Filmmaking activity has increased steadily in the Netherlands from the moment the cash rebate system was introduced in 2014. The rebate is worth up to 35% for eligible film production costs and 30% for high-end TV series.
The sector received a particular boost when Christopher Nolan shot part of Dunkirk in the territory a few years ago. Since then, other big US projects have come to the Netherlands, including Warner Bros.' and Amazon Studios’ adaptation of The Goldfinch.
“Part of our story takes place in Amsterdam and Amsterdam is an incredibly cinematic city,” says Mari-Jo Winkler, the film’s executive producer. “Every time I set out to make a film, we always look at where the story takes place: can we go there, is it affordable, is there a crew base, is there an infrastructure to be able to film the real place? I feel we got very lucky with Amsterdam. We scouted it and fell in love with it.”
The filmmakers shot more exteriors than originally planned and “brought in snow to create a beautiful snowy atmosphere on the canals”. The city authorities were welcoming and co-operative. “We very quickly got a grasp of the rebate system,” Winkler adds. “Bas van der Ree [Netherlands film commissioner] helped to walk us through that and our local line producer Erwin Godschalk is a seasoned professional.
Every crew member he introduced us to, from the art department to the technical crew to the production staff and transportation team, was incredibly professional and well skilled.”
Other recent projects to shoot in the Netherlands include Amazon’s adult animation series Undone (made in collaboration with local production company Submarine), Dan Friedkin’s Lyrebird and parts of series one and two of BBC America’s Killing Eve.
Post-production and animation have also picked up dramatically since the incentive was put in place. Even when films do not shoot in the Netherlands, some will access the incentive by doing post-production in the country, hiring Dutch heads of department and actors, or using the Netherlands as a base for VFX work.
There’s also been a boost in local productions, including a new Netflix-backed original psychological horror series, Ares, starring Jade Olieberg and Tobias Kersloot, which filmed in Amsterdam last year.
Belgian producers work especially closely with their Dutch partners. “We have the same language and more or less the same culture,” says Bart Van Langendonck, founder of Savage Film, which shot prison scenes for its gangster film Racer And The Jailbird in the Netherlands. “Obviously, the Dutch are logical partners for our projects.”
Co-productions between the two nations can make use of both the Dutch incentive and the Belgian tax shelter. There are also reciprocal arrangements in place between the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and its Dutch equivalent, the Netherlands Film Fund. Crew members tend to work in both countries and often distributors will pick up rights for all of Benelux.
If Belgian producers are their natural partners, Dutch producers are also working with Scandinavian countries, for example, on Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s The Alcohol Project, and with UK partners, including Vertigo’s London-set police series Bulletproof.
The main piece of practical advice Van Langendonck has for international producers coming to the Netherlands is to find Dutch co-producers “sensitive to your project”.
Thriving post-production companies such as Storm Amsterdam, Filmmore and Planet X are an added attraction for international productions, as is WarnierPosta, Netherlands’ market-leading audiopost facility for feature films and high-end TV drama.
“The Netherlands offers a great assortment of classical European locations and cutting-edge modern architecture,” John Trapman, head of Amsterdam Production Services, tells KFTV.
His company assisted with the Jason Bourne spin-off TV series Treadstone that partly shot in Amsterdam and the Netflix series Family Business. “The Netherlands also offers an assortment of residential homes and apartments not found in many other countries. The Dutch have always been proud of their interior design and are not afraid to share it.”
The film business is concentrated around the picturesque city of Amsterdam, which can get crowded, but Rotterdam, The Hague and other cities offer a variety of shooting options, and impressively, places like Dordrecht and Delft are even being used as doubles for Amsterdam.
One of the huge drawcards for international filmmakers is the beautiful Dutch light, a quality mentioned frequently by cinematographers.
The first port of call for any international production team looking to shoot in the country should be the Netherlands Film Commission, headed up by Bas van der Ree. But there are also several city and regional film commissions easing the way for international producers.
“The Dutch are practical people and it is relatively easy to shoot in The Netherlands. Each council has its own rules and it’s best to go through a local producer who knows the ins and outs of the process,” says Trapman.
Fast-improving crews and growing post-production expertise are making the Netherlands increasingly attractive.
“I would put Dutch crew up amongst the best to be found anywhere,” insists Trapman. “They are greatly experienced and extremely practical. There is no question that several major shoots could be crewed at the same time.”
The country’s main airport, Amsterdam’s Schiphol, has flights to almost every international destination. The country also boasts excellent road and rail infrastructure.