Juul Op den Kamp | documentary filmmaker currently living in Amsterdam, NL

Star Sign: Taurus
Currently reading: Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Hopes her last meal will be: Cookies

Juul Op den Kamp is an international documentary film and documentary-style commercial maker currently living in Amsterdam. Although she has worked on a wide variety of subject matter, her main focus lies with making creative documentaries about current problems in society. She hopes her films will evoke awareness and social change.

When did you first know that this was your calling?

I’ve always been an observer of human behavior. Since I was 7, I would watch my very loud, chaotic family and suddenly jump in saying stuff like, ‘stop, can you do that again?’ Luckily, they were good sports about it, because they always listened haha.

I may not have said much because I was the youngest child and a very dreamy girl, but I did capture many moments on my parents’ VHS Camcorder. I would make very strange films all summer long and make my family members act in it – they are still often forced to be involved in the films I make. Eventually, at around age 15, I heard about film school. I immediately knew that was where I was meant to be. There was no doubt in my mind,


How did you get your filmmaking off the ground?

I applied for film school at The Netherlands Film Academy when I was 17 years old. I was very young, about 5 years younger than my peers. Despite having less experience, I somehow made it through the selection process. I don’t know why but I’m happy I did.

During film school, I worked really hard and was very serious and ambitious. My love for documentary and journalism grew and I decided to apply for a master’s degree in documentary directing at Parsons Art and Design School in New York. I was accepted directly after graduating from film school. This was such a good step. It was a tough program that helped me develop into a well-rounded documentary filmmaker.

I met three other female filmmakers during my attendance at Parsons and together we started www.girlcrewcollective.com – a platform for female artists. I knew I wanted to work internationally as much as possible. I made my first feature documentary in The Philippines with an entire Filipino crew. After that, I made a documentary again in New York about the study of performance-enhancing drugs. During the last two years, I have been mainly based in Amsterdam to make more documentary-style commercials (for the Anne Frank House, Amnesty, and Mystery of Defense) and to develop two new documentaries for Dutch television. Eventually, if the borders ever open again,  I hope to head back into the rest of the world!

The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far (and am still learning) is to have patience. I’ve begun to accept that you have to make several films as practice before you accomplish that one dream film. Creativity and growth take time and should not be forced upon.

What makes you/ your work unique?

I try to combine social impact and journalistic urgency with a creative/playful cinematic story form. Being brought up in a family full of psychologists, I really focus on fully understanding the psyche of the featured people in my films, even if they are far away from where I stand. I don’t always succeed of course, but it’s my biggest ambition. In polarized 2020 it’s hard to keep yourself out of your bubble and actively try to understand ‘the other.’ But if filmmakers don’t do that, viewers definitely won’t. And I want my stories to be accessible for all kinds of people.


What is the biggest challenge for you as a filmmaker?

Having always been ‘the youngest’ in my family, school, and such, I was challenged to grow and develop very quickly. Although a lot of good came from it, it also made me very hurried and reckless. I always want to do more and work harder and often go beyond my own limits. This has caused me several breakdowns. The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far (and am still learning) is to have patience. I’ve begun to accept that you have to make several films as practice before you accomplish that one dream film. Creativity and growth take time and should not be forced upon.

What inspires you to continue?

My anger about problems that I see arising around me along with my big, big love for film itself. Whenever I feel like I can’t be motivated I take it as a sign that I should make time for relaxation and inspiration. Inspiration can lie in interesting conversations with new or old people, sole adventures, stories in newspapers, books, films, or my other hobby- comic books. I also can’t make films that don’t seem relevant to me and others, it has to be urgent and have the impact to keep my fire burning during the process of creation.


What is your life motto / what mantra do you live?

I don’t know if I really have a mantra but I find compassion important at all times. Besides that, self mock and humor are probably how I cope, it’s my way of holding resilience through everything. There is a lot of humor in misery just like there is much beauty and inspiration during dark times.


How do you ensure a good work-life balance?

I am the worst with balance. I have NO balance. I either completely lose myself in work and become a zombie or I drift very far away from society in phases where I don’t work at all. I guess that’s my way of balance?

How has the Coronavirus affected your work?

It definitely affected it in many ways. I was planning on making a youth documentary that got canceled and I was also supposed to work on a project in New York this summer and fall until the intercontinental borders closed. At first, I was bummed, but that soon gave way to the concerns over the health of my family and grandmother who lives in a care home in Brabant. After this refocus, I’d say Corona affected me in a positive way. It might be cliche but it reminded me of what is really important. I always desire to go abroad, but I’m so lucky here in Amsterdam – a utopian little city in the summer, with great family and friends nearby.
Having eliminated all the distractions, I got way more productive. I made a mini youth doc about my nephew almost all my by myself in 3-weeks for Cinekid (https://cinekid.nl/nl/nieuws/227). I even have been working on a self-started project about the mental health of our care workers along with a voluntary crew I love working with. So in a way, it made my work more creatively and with purer intention.


What can people do to support you and others in your field?

Maybe sometimes try to choose more niche documentaries on Netflix. You will be surprised! Share them with your friends. Also, Look at crowdfunding to see if you can support a documentary about something you really care about. It’s fun to be involved in such a process and to help make stuff happen!


What are your plans for the future?

I definitely hope to continue to make films in different places. I want to focus more on long-form impact films in the near future. Looking further into the future, I would also like to start a production company or side business. Arts is a vulnerable industry as we’ve all seen during the disasters these last few months. But overall, who really knows about the future? Maybe a new virus will wipe us all out (sorry for this depressing note).


Do you have tips for people who want a career in this field?

Don’t forget to ENJOY doing what you LOVE. I mean, I assume you love film because it would not be very lucrative if you did not haha. It’s not going to be all fun, of course! It’s also a profession – you have to work, make money, work harder, live through setbacks, have weird adventures with your crew, wonder why on earth you work in film, work again, grow, and so on.

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