(n.) a thing arousing great enthusiasm
Passion, a feeling that can bring great joy and enthusiasm, a feeling that can let
peoples eyes sparkle when they talk about it, a feeling that brings energy. This
is why I choose ‘passion’ as my first subject for my portrait series. I’ll interview
three people who will talk about something that arouses great enthusiasm
within them. Their passion has either been strongly presented in their past, it’s
fully alive right now, or they have an ambition that is turning into their passion
throughout the years.
My third and last interviewee is someone many of you may know. He is a third-year student of Media & Culture who is currently making the film Van Maya to apply for the Film Academy of Amsterdam. I’m talking about Edward de Jong. He not only has a passion for film but he also has a big interest for philosophy. In this last interview we’re talking about the roots of his passion and the development of becoming a film director from the inside out.
Edward, born in Amsterdam, raised in Hoofddorp, grew up as an only child. He spent most of his time playing outside; sharing stories he either made up himself or stolen from his favourite American television shows. His parents were the ones who introduced him to film. Every night the family watched a film together, exposing Edward to classics ones such as Jaws and Godfather at a very early age, with the following consequences:
‘My parents didn’t raise me well, in the sense that they showed me films
that were not appropriate. Because of Jaws I have a fear for water, which
means I don’t dare to go in the sea and I only go half way in the
Even though films traumatized Edward, it didn’t stop him from further exploring
his field of interest. Edward went to the Gerrit van der Veen high school, a
school that focuses on creativity and drama. He knew he wasn’t made to become
an actor, but he enjoyed the vibe of creating and externalising ideas, so he started
thinking about directing. Since Edward always had an interest for the American
film industry, the New York Film Academy was a reasonable thought, but paying
50.000 dollars a year is quite an expense. And being accepted was another big
challenge to overcome.
V: ‘Do you think you would have stood a chance to get accepted to the
NY film academy, if you really would have wanted it?’
E: ‘It’s funny you say that … what do I want?
I didn’t want it in the way I want it now. And since recently I believe that
you really have to want something, before you’ll achieve it.
If you hope for something to happen, then it won’t happen, but if you
expect something to happen, you will make it. But first you really have to
get yourself to that point, where you know you’re already there, before
you make that jump.
People always say: I hope to be a director. That’s when I think: no, you
are a director and you have to believe that. And that’s one of the things
that helped me producing my film Van Maya, because I know I can.’
After Edward finished his high school exams he took a year off to earn money
for his travel to Asia and to take time to make an application film for the film
school. In the end he only focussed on traveling, which resulted in not getting
accepted for the film school.
‘The first time I tried to get in the film school I thought: yes films! I want
to be a director, because it is cool! But I wasn’t prepared at all. And
when I didn’t get accepted I was done with film and everything, I thought
‘fock everything and everyone.’
But fortunately Edward didn’t give up his dream, he just found another way to
get there. After one year of communication studies at the HvA, Edward started
Media & Culture at the UvA, where he got introduced to the course Media &
Aesthetics, given by Maryn Wilkinson.
‘I got film analysis from Maryn and I remember telling her that I got
pretty emotional during that course, because I got struck by how much I
enjoyed it. I realised I really wanted to make films. ‘But now I’m here’ I
‘But that’s okay’ she said, ‘this is another way to get there. First
understand why, instead of understanding how.’
I really hold on to this. Just like a company you need to have a vision
first of why you do something instead of how you do something.’
This is also the reason why he has his interest in directing. As a director you work
with the bigger picture and you make sure every aspect of film is in harmony with
one and other and also being a leader of a project attracts Edward to this job.
‘In my life, I have always felt like someone who leads and preferably the
one who has everything in control. And when I’m not in that position,
then I become very… I find it hard to accept what happens to me. I let
myself depend on external acknowledgement instead of setting my own
So I would try to control you and how you behave to me, which sounds
very manipulative, but you can just do that by asking for acknowledgment.
My film is also about not being able to control your own life and that you
have to accept that you only control your own interpretation and beliefs
of things. The moment you try to control these external things, such as
friends, relationships, feelings etc., you’re trying to control something
that you’re not capable of and that’s really frustrating.
It is actually because of my group of friends from high school, that made
me realise that it’s okay for me to be here, that I can take space and don’t
let other people walk over me. And that has manifested itself to someone
who is doing well in school, has a lot of friends and is making his own
I find it interesting to see that someone who prefers to have control makes
himself depended on other people, and in this way actually loses that control.
I am also interested in Edwards’s self-awareness, I could tell he has a big interest
for philosophy and self-development, and at the same he tries to keep it ‘light’.
