"Counterparts" was made for the Entertainment Experience.
Won the International Emmy Award
Remco Albrecht, CEO of Albrecht Construct and part-time womanizer, reluctantly celebrates his 65th birthday when his life takes a turn for the worse. His once mistress shows up uninvited at his party and turns out to be pregnant, his rebellious children try everything to humiliate him at his party and his business partners are scheming behind his back to sell the company. Yet in the end, nothing is what it seems.
Awards: International Emmy Award
THE ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE
On September 20, 2011, Paul Verhoeven presented his latest project: a user generated film. He called on the public to apply as a screenwriter, actor or filmmaker. Over a period of several months, that audience would submit scripts that would compose the film, in 8 separate sequels. The first part was written by Kim van Kooten. The Entertainment community that arose here also put together their own teams to film the individual parts.
With a budget of 1.5 million euros, Verhoeven would also film the individual parts a few weeks later.
In the end, this resulted in the film : "Steekspel" for Verhoeven. The "IO Film Productions" team of Brenninkmeijer combined their 8 parts with a budget of € 500 to form the feature film "Lotgenoten".
So the first part was written by Kim van Kooten. Several teams have been involved right from the start, however, putting together the IO Film Productions team took a little more time. This part was therefore not shot first, but during the shooting period of part three.
For optimal production value, we were looking for a clothing store that is slightly different than usual. Together with the opening shot we came up with at Schiphol, we chose the MEXX clothing store in the departure hall.
Via Mischa van der Klei we also hit the bull's-eye with a monumental villa in Wassenaar that would serve as our exterior and many other smaller locations yet to be written.
So part 2 was the first part we shot. Getting a complete team together within a few days is a challenge in itself. Fortunately, Stephan Brenninkmeijer had just wrapped his film "Caged" and had a nice collaboration with several people who also wanted to work on this project. As with Caged, this would also be an excellent project to run under time pressure and with few resources.
Stephan brought in his cameraman Robert Berger and also chose old friends Martijn van Hese, Marleen Maathuis and Mischa van der Klei. Later he would add Heidi Groen and Nienke Brinkhuis with whom he had worked before. The rest were chosen from the group of people who signed up to join our team.
The first scene was the drug intoxication of Lieke and Merel. Under the watchful eyes of a large poster, an atmosphere was quickly created that would influence the rest of the course of the Lieke / Merel line. A great moment where Merel bends over Lieke. The tension was immediately palpable and in that first scene it became clear ... there is more going on between the two than just 'friends'. Not knowing how the script would develop, Stephan kept that thought in mind.
This cinematic moment in particular immediately drew the attention of the Entertainment Experience organization. Martin Koolhoven paid extensive attention to it and it immediately became clear that the bar was set high for all teams. Later Paul Verhoeven would also indicate that he had taken over ideas from the IO Film Productions team.
Part 2 became our first glorious victory!!
After reading the script, Stephan thought it would be an interesting experiment to run a "Long take" of more than 4 minutes. Normally a hellish job in terms of preparation because the blocking has to be perfect.
The opening of our Part 3 was shot in 2.5 hours. The extras patiently repeated their routine each time.
After the long shot, we shot the so-called "tampon scene". The original script said that Lieke would see the tampon in a trash can. However, it made more sense to let a tampon float in the toilet. Paul Verhoeven picked up our idea from us in his Part 3.
It took us 2 days to shoot Part 3 as well as our missing Part 1.
Part 3 gave us our 2nd victory.
We had hectic weeks of shooting, promotion and getting the online votes for the victory, but also getting the entire production done and often working through the night. Together with the uncertainty of scripts and everything on short term, we decided it was time for a short break. It was Christmas time and a number of us took a well deserved time-out.
We knew in advance that we would not get Part 4 ready in time for the win. Stephan also felt the need to make room for new fighting spirit among the other teams.
With new crew members and new (additional) roles, we succeeded in creating a "calm before the storm". Nienke Brinkhuis was added to the cast to play the role of Maaike. Stephan knew her from previous projects such as "Swingers", "The Italian Connection" and "Lilith" and he knew she would leave an impression. Furthermore, in this episode a number of small roles were filled by Hanny Arnold, her husband Walter Smithuis, Anouk Briefjes, Wouter Dooijeweerd and Wigger Verschoor.
