As the son of a director, Amnon Bolle seemed predestined for a career in media. So when he finished school and had no idea what he wanted to do, he decided to take a year out and find work in the industry. He landed a job as a video editor and soon discovered that video fuelled his creative spirit. He hasn’t looked back since, and currently works as a creative director at Quadia, the leading Dutch online video production company for the corporate market.
‘At Quadia, we’re involved in just about everything related to online video. This might involve anything from supplying a camera operator to shoot a straightforward testimonial to complete, high-end video productions. We don’t just look at video, but also where these videos will be disseminated. Are they meant for YouTube only, or will they appear on social media as well? How do you manage these platforms, and what content should be posted where? What we do and what I do is more or less a blend of video and technology. For example, we have developed our own online video platform, which we use for distribution purposes. It’s a type of in-house YouTube, if you will. So as you see, we produce a lot more than just simple videos.’
Passion for the business
As a born media professional, Amnon has been involved in media in some way or other from an early age, having started accompanying his father to various shoots as a young boy. As he explains, he just sort of fell into the business.
‘That’s how I developed a passion for this work. I never wanted to ride on my dad’s coattails or anything, but I do have to give him credit for getting my creative juices flowing. Once I got my first job, after deciding to work for a year after finishing school, I never really looked back.’
‘When I used to watch TV at home with my dad and brother, we’d analyse everything. How could that shot be improved, or why would you choose to zoom in there? It was both fun and educational. My dad would keep all this equipment in his study: everything from professional editing boards to cameras. We would sometimes grab one of the cameras and start making our own “TV shows” around the house. I fell into this business more or less by accident, by having fun and learning as I went along, without really being pushed. It’s a very exciting world to be involved in.’
United by passion
Amnon and his brother have both ended up working in the media: Amnon as a creative director at Quadia and his brother as a journalist, writing mainly for the NRC Handelsblad newspaper. And although their father has since reached retirement age, he remains very active.
‘My father, my brother and I also make documentaries together, and have already produced four so far. We did three docus about Judaism for Dutch public television, and one about the development of the De Hallen cultural complex in Amsterdam.’
‘These documentaries are a sideline for me, since I already have a pretty demanding day job. That’s because it’s my passion, and I really enjoy it. I really love this business. No day is ever the same, and that’s as true here at Quadia as anywhere else. What could be more fun than storytelling? I can’t imagine spending the entire day in some office – it would do my head in. Here at Quadia, I’m given the opportunity to produce interesting work, sometimes with limited resources. That can be a challenge, but it also means I need to be inventive when creating new things.’
‘It did take me a little while to find my feet in this world. In previous jobs I’ve had, I may have had more freedom in terms of what I wanted to show and wanted to make. That’s because the client also gets a say in this business, and they tend to look at shots and scenes from a completely different perspective. They will zoom in on specific details, whereas I tend to focus on the storyline and not on how often a logo appears on the screen.’
There are definitely perks to the business of corporate video production, and Amnon is given plenty of opportunities to produce high-quality work. As a creative, he does need to accept that he and Quadia are sometimes expected to remain more in the background. However, the sheer variety of the work produced by Quadia is very energising and means there’s lots of opportunity.
‘For example, I can direct with multiple cameras, which I really enjoy. And then the next day I might write a really cool new concept. I love that kind of variety. I’m involved in projects from the get-go. This means that, on a typical day, I’ll have a meeting with clients, be on set directing for a while, and then spend the afternoon editing. That’s one of the things that makes this business – and working at Quadia – so much fun. I wouldn’t have this degree of freedom if I worked at, say, a TV production company.’
What makes him proud?
Amnon’s talent is his mastery in blending video and technology. He believes that online video is anything but basic, as it allows you to use technology to add an interactive element that engages the viewer. You can also create customised videos with content tailored to your audience. But it’s important to never lose sight of why you’re using the technology.
‘We use technology to help us tell an even more powerful story. For insurance company Centraal Beheer, for example, we created a personal video about taking out car insurance. By “personal video” I mean literally a video about the insurance product you, as a customer, just purchased online. Instead of a PDF file or some boring list, you see a video that shows you the products you selected, all based on your personal needs. That’s the power of technology and video.’
‘A water company called Vitens contacted us with a simple request. They were receiving thousands of phone calls a day about their invoices. After analysing the problem and talking to consumers, we created an interactive video for them carefully explaining the various items on the invoice. We used plain and simple language, to make sure everyone would be able to understand. The video ended up having a huge impact on their business. The number of phone calls to their customer service department fell dramatically once we’d released the video. That’s an accomplishment that makes me really proud. Of course, I don’t work on my own: we’ve got IT people, marketers... all kinds of professionals who share ideas and are involved in our productions. I’m the person who brings everyone together and makes it all happen.’
‘I don’t aspire to a career in television, as I think I would get bored after a while. I would love to get more involved in documentary filmmaking, but it’s something of a thankless business here in the Netherlands: undervalued and underfunded, even though there are some very talented people working in that field. I would also love to write and direct a feature film, but that comes with its own limitations. People seem to spend ages fussing over a simple shot, or arguing whose job it is to pick up that roll of gaffer tape on set. I hope that we’ll see the gap between our line of work, video, and cinema narrow in the future. It would be good to see some of the barriers and hierarchies be eliminated. I think we’ll eventually see the emergence of a type of Spotify for movies and TV shows. I personally don’t care if I’m watching something on Disney Plus or on Netflix – I care about the actual production. What we need is more freedom to simply produce stuff, outside the current parameters. There’s vertical video, for example: if people are consuming media that way on specific devices, who are we to criticise that? The parameters of video will literally disappear.’
Hilversum and beyond?
‘Talking strictly about the Netherlands, it doesn’t really matter where you’re located. With this being such as small country, why would we, as a creative company, need to be based in Amsterdam? It’s just another one of those trends. I was born and raised in Amsterdam and currently still live there, but we’re very content and not lacking in anything here in Hilversum.’
Lessons from the maker
‘When it comes down to it, I don’t give a toss whether your budget is 5 euros or 100,000 euros. I always aim to do the best possible job with every new project I take on, and would recommend anyone to do the same. Always aim for the best, regardless of the project, budgets or any limitations. Make the most of its potential!’