E: ‘I don’t want to be the guy that always takes it too heavy, I try to keep
V: ‘Why light?’
E: ‘I think that once we take it all too heavy, we lose the reason why we
do it. Things need to be fun because you do it, not because they have a
goal; “The universe is best understood by analogy of music”.
That’s Alan Watts actually, professor philosophy from the 70’s. The
universe is best understood by looking at it as a piece of music instead of
a journey. The universe isn’t going anywhere.
Look at it as a dance; the goal of the dance is the dance and not that you
have to guide the dance to a specific place; the same for music, it’s not
about the last note.
And that is what art can do, appreciating the moment for being here and
now and that’s the only thing that it serves for. Meanwhile people are
mainly occupied with their studies, relationships and friendships thinking
it needs to serve for a higher goal, but then I think you lose the
playfulness where it actually stands for.
V: ‘Which film is your favourite?’
E: ‘Manchester by the sea. That is a film that gets it.
The film is about the viewer not getting close to the main character.
The moment the character is feeling sad, the camera takes its distance
instead of getting closer.
But also about understanding that some things are just hard and painful.
This film is not about closure; there is no happy ending. Compared to
films about romance, the film is not about the last kiss and people
coming back to each other in the end and everything is okay, no, love is
difficult, relationships are difficult.
And that’s what I like about this film, it’s just really sad and beautiful
but once in a while also humoristic; humour still exists in the film. But
the pain is allowed to be there.
You can be unhappy and that is something we don’t experience anymore
these days. Everybody is constant: I have to be happy in every part of my
life. So when I think of the things I’ve experienced in my life, I allow
myself to be unhappy about it and not thinking of it as a way to solve the
pain, but just accepting it and understanding that I don’t control it but
that I do control the way I look at it and how I deal with it.
V: ‘Do you have a final resolution for you film Van Maya?’
E: ‘I can’t tell.’
Edward knocks on the papers lying in front of him; of course, the script.
I try again.
V: ‘But something like a happy ending? Can you say something about that? The vision you just talked about?’
E: ‘I can’t spoil the end but I can say that I’m inspired by Manchester
by the Sea in a way that you can show something very human without
dramatizing it; taking your distance of that what you’re showing.
But the happy end also depends on the viewer of course; so we’ll see, we’re
going to experience it.'
When I ask if Edward would like to have a lifelong career as a director, he gives
me an interesting view on directing; the way he sees it. He describes it as a
process of becoming an expert on one specific topic while making a film. So
for example if he would make a film about transgender people in Germany, he
would completely dedicate himself to this subject and read everything that is
there to read about. He will talk to all the right people making sure he gets all
the right information. Strong intervals of something you’re really interested in
at that moment. This way he can create his own idea about the subject and turn
it into a piece of art.
Edwards also aims to be a bridge between film and philosophy with his directing.
E: ‘My first hunch of being a filmmaker is to be a link between
philosophical knowledge and an experience of knowledge. So I want to
make it more accessible, but not in a way that film serves for philosophy
but that film takes on a new form that is easier for people to take on;
a new form of the idea.
I just want to ask people: have you thought about what luck is? Have
you thought about this? And not in a way that I’m preaching the right
way to think about it and that I’m the one with the right knowledge, no,
because that’s not the way to convince people.
For me it’s just about letting people question themselves and their ideas
and that is also what Socrates did. Just planting a little seed; ‘okay this
is your situation and if this happens, what then?’. People will think ‘oh
yeah, I’ve never thought about this before.’ And in this way you inspire
change in people.
My mission is to give something back to the people, by teaching them
how to be human, by giving comfort; not telling them what to do and say
ing what is the ideal way, no. I’ll give comfort by teaching them to be
content with what they have.
There is a quote on my Facebook that says: I’m in consensus with
everything that happens in- and outside myself. So right now it feels like
I’m in a kind of flow; as a director I finally get it: yes this is precisely
the spot where I feel most comfortable; exactly that spot where you can
work with a lot of people who all have great ideas but I can be the one to
say: until so far and no further and also having that feeling of: yes I can
do this, because I have that role.’
And so he does. I had the chance to see Edward in his director role while taking
the portrait photos of his two main actors. During this photo session I could tell
he gave deeds to his words and he knows what he is doing. He has a vision in
mind and because he can answer the question ‘why?’ all the time, there is no
doubt he will be successful. Edwards’s film Van Maya will premiere on the 28th
of February, so make sure you take this chance to question yourself with his
coming film and most of all enjoy this beautiful story produced with enthusiasm
and passion by Edward and his team.