The Directors: Basha de Bruijn
Basha has the ability to see and explore beauty in the ordinary, creating unexpected and atmospheric sets and possessing a passion for storytelling focusing on real human interaction. This attention to detail in the ordinary has gained her numerous awards and critical acclaim.
Basha de Bruijn skipped university and started doing what she loves the most, right after high school: making moving images and narratives. At the age of 19, she started directing music videos for various Dutch artists. At the age of 22, she shot her first international commercial.
Name: Basha de Bruijn
Repped by/in: Birth UK and France, The Netherlands @ Pink Rabbit, Germany @ Tempomedia
Awards: Bronze @ ADCN award for Directing, Silver Exprix Award
What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
What I love in a script is if the general idea is sourced from human behaviour/emotions/connections/interactions, in stead of numbers, figures, targets and user research. What does a brand, product or artist want to add to peoples lives? How does it effect the audience? If I feel I can resonate with a brand and their approach and I feel there is room for my creativity to add my point of view/feelings/emotions/thoughts on the subject I get all excited and hyped up.
How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
First I find myself a song that resonates with the feeling I get when I read a script or creative idea and put it on manic repeat. Then I set myself down with pen and paper and just start writing. Words and incoherent sentences and an occasional doodle.
In that phase I always try to find the answer to the question: Why am I the one and only person to direct this piece and what is my point of view on this? If I (sort of) found that answer (sometimes I don’t find it and then I know the script is not for me) I start writing down my interpretation of the script (on the actual computer). Only after I wrote my entire V1 of the treatment I will start browsing visuals. Because I don’t want the idea to be influenced by visuals but the other way around. I believe the visuals are in service of the idea.
If the script is for a brand that you’re not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you’re new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?
Always do research. For whatever you do in life.
For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
Pfjiew that’s a really hard question because that shifts throughout the timeline of the process. But I think, in the end, the relationship you have with the creative team is the most important when you look at making ‘an Ad’. And even though it can be tough love form time to time, you must work together to make things work. They often know the client way better and much longer than you do and they are the ones that planted the seed (the creative idea) that you need to let flourish (how poetic ;)).
Also, they often have amazing ideas if you are willing to listen to them. And most of them have a great sense of humour.
The relationship with my DOP is, on a personal level, the most important on a shoot (and prep). I totally rely on their character, taste and judgment. DOP’s are the superstars and I will always be in awe of them, because they are the coolest and nerdiest people in the industry and I love them.
Producers. They are the mothers and fathers of the production. The ones that need our unconditional love and respect. Without them there would be nothing. Always be thankful for these superhumans.
What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
Human interaction, Human behaviour and Human emotions and that can come in many forms. Through super stylistic and arty pieces but also through an animation or documentary. I really start to understand, that for me, the joy of filmmaking and film devouring, is rooted in human emotions, interactions, wants and needs. A fashion film without a story or underlying idea or message doesn’t really interests me.
What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
That I’m good with kids.
I hate kids.
No just kidding, I love kids and I love working with them. But what I sometimes do feel, is that, because I’ve worked with kids a lot and a lot of my films feel ‘positive’ and ‘light’, I’m not suitable for darker or heavier subjects. I would love to make something that will tear you heart and leaves you crying on the ground :)
Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?
Yes, I feel like they are on every shoot nowadays. And I do understand why clients and agencies want to incorporate them in the process. BUT sometimes it can really suffocate the creative process. You need some space to move around in order to get something inspiring and notable, and if that leash is too tight it can suffocate something that is supposed to be creative.
But on the other hand, cost-controllers are (most of the times) humans too. And if you can really explain WHY you need a specific thing, they are (in my experience) wiling to listen to you and production. You only need strong arguments for things you don’t know yet, which makes this creative game sometimes awfully politically.
What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?
