Interview DutchCheez by Savvy Mustard
THE QUESTION ISN’T WHO IS GOING TO LET ME; IT’S WHO IS GOING TO STOP ME
DutchCheez is an independent innovative film production company. We caught up with founders Karen and Marinda for an interview.
Is this your first business?
As actresses we were always self-employed, providing our own assignments through castings or by creating plays.
But besides our work as actors we both worked for many years as employees in corporate recruitment. The last 2 years Karen started a coaching and training agency with an associate and Marinda became a self-employed recruiter.
If not, what were the others, and where are they now?
If so, what did you do previously?
We, very coincidentally, both worked as professional headhunters. Marinda has recruited many board members, CEO’s and CFO’s for national and international companies in the Netherlands, so did Karen, who had a managing position in this business. She started her working life as French teacher, whereas Marinda started of in the advertising business.
How did the idea for your business come about?
Since we were young we both dreamt of Hollywood. We were acting from a very young age at school and in theatre groups. But we also dreamt of becoming independent individuals. We finally became actresses and businesswomen, but we did not know each other until we met 7 years ago when Marinda married a childhood friend of Karen’s husband. These friends, who also had high ambitions, took over an aerospace company 3 years ago and that is when we learned more about our strikingly similar backgrounds as ‘acting headhunters’, and 1,5 year ago about our mutual dream.
However, somewhere along the way, we had buried our dream. When life takes its course, people often find themselves in a certain job, a family life –although having a family was also one of our ambitions- and forget about their childhood dreams. We did not have the time to do as many castings and acting jobs that we wanted. With a family and 3 young children to raise, Karen did not have the opportunity nor time to fantasize.
Marinda found herself in the same situation, with young twins and no time to reflect, let alone to chase her dream.
But when Karen’s father felt seriously ill and died, her dream, to make it as an actress, suddenly emerged. It made her realize that life is short. During their last trip, to the USA, her father told her he actually had done everything he wanted in life: “As a boy I dreamt of becoming a cowboy in America – and look at me, I finally succeeded buying a farm here. And in terms of work, I have reached more or less everything I could have accomplished.”
‘What had become of my dream?’, she thought. His death became her wake up call.
Our inspiration for charismatic entrepreneur Oskar stems from Karen’s father. He was a son of a Dutch farmer. As a three-year-old, he dreamt of leading a cowboy’s life in America, after watching a John Wayne movie. Ultimately he became the CEO of an international company, but later lost his fight against a terminal illness. Her father’s life offers a copious amount of drama and anecdote, but he was certainly someone for whom chasing dreams was extremely important.
Then, after the passing away of her father, Karen’s eldest son asked for a school project about professions “Mom, what was it that you wanted to be when you were a child?” “Oh, you know, I wanted to star in my own Hollywood movie”. “But you tell me I can do anything that I want to be, so why don’t you do it?” Her son’s confronting remark turned out to be life changing.
One night, soon after, Karen discovered she had the story with her for years, but she did not have all the ingredients until now!
In the movie ‘Oskar, The Story of a True Space Cowboy’, the aerospace entrepreneur Oskar has one great ambition: to bring his offspring to outer space within the next 10 years. But of course all great ambitions come at a price. The story starts with Joanne, a single mom who is recruited for a position in a secret Space Colony Project.
It is through her eyes that we enter Oskar’s world, the arena of the aerospace business. Through her, we follow this man, his ambitions and (dysfunctional) family.
When she then discovers why this charismatic entrepreneur is so particularly interested in her, she is faced with the most difficult dilemma of her life; is she willing to give up the most precious thing she has?
How did you find the investment to start the business?
We used our private savings, a small investment of a befriended investor, for the rest we reinvest all the money we earn through acting jobs (commercials, TV-shows, presentations etc.)
What was the toughest decision you had to make in the past 12 months?
To give up our safety net: our careers in headhunting and coaching. We had to become dependent, in order to become independent in the future. Right now this means living on one salary instead of two. As independent educated women with jobs, this is quite a challenge. It also puts a lot pressure on the family, financially and it has a huge influence on our career paths. But at the same time we count our blessings that we can get by on one salary.
How would you describe an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is someone who is passionate, determined about the potential need of his/her idea. If you feel there is a serious chance your plan might work out and your heart and soul is in the idea, don’t hesitate and go for it!
If you could do it all over again, what things would you change?
We had to think about that one. We think we would not do many things differently; we take one step at the time. This approach suits us. Although, with the experience we gained during the last year, we would try to lose some of our modesty. We are Dutch girls; in Holland we don’t scream from the rooftops what we do, we just try to achieve our goals. But we learned in the last 1,5 year that a little boldness can bring you further. You have to show people what you believe in, because if you don’t believe it yourself, indeed, who will? And, do not let anyone distract you from your goals. However, you cannot avoid negative people. So take their criticism as free advice and thank them for it. You can always gain new insights from them or even an interesting contact.