Where all teams opted for a raging Remco, Stephan opted for an icy calm variant. With repressed anger, its power becomes much stronger. Everyone agreed ... this was Remco's finest hour.
A big plot twist was added at the last minute when it appears that Remco has recorded the blackmail conversation. These are ideas that arise at the spur of the moment and often have major impact.
Part 4 was uploaded 2 hours before the deadline.
The script of Part 5 was released and it turned out it contained a love scene between Merel and Remco. Stephan thought this was unbelievable and offered no depth. Firstly, our Remco is of the respectable age of 75 years and our Merel is in her early 20s. A sexual affair with such a age gap is not necessarily unheard of, but it would still require extra explanation.
Stephan has therefore rewritten the script with a Remco who wants to bribe Merel to be Lieke's girlfriend. An earlier fatal accident is the basis for this in which Lieke's best friend died. This also immediately explains Lieke's rebellious and excessive behavior and why she closed herself off emotionally.
How painful it is when one scene later we see Lieke slap Merel in the face because she suspects that Merel and Remco are having an affair. One of the most memorable scenes from the movie. Dutch Late Show on national television "De Wereld Draait Door" aired our scene where Matthijs van Nieuwkerk indicated in a face-off with the scene of Paul Verhoeven that not only technically it made an impression, but the intense acting of Fransie and Marleen stood out.
Part 5 has thus become our 3rd victory!!
With this part, team "IO Film productions" is definitely moving away from the original script. Because it had to happen eventually. In part 6, Merel (Marleen Maathuis) and Tobias (Martijn van Hese) would kiss each other. The problem, however, was that memorable scene from part 2 in which Merel and Lieke (Fransie Groenendijk) lit the screen on fire. The chemistry between the girls and the tension that was started screamed to finally be redeemed. Stephan decided that now was the time.
In the original script Merel investigates and takes Tobias with him. A romance then arises. However, there was no room for a Merel and Tobias romance. The fact that Lieke takes the initiative (she also remembered the floating tampon) and takes Tobias with her was a lot more credible. Merel arrives to settle the argument and is drawn into the nighttime adventure. See ... now you have a dramatic situation! The quarrel between Merel and Lieke from part 5 is also worked out much nicer and Tobias finally gets something to play when he witnesses that first lesbian kiss.
The first day of shooting was for two extra scenes. In the first, Ineke and Nadja have a lunch appointment in a restaurant and play a power game at the expense of a poor waiter. Stephan approached Joshua Rubin for the role that he knew had perfect comedic timing. It creates some air in an otherwise heavy story. It was important to give Nadja more background, why she is so keen on revenge towards Remco. Her somewhat unstable personality became immediately clear. Later that evening, an extra scene was shot between Nadja and Wim (Cas van der Sande).
The last day of shooting would be a long one. We started at 6 pm with preparations and the car driving shots in which the tension between Merel and Lieke had to be clearly felt. Great performance by Marleen, Fransie and Martijn and a challenge for Pieter, who together with Stephan had to make beautiful shots with little lights inside the car.
Later that evening the "burglary" in the stakeout house and the difficult scene in the attic room where Lieke and Merel kiss for the first time. We wrapped at five in the morning. Completely wrecked but also satisfied with the result.
This episode is special for several reasons. The narration of this part was very diverse this time, lending itself to smooth parallel editing and brought humor as well as tension, romance and drama with it. The dramatic set ups also fell perfectly into place here. Many responded enthusiastically when the film was put online on the Entertainment Experience site. Blogger Wijnz, who faithfully reviewed all submissions with a sharp pen, called this part the best he had seen so far, including the parts by Paul Verhoeven. We couldn't get a better compliment.
Before part 7 was announced we were told that we could make up the last part 8 ourselves.
Due to a rather uninspired part 7, we decided to prepare for our own part 7 and 8. Since other lines had already been used in previous script parts, it seemed more logical to pay more attention to developing those lines.
