream come true. How to get the best out of your cameramen, composers and of course your actors. About when to compromise and when to keep your foot down. About fighting a lost battle and the importance of allies and soul mates. About how sweet it tastes when the film that no one seemed to be waiting for is released and proves to be a success.

Martin explained how he managed to realize this mega production. What choices he made, the mistakes he did and most importantly what lessons he has learned.