Inside the Twisted World of an IKEA Catalog

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The genre: sci-fi. The prop: glasses. The line of dialogue: "Amazingly beautiful, yet hopelessly impractical." These were the mandatory ingredients for this short film, created in just two days for a 48 hour film contest in the Netherlands.

The result was Page 23, a brilliant satire of an IKEA-style domestic fantasy, and unsurprisingly, it swept the competition. The team of three filmmakers that created it, Jeroen Houben, Tim Arts and Stefan van den Boogaard, describe the breakneck process of developing and shooting the piece in an interview below.

The Atlantic: How did the three of you get into filmmaking and end up working together on this 48 hour film project?

Jeroen Houben, Tim Arts and Stefan van den Boogaard: Tim and Stefan both work as ad men at Mortierbrigade, a Brussels advertising agency. Jeroen is a freelance director/producer based in Amsterdam. In the past we worked together on several campaigns, making commercials and such. Since we enjoyed working with each other, we figured we should do a project together, without the interference of a client. We’re all kind of busy all the time, so the 48 Hour Film Project appealed to us straight away: you start on a Friday-evening, and two days later you have a film.

How does having a time limit and rules affect creativity?

You are forced to make some very impulsive decisions. The script, for instance, was written within one hour. The three of us sat in a room and we gave ourselves an hour to come up with the screenplay. Without the time limit, just that stage could easily have taken weeks. But with this approach you just go with the very first thing that sounds good, and you write it in immediately. We basically sat around a laptop, shouting out ideas, with one of us typing it out. About an hour after finishing it we met with the crew to explain the story.

How did you get the idea to do a furniture catalog for the story?

As you might know, with the 48 Hour Film Project, every team is given a different genre that should be included in the movie. We were given the sci-fi genre and all we really knew at that point was that we didn’t want to do some corny Star Wars parody, which is pretty much the first thing you think of when you hear the word sci-fi. We decided to look at the genre in the broadest way possible, and we ended up with something that is quite the opposite from spaceships: a living room! It’s hard to remember how the idea came about. In brainstorms, you mostly make some untraceable leaps from one subject to another. And then all of a sudden someone makes a comment, someone else makes an association and there it is: the idea just falls in your lap. When we came up with the catalog idea, it was immediately obvious to us that this should be it. The next challenge was to temper our thoughts. We came up with ten ideas at a time, but you can’t do it all, you have to pick one storyline and go with it.

You created a very polished, IKEA-look for the piece with very little time. How did you make it happen in only 48 hours?

We found our location only hours before we started shooting. Since we had no time or money, we looked for something that didn’t need a lot of adjustment. We called around for furnished apartments and hotel rooms, but no luck there. Finally, it turned out one of our crew members had a clean-looking, design-furnished apartment. Sometimes it’s just that easy. We bought some extra decoration like candles and a vase with flowers, and most of the other stuff you see in the shot was already in the house. The funny thing is most of the furniture in the shots aren’t IKEA products.

What’s next for you guys?

After the 48 hour weekend, we immediately agreed to do another film project. The success and positive reviews that Page 23 got were quite unexpected but encourage us even more. This time it won’t be part of a competition, so we will allow ourselves a little more time to develop an idea and a screenplay. Not too long though, because as we said above, time limits can be a good thing.

For more films by Jeroen Houben, visit http://www.jeroenhouben.nl. For more work by Tim Arts and Stefan van de Boogaard, visit http://cargocollective.com/theworkoftimandstefan.

Via the Vimeo HD Channel. 

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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