idiosyncratic filmmaker and painter

Frans van de Staak was born in Amsterdam in 1943 as son of a shoemaker-entrepreneur. Since 1963 he studied at the Dutch Filmacademy [NFA] and founded the filmmagazine Cineécri. His early films [shorts] he financed from his own savings, working as a painter. The material side of filmmaking, including the tedious composition of the complex whole out of its basic elements –as can be seen in his paintings– has always attracted him from the very beginning and determined his professional career later. His cinematographic work can be characterized as a continued investigation and exploration of space-time and language viewed from a creating, dynamic context. The idea of a creation-out-of-nothing (creatio ex nihilo) was not his ideal of perfection. From an evolutionary perspective the imperfect is not a total failure, just a waste of time, but one small step towards perfection, that is, a quest in time, not guided by a fixed, timeless blueprint grasped by the mind in advance. So he did like to work from scratch, like a painter on canvas, in line with his view on 'creating the non-trivial out of the trivial'. Once the canvas gives way to the screen, scenes and motion, this new context remains unfinished in the continued endeavor to reveal its poetic structure*. His first feature-length The Imperfect Tulip he finished in 1980. In 1996 he was rewarded the L.J. Jordaanprijs by the Amsterdam Art Foundation for his film Schijnsel (Glint). His film-oeuvre consists of 25 films [see also his Filmography for the details known so far].

Besides being director of and (co-)writing screenplays for his own films, he was frequently engaged as a film-cutter and producer by other independent filmmakers as well. The fundamental interdependence of the material aspect of film and its creative aspect became at once clear as soon as one entered his studio, loaded with self-build equipment for the final stage of film-processing and sound-editing, as you just saw for yourself entering this site. This informal sphere of craftsmanship is not only characteristic of all his films, but was also the right entry for beginning filmmakers to realize their own projects, and whom he gave unconditional support by [sometimes free] use of his studio-facilities, without however 'supervising' their results as the master who knows all about. On the contrary, he was always reluctant to come to the fore, not even to promote his own films, as some anecdotes point out notoriously. This studio was once known as "Atelier Frans van de Staak", and to which this website is dedicated as a tribute to its founder.
   The importance of the Atelier as a meeting and working-place for independent or beginning filmmakers is highlighted in Last days of Studio Frans van de Staak a necrology of his films by Kees Hin (2002), which focuses mainly on Van de Staak's non-naturalistic style of directing actors. It is a pity that, because of its anecdotal construction, the film is in danger to be framed as an anecdote itself, that is, a bad example of telling a story that you won't like to listen to or show yourself. Or as Frans used to say: "The worst film is the perfect example".

   *In this context one's effort is not directed at the succes of the attempt, but at initiating a new attempt already. In other words, there is no last attempt, nor can it be undone completely, in the sense that for example the (final) 27th take of a shot makes the previous 26 ones superfluous. However, this new attempt does not start from the very same beginning as the first but from a further stage of development.
   For example, as a director he did never show how to act, even if the actor or actress should have asked for —like a sort of repetition beyond recognition— but actually no one did.