IDFA Head of Industry Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen Puts Fair Pay on the Agenda: ‘People Should Be Paid for the Creativity They Put Into the Work’

Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen, the head of the industry office at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), says that the primary objective of her team is to put the filmmakers at the center of the festival’s activities for industry professionals.

“The key is that we really care about the filmmakers and what they are trying to achieve. Then we adapt to what is happening in the market, and try to make sure that we get the right people to support them,” she tells Variety.

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She says their work is “about the filmmakers, not only the directors but the producers too, and for us it’s important to follow them in their endeavour to make creative documentaries.” She adds: “We do everything we can to bring them to the attention of potential financiers, sales agents and distributors. But it is all centered around the creators of this work.”

The IDFA Forum, the hub of the festival’s industry activities, is the largest and most influential meeting place for documentary filmmakers, producers, commissioning editors, funds, private financiers and other documentary stakeholders in Europe. It runs between Nov. 12-15, nested within the festival dates of Nov. 8-19.

Its programs will take place at the Felix Meritis building once again but, differently from last year when IDFA brought all its industry activity under one roof, 2023 will see the Forum sharing the space only with Docs for Sale, which facilitates the sale and distribution of high-end documentary films.

She expresses a desire to help bring fair compensation to the business. Having many first-time filmmakers and filmmakers from often underrepresented areas of the world sharing a space with the biggest industry players in the market highlights the power imbalance.

“It’s difficult to negotiate and what we do is make everyone in the industry, be it Netflix or a filmmaker from Ecuador, aware of what is normal, and what is normal is that they should be paid for the work they put in and the creativity they put into the work. So already by putting this in the agenda, we make it visible,” she says.

“With the strikes, it’s very focused on fiction and Hollywood,” she continues. “But it’s happening everywhere. Payment is also bad for filmmakers in France. In Europe, we consider France as one of the best places when it comes to film finance, but even these filmmakers are struggling. So we want to put this on the agenda. I’m not there to negotiate contracts, but what we can do is make it visible that people are underpaid and get the debate going.”

This desire to bring fair compensation to the forefront of debate led to a series of talks and events on the livelihoods of those in the documentary industry, including an industry talk featuring speakers such as Ida Grøn of the Association of Danish Film Directors, Peter Lataster of the Dutch Directors Guild, David Bernet of AG DOK, Alexandra Galvis of BF Distribution, Jeroen van der Zalm (the Netherlands Film Fund) and more.

This year will also feature a special addition to the Rough Cut Presentations at Forum, which will see a showcase of five urgent Ukrainian projects — four of which have previously received support from the IDFA Bertha Fund — alongside the usual selection of six projects. “We decided after seeing so many strong films in their finishing stages from Ukraine that we needed to add an extra batch. There are still projects being made, and I think it’s important to give them room as the war in Ukraine unfortunately keeps going,” van Nieuwenhuyzen says.

She highlights the fact they had a record number of submissions, close to 800. “We have a large team of selectors and pre-selectors with experience in the industry from all different parts of the world, so diversity starts with our selection teams,” she says, before going on to celebrate the return of a significant number of art films at the IDFA Industry program and stating that this year’s selection features “a lot exploring the personal and the political.”

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