Fleur Jansen was approached to co-write the script. Stephan already knew roughly how the story should end and how each character should get his or her comeuppance. Fred in particular had received relatively little screentime. Instead of an opportunistic Fred, or a brooding Fred, a calculating Fred was chosen. The Machiavelli, the Richellieu. We didn't know at the time how this would end, but by giving us the freedom with the ending we could come up with a nice plot for it.
Characters are usually more interesting if they have multiple layers. Wim, Nadja and Fred initially seem 'simple' crooks, but in part 6 it became clear that Nadja has more reasons to do what she does. For part 7, an extra layer was chosen for Wim, who we see at home with Gea, his wheelchair-bound wife (beautifully played by Eva van Heijningen). It turns out that Wim needs money for an experimental operation for her. She's already on the waiting list.
The Chinese party appears to have paid an advance to Fred for the imminent merger. An extra scene has been added for part 4. Akyan is a criminal organization looking for a cover. A money laundering company. Now that Remco refuses to sign, Fred is in trouble, especially since he has lost large parts of the advance at a poker table. Even the deposit to Nadja has been gambled.
Merel and Lieke hit it off in part 6 but it missed an emotional completion. Especially given the history of Lieke, which Remco told in part 5, this was absolutely necessary. A touching 'first time' is beautifully portrayed in part 7. Stephan wanted to keep it small and sensitive, but also not completely devoid of innocence. Fransie's vulnerability is very recognizable to many and leaves hardly anyone untouched.
Tobias seems to have lost everything and drowns his frustration in the cafe around the corner. We shot at cafe "Lotgenoten" in Duivendrecht. We could have called it Café "The World" because all the teams and production staff of the Entertainment Experience were ready to work with us. A nice scene was written where Tobias tries to pick up one cute girl after another, with a grumpy Barkeeper and a burnt boyfriend of one of the girls as the apotheosis. In the end, Tobias actually takes the main prize. Well-known faces such as Eric van der Velden, Evelien Bijnen, Nadine Kamer, Anneke Weerts and Idmar Sauer got their spotlight. In line with the project's atmosphere, we sought as much collaboration as possible for this last part. The daily television show on TV immediately grabbed the opportunity to shoot a nice closing item. The atmosphere was great and thanks to the production capacities of Mandy Vellekoop, this heavy shooting day also went smoothly. She even produced a 'real' news broadcast of RTL Z with Roland Koopman.
Because we shot parts 7 and 8 as one, it was the first time that we had to plan a considerable production period. Availability became a major problem, but in the end we were able to rely on all previous contacts. A mishmash of cameramen and shifting cast and crew stretched our capabilities to the limit. The Chinese actors were also difficult to find. In the end, the day before we shot the coolest heads who could still act. Sometimes it all just goes well.
The final part is actually 2 parts in 1 and ticks a 25 minutes on the clock.
Part 7/8 again became the winner and during the official premiere of "Steekspel" in Tuschinski theater, our last part was also shown in its entirety on the big screen.
Producing a complete feature film with a bizarrely low budget of € 500 is of course something special. Okay... equipment was brought in by our crew, cameramen who have their own camera, the sound, the makeup, the lights ... everything was brought in pro bono. The costs were mainly spent on catering and transportation. The speed with which we had to work also put a lot of pressure on it. Producing and shooting in 2 to 3 days is not for everyone. The end result is something to be extremely proud of. Especially the fact that we managed to maintain consistency over such a long shooting period and that the film looks just as convincing at the beginning as the end scenes is something that can go wrong even with large productions.
Stephan showed the trailer to Benelux Film Distributors, they immediately agreed to release the film on DVD and VoD. However, they didn't go for a cinema release. Stephan then personally made contact with Jochems Theaters and by showing the quality he managed to convince them to release the film for a full week. A feat that even the film "Steekspel" by Paul Verhoeven failed to do. The official reviews did not let the film down either. De Filmkrant gave us an equal rating with a number of valid quotes that we liked. All the more reason to be extremely proud of "Lotgenoten".
The official premiere of Lotgenoten took place on March 13, 2013 in Apeldoorn.