What book or movie has inspired you to most?
Only one? Ok, since we are filmmakers, a movie: ‘Big Fish’ by Tim Burton. It’s a fantastic adventure and a family story, a movie about parenthood, the big questions of life and the importance of fantasizing. All through the eyes of a son for whom there is no room on the stage of his omnipresent father. He can either choose to resist or accept him for who he is.
A book: Atlas Shrugged, or rather Ayn Rand’s philosophy in general – the main theme of the film is self-reliance in which we also recognize ourselves as filmmakers. This book has inspired us personally (although we find not all her ideas as appealing), but mainly in creating the main character, who is greatly influenced by her way of thinking.
Like Rand, we believe that the only limitation to success lies in your own head.
A few of our favourite quotes:
Happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, since its achievement is the proof and result of your loyalty to your values.
To achieve, you need thought. You have to know what you are doing and that’s real power.
The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.
Describe your most exciting moment of starting your business?
The most exciting moment of starting our business was when the co-writer of our synopsis, Maarten Almekinders -professional screenwriter – joined in. We had founded a film production company, arranged all legal stuff that comes with it, we created a website, made an inspiration teaser and we had been working and writing for months and months to assemble all material that we needed to put an initial draft on paper. He was the professional writer who helped us to make the leap from an idea to film. He was the first who believed in the potential of our story. This moment felt like a first great recognition.
Our first international short film is in final edit phase. Before taking on a huge feature film project like ‘Oskar’, we wanted to prove to ourselves and to the world that we would be able to create and execute a film idea from scratch. We did this with the short film ‘Patch’ that was shot on Guernsey last October 2015 (Channel Islands). The great contribution in this project came from Rinie Jansen CEO/Executive Producer of MacGyver Productions (Media Production company with HQ in Amsterdam). He thought it was extremely audacious and cool that these two women set up a complete film project, including the finance for the film that came from investors from Guernsey and The Netherlands. Rinie decided to step in this project. We are eternally grateful that he did, as it also was a gamble for him to work on a project with two actresses/business women/producers with no experience in the latter.)
What is the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
A producer who told us ‘to get real’: ‘you girls have no clue how this business works’, he said. He made us very clear that we had unrealistic ambitions with our off-beat backgrounds.
‘Do not ever let someone tell you that you are not qualified’ said space pioneer Rick Tumlinson last year, when we attended one of his speeches. Tumlinson also knows what it is like to follow a dream, without having the exact right education and experience. He was actually working back-stage at the time, when he met Roddenbury.
Gene Roddenbury told Rick Tumlinson* that if he was really passionate, he could be anything he wanted to be ‘Look what I did’, he said. Roddenbury was a former policeman after all, before he wrote Star Trek.
(*Since last December Tumlinson has become an ambassador of ‘Oskar, The Story of a True Space Cowboy’. He will help us with input about space colonization topics and space entrepreneurship to get the script accurate and plausible.)
These life stories only made us stronger in our beliefs. We know what kind of movie we want to make, how people should experience it and what it should look like. The view we have on films come from our actor’s point of view. If it’s good, you will be abducted by the story. It has to be Hollywood-worthy, we won’t settle for mediocrity.
What type of student were you in school?
We both strived for success. Marinda had to prove herself from a very young age in school because of dyslexia. It only made her more determined to obtain her degree in Business Economics. When she had proven herself, she could go for her real passion: she decided to put all her salary and savings into Acting School, where she was admitted and where she graduated.
As she was raised by a single, working, mom, Karen promised herself that she would be able provide for her self. She was acting since a very young age at school and at the local theater group and she wanted to go to drama school. However, she became hesitant about her future self-reliance. She decided for that moment to let go of her acting ambitions. She studied French Literature and Communication. But when she was in her 3rd year of University, she got tempted to audition and was admitted to a Camera Acting School. She faced a great dilemma: but her father was willing to grand her the money, if she promised him that she would finish university. She both graduated at university and completed acting training.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Start from the heart. When you’re convinced that it is a good, appealing and thorough plan; do not spend months on working out the details, just the outlines, and just start doing it!
Be flexible, you will learn along the way. Be open, friendly but determined. Take feedback as free advice, even if it is bad. At that point you will know how badly you want to make your business to a success. Surround yourself with supportive people. Have fun in the process and don’t forget to celebrate success, how ever small!
Interview by Mark McDonogh : 2014