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Filmmaking is not for the faint of heart

Published on Thursday, 24 Nov 2011
Photo: Berton Chang

Making a name for yourself in the Hong Kong film industry is no easy feat. But for Arne Venema, whose production company, Robot Entourage, snatched the top prize at this year's 48-Hour Film Project, it was well worth the struggle.

Raised in South Africa, Japan, and Europe, he first caught the video bug while interning in Australia where he was tasked with producing promotional clips for a small media group. Afterwards, he returned to Amsterdam to finish his marketing undergraduate degree.

On his return, Venema organised a film festival and accompanying promotional video. This was just the ticket he needed to gain acceptance to the Hong Kong Film Academy, where he studied under prolific director Godfrey Ho.

When it came to earning a living, however, the young graduate notes that he was faced with a tough choice. "My teachers said that I could either suffer as a starving artist or take on a job while pursuing filmmaking on the side," he says, adding that to make ends meet, he opened a T-shirt trading business, which he still runs to this day.

In terms of film work, he says the good gigs were hard to come by at first. "After film school, I was editing a lot of commercials I'd rather not mention. But that's how it starts. You take what you get."

Once you're established, things become easier, Venema says. Winning film competitions and high-profile gigs, he adds, also help a great deal. The young artist ranks chasing after payments as the worst part of the job, with touting for work a close second.

For those considering a career in filmmaking, Venema suggests learning to love the "ratty jobs", as it helps one better appreciate the more interesting gigs. He also recommends putting together a solid show-reel and not being afraid to take risks.

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