Whahaha well we are in a problem solving business right, so I got plenty? But I think the craziest must have been a shoot where, for whatever reason, half of the extra’s didn’t show up on time and I had every member of video village (clients, creatives, producers) being an extra. We were recreating the fall of the Berlin Wall and rain was pouring down, and there were just not enough extras to make it believable. The shot where one of the clients (a bank) was pulled up the Berlin-wall and hugged by an Hungarian extra made the final cut hahaha. Later she told me she never had such and exciting shoot.
How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
It’s hard sometimes because there are so many different interests that it can get messy. But I believe that as a director it is your responsibility to be collaborative and you have to find a way to make it work. Just like in any relationship communication can come a long way. Know what you want to fight for and make that fight worth it, but also know when you can give a little bit too later get a little bit back in return.
What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?
I’m all for it!! And yes absolutely. I’ve learned everything through people that took the time to mentor me (I’ve never been to film school), so I’m trying to do as much as I can for young filmmakers, because I know how important apprenticeships are. Most of the time you only need one person that lets you in and shows you just a tiny piece of the robes to get you started. Because of Covid it’s really hard to get extra people on set, but when things are opening up a little bit more, I would really love for students to come to my set again. For now I give online guest lessons on dutch film schools. As an industry we are responsible for diversity and we need to make room for new and diverse talent. Not only in front, but especially behind the camera, because they are the ones that make the stories.
How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?
To be honest I think there is only going to be more work in this industry. People got so reliant (and addicted) on their screens, and the stories that people want to see and hear will get to them through electronic devices. That has it’s pro’s and con’s but actually I’m pretty positive and I feel that quality will always survive and the demand of good content will grow.
One of the habits I really like is less clients on set. Because the are remote they can really focus on what you will eventually see on screen, so the feedback is way more constructive. Also, because they are all in a chat group, people think twice or three times before they say something, wheres before people would just shout something insignificant in video-village and everyone would panic for absolutely no reason. Now they are more focussed. I like that. Haha.
Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you’re working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?
Well it’s pretty much part of the job, but it has it’s limits. I absolutely keep it in mind, and I’m fully aware of how people consume video, and I understand we need different crops for different formats, and I’m more than willing to make that work, but the problem is that clients ask more (150 deliverables (no joke)) but you get the same amount of time (and budget) for pre and post production. That is really problematic and jeopardises the quality of execution. Clients have to understand that getting more deliverables means giving (and buying) more time.
What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future- facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals etc)?
I can really enjoy a good interactive story or, if done right, a VR experience and I would love to get some more knowledge and experience when it comes to storytelling in different ways.
But I also really like the old fashioned way of filmmaking, just like I still like to read an amazing paperback, or write with pen and paper in my journal. I don’t think one thing has to exclude the other.
We just have to make sure that we (as directors/creatives) don’t become slaves of technology. We can use technology, but we have to make sure technology doesn’t use us.
Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
Tinder - Single not Sorry
Because I really drew inspiration out of my own single life, so I believe you feel realness. And I think this one will age well, because it’s about having fun and freedom, and people will always be drawn to that. Also the creative team was amazing and we had such a great time during the shoot. Man I wish I could go back to that shoot again
Appelsap - One Love
I’m so proud of this piece because it’s an example of why teamwork is so important. Everyone that worked on this one did it for the love, and I believe you feel that when you watch it. Just a bunch of people trying to make the best film possible. That’s powerful shit.
Alzheimer’s - Heart story
This was the first time, as a young filmmaker, where I sort of felt that I knew what I was doing. Looking back at it, I would have done some things different now, but for me this was a powerful moment. It was the first time I realised that things I wrote down could actually come to life on screen, and that I had a voice in the execution. I felt so supported by the whole crew in what I was doing, as a young filmmaker that’s so important.
Mahler Adagietto – 4th Movement from Symphony No.5
This video is close to my heart because it shows you don’t need a lot to make films. My absurdly talented DOP friend Myrthe Mosterman, actress Eva Bartels and I rented a shed in the Belgian woods to work on this personal project. It ended up winning the Classical Comeback Award. It is a reminder to me that, no matter what happens, or how broke you are, you can always make films.
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