NFF Talent - Chris Stenger
24 September 2020
NFF Talent en Route: Chris Stenger (producer)
Chris Stenger fell in love with cartoons as a child and now produces animated films for arthouse producer Family Affair Films. She talks to See NL ahead of the Netherland Film Festival where she will be in the Talent spotlight.
Chris Stenger may have graduated in production from the Amsterdam Film Academy in 2014 (after which she immediately started working at Family Affair Films) but prior to this she studied hands-on animation during an orientation year at the renowned Rietveld Academy.
"When I was little I wanted to be a cartoonist and I drew a lot," she explains. "But after a year at the Rietveld Academy I figured out that I wasn't somebody who wanted to work alone and create only by myself. Also I was a more practical creator and better at making clearer the stories that other people wanted to tell, instead of wanting to tell my own."
She started at Family Affair as assistant producer, production manager and line producer on shorts, TV films and features. For the past year and a half she has been developing and producing her own projects. "I am the one developing the animation stuff," she underlines. "Floor [Onrust, owner] has given me a lot of freedom to develop and produce my own content so it is a safe space where I can develop relationships and projects but still have the back-up if I have questions, or if there is a hick-up."
Stenger further points out that meeting Norwegian animator Sverre Fredriksen was a lightbulb moment. "With him I made the stop motion film Human Nature*) (2019), and from that point I thought ok... this is amazing. Because I have always loved animation. Making stuff that is not moving come to life. It's a kind of magic."
The company mantra, she points out, is to produce author-driven and authentic films with social (and dramatic) impact. Recent and notable examples include Guido van Driel & Lennert Hillege's Bloody Marie*) and the upcoming Splendid Isolation by Urszula Antoniak, director of the multi award-winning Nothing Personal*). Can this criterion apply equally to Stenger's animation work?
"Maybe even more so," she responds. "For example there is now a short animation called Tourist Trap*) (Ultrakort, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and selected for NFF) about a little adventurous car, a jeep, who is going to an idyllic island to find the perfect vacation spot. But once he arrives there, there are many other cars. In a comic way we are reflecting on mass tourism, because in the end the island sinks. Everybody wants that perfect spot but when everybody goes there, it isn't perfect anymore."
Stenger says she is currently "brainstorming" feature ideas with Tourist Trap animator and artist Vera van Wolferen, "whose speciality is campers and cars," she adds.
The producer is also developing a 2D animation series called Hideous Henk in co-production with NTR.
Stenger is curious as to how an online Talents en Route programme will work, especially having experienced the manic but invigorating Rotterdam Lab and Berlinale visiting programme. What is certain is that she is looking forward to benefitting from the bespoke but equally intense programme of events and top level industry meetings that Utrecht has devised for her.
Chris Stenger, Family Affair Films
*) film supported by the Netherlands Film Fund