Tribeca 2011 Interview: Dick Maas
I unfortunately missed filmmaker Dick Maas while he was in town to promote SAINT at the Tribeca Film Festival but he was kind enough to answer some questions via email. Here’s what he had to say:
- Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about SAINT?
Hello MovieGeeks, my name is Dick Maas and I’ve been making movies for the past 30 years, mostly in Holland. I’ve made comedies, like the FLODDER series and KILLER BABES, action flicks like AMSTERDAMNED and horror/thrillers like THE LIFT, DO NOT DISTURB, DOWN and recently SAINT.
SAINT is a thriller/horror about the St. Nicholas legend. St. Nicholas is the biggest yearly celebration in Holland. It takes place on the 5th of December. Children put their shoes in front of the chimneys and when they were not naughty in the past year, they find them filled with presents the next morning.
St. Nick himself is dressed like a bishop, red gown, and rides his horse over the rooftops, throwing present into chimneys, assisted by his helpers, the Black Petes.
- What was the inspiration behind this film?
I thought this iconic Dutch figure, more popular than the queen herself, would make a nice subject to turn into an evil childmurderer. He is always portrayed as the epitome of goodness, and it seemed fun to turn this around.
- You worked on the story for many years. How has it changed in that time?
I started working on the script about ten years ago. I went through several drafts. I didn’t want to go the serial killer way, a guy dressed up as St. Nick slaughtering the usual bunch of teenagers. I wanted to give the movie an epic feel, the story should be rooted in history, somewhere in the past. A legendary figure that turnes up in the present time.
So I made up this legend of St. Nicholas, a rogue bishop that was burned alive by villagers in the 15th century. Every time it’s a full moon on the 5th of December he will return to take revenge. And that happens on an average of once in every 32 years.
- What was the production of the film like? Favorite moment? Least favorite moment?
It was a tough production. Mainly because we had a limited budget. We needed a lot of visual effects in the movie, so we had to come up with inventive ways to achive them.
We did a lot of shooting at night on the rooftops of Amsterdam at freezing temperatures. That was really complicated and not really a fun way to spend the night. Also shooting on the water, on the canals of Amsterdam, was sometimes a real drag. But I had experienced that on AMSTERDAMNED, in which we shot a long speedboat chase for weeks in the canals.
- Could you tell us about some of the controversy surrounding the film?
I expected some controversy, but not to this extent. I knew there would be parents that would be offended by this grim portrayal of this cult figure.
Even before we started filming, St. Nicholas societies (they really exist) in Holland and Belgium were opposing the movie.
When we made the poster, the protests really took off. A fellow director of mine was organizing the protest and even took it to court. They wanted to ban the poster from the street and cinema’s in Holland. The court ruled in our favor and judged there was nothing wrong with the poster and we didn’t cross the boundaries of good behavior.
Needles to say, that because of all the commotion, the awareness of the movie was very good, and that of course helped us at the box office.
- Which filmmakers influence your writing and your directing?
A lot of directors and movies have influenced me. Among them Spielberg (Jaws), Hitchcock, Carpenter (Halloween), DePalma, Polanski (Repulsion, Cul de Sac), Tony and Ridley Scott, Kubrick (Clockwork Orange), Wes Craven, Fincher.
- Do you think about foreign audiences when making a film or do you just make your films for a Dutch audience and hope it translates well?
In the case of SAINT I didn’t forget about the foreign potential. I knew it would be difficult for a foreign audience to grasp all the details surrounding the St. Nicholas celebration, but I knew the basic premisse was one with international appeal.
I also put in some information about the St. Nicholas celebration in some of the scenes, so people would have a better understanding.
- Do you have plans for a sequel or continuing the story of St. Niklas in some way?
We have some storylines for a sequel. But I let it all depend on how well the movie will play abroad. But the St. Nick definitely has the possibility to grow out into a slasher icon like Freddy Krueger or Jason.
- Why should audience go see SAINT and what do you hope people get out of watching the film?
People who go to SAINT expecting an all out gore fest will be disappointed. It’s more an action and suspense driven thriller with some gory moments and a few scares.
- What was it like playing at the Tribeca Film Festival?
It was fun to see that their was not much difference in the understanding of the movie between a Dutch and foreign audience. People were laughing at the same time and jumping out of their seats at the same moments. Of course some stuff gets lost in the translation and not all the details of the celebration translate, but on the whole the Tribeca audience reaction was as expected, very enthusiastic.
- What are you working on next?
At the moment I’m working on a thriller called QUIZ.
QUIZ is a thriller about a famous game show host who has a dinner appointment with his wife and daughter in a restaurant. They don’t show up. After some time a strange man presents himself at his table and he claims to have kidnapped the wife and daughter. He shows a photo on which we see his wife and daughter tied up.
The game show host has to answer ten questions correctly within one hour if he wants to see his family back alive. So the man turns the tables around and plays the part of the game show host and the game show host is becoming the contestant. That is the start of an evening full of surprises, twists and turns.
We are currently casting and are aiming to start shooting in july/august. The Dutch release is scheduled in the beginning of 2012.
- Do you have any websites you would like to plug?
I have many websites to plug:
From what I understand, the children St. Niklas captured are on his ship in the harbor, which Frank blows up. Did Frank kill all those kids by blowing up the boat?
He probably did. But it’s not entirely sure he blew up the boat although it was his intention. If you had to choose between blowing up a boat full of children and thus preventing more child murders in the future, or not blowing up the boat and allowing the killing to continue, what would you do?
Jerry Cavallaro – www.StuckLikeChuck.com