EDA Awards @ IDFA 2016 Filmmaker Interview: Coco Schrijber on HOW TO MEET A MERMAID

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cococroppedsmallIn How to Meet A Mermaid, Dutch filmmaker Coco Schrijber plunges into a deeply personal and poignant investigation of her brother’s suicide. She visits the Egyptian beach where Lex Schrijber went on a diving trip in October 2000, but never returned. His personal belongings were found neatly stacked on the sand. Because his diver’s knife was among them, she intuited that Lex’s disappearance was deliberate. Fifteen years later, she returned to the beach where Lex was last seen, trying to find witnesses who might give her information about his final hours. Schrijber’s highly cinematic style and essay-like approach to filmmaking transforms her personal quest for for resolution into a profound contemplation of life-sustaining and death-dealing aspects of the sea. She also evokes the unsolved mystery of Rebecca, a cruise ship employee who disappeared while her ship was at sea and the story of a Mexican surfer who is flying across the ocean to find more challenging waves on other shores.

Coco Schrijber is based in Amsterdam. She studied at the Rietveld Academy and has been directing documentaries since 1994. Her debut feature, First Kill, is about the addiction to killing, and was selected for IDFA’s Feature Length Competition in 2001. Mondays & Strawberry Pies, her second feature is about boredom. It won numerous awards and was The Netherlands’ official Oscar-entry in 2008. How to Meet a Mermaid is her third documentary feature.

AWFJ: How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and the main characters in it?

Coco Schrijber: I always was really fond of the sea, I practically lived in it, when I was young, and I continued to love the sea eventhough my favorite brother disappeared into it.
Then suddenly I wanted to know more about that entity who is a psychopath of the purest of waters..

AWFJ: What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

CS: There are more than one subjects in the film, it is a multi layered essay. But maybe the strongest topic is the contrast to “the will to survive” namely: “the will to die”. Despite that longing that all human beings experience at some point or another – to want to disappear – people struggle to ‘keep breathing’ as How To Meet a Mermaid advocates, and I find that very moving.

AWFJ: What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

CS: Never underestimate how hard filmmaking is. And eventhough you are the director, some experiences in shooting will tear you apart at moments you never would have anticipated.

AWFJ: What were your biggest challenges?

CS: I interviewed people undercover and they didn’t know they were being interviewed and recorded by me, I wanted to tell them why I was doing that but couldn’t, because then I would jeopardize the shoot at this particular location which I still can’t reveal.

AWFJ: Do you think that being female gave you a distinct perspective and/or way of handling the filmmaking process?

CS: As a female director I find that I can get in to contact with anyone, anywhere, I feel like a cameleon and it seems very easy to persuade and talk to anyone from killers to convicted Wallstreet brokers to people living on the street or high brow (French) intellectuals.. haha

AWFJ: What are your plans for the future?

CS: To never ever make a film again. Unfortunately I have a great new plan already but I hope I can resist the temptation to start the whole excruciating process of filmmaking once again.

AWFJ: Who are the Filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own?

CS: Martin Scorsese, Lynne Ramsay and Claire Denis.

AWFJ: What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

CS: Consider yourself the boss of the enterprise (Dux Femina Facti), never lose your sense of humor and take no shit from anyone.

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