In dialogue with Fritz Kohle and Arleen Cuevas
11/27/2023 - 15:02
INT. INNOVATION SQUARE – THURSDAY MORNING IN NOVEMBER
Cup of hot chocolate on the table. Dog under the table.
Fritz (smiling): ‘I always like to explain, so let’s start with us. I think this is a great opportunity to get rid of some misconceptions about Arleen and me. Basically, we met professionally in 2007 producing feature films and documentaries for Bigfoot Entertainment in Cebu, Philippines. We didn't have an immediate click. I mean, as a producer, Arleen was our client and I was Head of Post-Production. Later, when she moved to Manila, we met again, and started a relationship. I worked and lived in Singapore at the time.’
Arleen (nodding): ‘I worked as an independent producer in the Philippines, where I come from. At that point I was an in-house producer at Big Foot. That’s where I met Fritz.’
Fritz: ‘So, we both worked as film producers and planned to go to the UK, but there’s no need for producers in the UK, in the Netherlands there is! Ik kan een beetje Nederlands, ik snap het, maar ik praat het niet goed. Half-German, half-Dutch, that’s what I am. I left Germany when I was 18.’
Fritz once started as Runner at Weather Channel in London. And Arleen started her career producing a Historical Drama Feature Film in Manila. Now they both have an impressive track record in film production. They travelled widely and attended glittering premieres and film festivals.
Fritz: ‘We got engaged in Cannes in 2009 during the Film Festival, when Arleen's film screened there, before we went to the red carpet.’ (wow!)
‘It was also the year I started working at BUas, then NHTV.’
Arleen: ‘A year later, I applied for a position at BUas. I tell you the truth, Fritz did not interfere at all. Now, we are both lecturers in the Creative Business department, teaching everything related to artificial production.’
Fritz: ‘We hardly teach together. We used to, but not anymore. It's not that we were constantly fighting, but it wasn't such a good idea anyway, because we took it home with us. I think, now we‘ve found the right balance.’
Back to Creative Business. What about the study programme?
Fritz: ‘The separation between content, production, and marketing, which still haunts us a little at BUas, is of course not there in real life. In real life, it's all mixed up.’
Arleen: ‘I actually really like the idea of specialisations, because in this way, you’ll become an expert. I myself, for example, feel more comfortable on the management side of production. At BUas, you can explore what you like most or what you’re good at. One will be better at camera work, the other at writing, etc. In the end, it’s teamwork and everything comes together.’
Fritz: ‘Yet, to be able to manage the process, you’ll have to know how it works in all different departments; from camera work and editing, art department, a DOP role (Director of Photography, ed.) to production and fund-raising.’
Arleen: ‘Therefore, students explore all these different roles in year 1. They get a really good opportunity to try and broaden their horizons.’
Okay, what have you guys seen change over the years?
Arleen: ‘When I started working for IMEM (International Media and Entertainment Management, ed.) in 2010, it was already a top-rated study programme. What I love about BUas is that people don't sit back. Like, we are top-rated, we are doing well anyway. We don’t need to change. No, BUas is always looking to further develop and improve its curricula.’
Fritz: ‘I agree with Arleen.’ (smile)
‘BUas is doing great and is ambitious when it comes to curriculum development. However, in my view, the ambition could be drawn a little wider. Yes, we are becoming more inclusive, and yes, more internal stakeholders are involved in decision-making, we definitely act more transparently, but I do think we need to look after each other a bit better.’
Arleen: ‘What helps in this regard is the environment. Look at the buildings! First, we had different locations in the city. One for each academy, I guess. In my opinion, it was such a good decision to bring it all together. We’re so much more connected ever since. Don't get me wrong, it's not like if you get together, you're immediately friends, but it's a start, it's growing, the community isn't quite there yet, if you ask me, but it's coming soon!’
Fritz: ‘We now have more of a look at other academies within BUas. Colleagues are great, bringing in new perspectives. That hasn't changed. We have the most international employees at AGM (Academy for Games & Media, ed.). They come from everywhere; China, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine…’
And from Germany and the Philippines.
Arleen (smiles): ‘I struggled a lot, the weather, the food, when I first came here… but I absolutely did not struggle with feeling comfortable here, I’ve always felt welcome.’
Fritz: ‘This international mixture is what makes BUas really strong. I mean, graduates all are part of an international network when they start working in real life. International experience is so important. What's still in the study programme, because it's good, is the TV Production course. First in Flagstaff, Arizona and the Netherlands, now also in the UK.’
Arleen: ‘What’s new is the HUB, a BUas-wide campus entertainment platform. The idea of having a radio station, making videos, a website and a student magazine to showcase what students do, I think, is great. I mean, it is not just up to lecturers to see and judge what students make.’
Fritz: ‘Creative Producing is also new, one of the four specialisation areas in the third and fourth years. It is a project-based course of which the end product will be screened in Pathé Cinema. Students go through the whole process, including a couple of tears. It is so good to see that they really want to prove that they can do something.’
The students! What about the students? Did they change over the years?
Fritz: ‘They don’t come to school anymore if they don’t really have to. I blame it on the Covid pandemic. Sometimes I really have to insist, we better do this live on campus. But still, students are the favourite part of my job. I’d like to focus on students who really want to and those who need extra help.’
Arleen: ‘Talking about today’s students, it happens more than once that students teach us. I mean, developments in tech and social media are going really fast. So, it also works vice versa, and that’s exactly how it’s meant to be in our learning communities.’
How do you prepare students for working in a continuously changing world?
Arleen: ‘We have our Production House for that. Lecturers do not just broadcast theory in class. So students don’t have to imagine how to do things in real life. They simply DO at school! Just this morning, there were a couple of students sitting in the Production House sulking heavily because a client had rejected their concept. That’s how clients are, I said. All you guys have to do is come up with a new concept!’
Fritz: ‘We guide them through the process. With my producer’s hat on, I say: plan for the work and hope for the best. It’s true, 20% of your time is spent on planning beforehand which is absolutely necessary for a good result. The teacher’s hat really took me a while getting used to. Students need freedom to make mistakes. I had to learn not to be too attached. Make sure they’re safe and for the rest: let go! At the end of the process, take time to reflect together. That’s how students learn. Since I've been trained in using tools to facilitate, I'm enjoying teaching. In the first few years, it was tough, I was struggling, always wanted to help. Now I know not to interfere too much.’
Arleen: ‘Either you like to teach or you don’t. That’s my opinion. Some feel frustrated when students make mistakes. But be aware: it’s not a teacher’s project! I like working with young people, they have sparkling new ideas.’
Fritz: ‘Some have a didactic skills certificate but can’t teach.’ (smile)
‘As for me, I always like to explain, as I already said in the beginning of this story.’
Fritz: ‘Bringing my dog?’ (smile)
Arleen: ‘Making selfies!’ (smile)
‘You know, at industry events and conferences outside of BUas, I always make selfies when I meet alumni. I am so happy to see that they are self-directing professionals now!’
Fritz: ‘I’m most proud of students who’ve struggled. Students who have experienced a huge development, although you don’t see that on their degree certificate. That moves me the most.’
Interview: Maaike Dukker-‘t Hart