In 2017 he received just under no Oscar nomination for the short animated film Bullet Time, which he co-authored. Fortunately, director and screenwriter Rudi Brekelmans has kept both feet on the ground. But on the basis of his own chosen path. The stubborn filmmaker has been turning left for years where others choose the right route. Not from Amsterdam, the stronghold of Dutch film, but from Tilburg. A conscious choice: "In Amsterdam you end up in a mould. If you fit in that mould, it's quite easy to find work after graduation. In itself beautiful, of course. But I don't want to conform myself. Tilburg gives me all the freedom to work from my own vision and creative basis." A surprisingly fertile basis. Brekelmans is currently finalising his directorial debut entitled Medulla, running his own production company RUBR Film and founding the Tilburg-based makers' collective Studio Nova.
A BROAD BRABANT-NETWORK
On Cinecitta's sunny garden terrace, Brekelmans proudly talks about Film & Animation Foundation Studio Nova: "In 2016, together with a number of fellow filmmakers, I took the step to create a workspace and knowledge institute for the Brabant film sector. In our building on the Goirkestraat we offer independent film professionals a workspace. We also bring them into contact with other makers and provide them with advice. Throughout Brabant you will find initiatives and all kinds of filmmakers are active, but there is a lack of a close-knit network. And that's exactly what's so important. By definition, you don't make films alone. We make sure that people know where to find each other. That they build on each other's successes, stories and work. If you like this as a filmmaker, you will find a workspace where you can think freely for a fixed amount per month. We also strive for an emancipated Brabant film landscape. Tilburg is located exactly between the film cities of Amsterdam and Antwerp and can therefore play a nice role in between."
COMMERCE IN THE SERVICE OF CREATIVITY
"In Tilburg you don't have to smoothen out your rough edges," Brekelmans continues. "They like that here. It may be the age-old difference between 'below the rivers' and 'above the rivers'. In both places you will find a different visual language. Here you will find the cradle of Van Gogh and Bosch, while there the realism of Rembrandt and Vermeer has its origins. The Brabant idiosyncrasy suits me. As a creative entrepreneur, I want to make beautiful things in the first place. Making my contribution to the canon. Earning a lot of money or making a career shouldn't really matter. But I have to keep myself alive. I do this with my commercial assignments, with which I also partly finance my artistic ambitions."
THANKS TO THE MAKER'S FUND
Brekelmans has been working on his directorial debut Medulla since 2017. A Flemish-Dutch psychological thriller with the leading role being played by the Flemish top actor Michaël Pas in an atmospheric monochrome setting. "The film is about a psychiatrist who becomes obsessed with the story of a client and is entirely shot in the Studio Nova building. For me, directing is the pinnacle of creativity. Everything comes together. Image, sound, story, every detail has to be right. And I'm responsible for everything. Complex but at the same time very special." The film project got off the ground thanks to support from the Makersfonds, an initiative of the municipality of Tilburg. Artists and creative entrepreneurs can apply for a small subsidy at this information desk. Brekelmans explains: "I think it's great that Tilburg - the city of makers - is putting its money where its mouth is. If you have a good plan, you will receive start-up money to get started. When the municipality saw that Medulla had potential, they added some subsidy to it. Paul Vermee, owner of Cinecitta, also contributed. Without this support, Medulla would only have remained an idea, so I am very grateful to my funders."
Photo: Merel-Pics Photography
NEW PEOPLE, NEW OPPORTUNITIES
"I'm now busy finishing my film in order to be able to submit it in time for film festivals. My tasks at Studio Nova have been put on the back burner for a while. In the coming years, Studio Nova will have to become more and more of a self-regulating organism. Something that will continue to develop without me by attracting new people and entering into collaborations with similar institutions in Brabant. Film is too expensive to make exclusively locally. I hope that in the end, the province will also realise that there is an enormous opportunity for the wider development of film."
CREATING COMPLETELY FREE
What about the further development of his films? Brekelmans laughs: "It would be nice if I had directed two feature films in ten years' time. And then in the way of my great examples such as Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson: working on one film for years, releasing it to the world and then moving on to the next project in peace and quiet. This calls for complete creative and financial freedom. My debut film will hopefully pave the way for me to achieve this. In any case, I look forward to working with Medulla to completely break through all the walls I have ever encountered."
THE GOLDEN TIP OF RUDI
"Creative enterprise is against the rocks, by shouting like Brugman, with far too little money and with a lot of goodwill, getting things done that really are not possible. Use your head to follow your heart and stay stubborn."
Medulla is expected to premiere in the autumn of 2019.