For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed TV and documentary director, and creative producer Ilja Willems. She is currently working on a variety of projects, including a documentary about a Dutch hair stylist who works in the New York fashion industry. Ilja was born and raised in The Netherlands. She lives in New York City. To learn more about Ilja and her company Bureau NY click here and here.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
I am working on many different short and longer projects, ranging from commissioned TV projects for European broadcasters to independent documentaries; and from commercial assignments to producing shoots for incoming European crews. The project that I’m working on the most is a feature length documentary I’m directing about a famous Dutch hair stylist who has been working in the top of the New York fashion industry for almost 50 years.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
When I met my main character I immediately felt that his story had to be told to a broader public.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
Mostly people I have worked with in the past who were able to combine creativity without losing some sort of pragmatism … or better, people who have a hands on mentality and are very creative at the same time. I think it’s very challenging sometimes to balance those two, but if you can handle both sides, it can lead to great results.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Stories – and people in general keep me motivated, almost everybody – at least in New York City– has an inspirational story or has done something interesting. I’m all about broadening people’s views (especially in these narrow minded times) by showing different perspectives. Finding interesting people with fascinating stories, getting access to their lives, having them share their dreams, fears, passions and hardships, and creating a visual story that not only touches the viewer but also tells a bigger story about our current society is what I enjoy the most about making TV and documentary films.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Creating and directing feature documentaries all over the world.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Starting “from scratch” on our own in New York City five years ago with our production company Bureau NY, it took me some time to determine my course: first priority was to maintain our existing European clientele (our company’s “niche”), get commissioned for the work we – my husband and I – were known for, generate income and invest money in our own projects and build from there. It takes time, determination and perseverance I guess, just with almost everything in life (haha).
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I try to create as much as I can: create pilots – small or large, think of new stories, write pitches. Not always with the intention to realize something right away, but it keeps my creativity flowing. I also fantasize a lot, I dream, I run and bike to clear my mind so new ideas have space to develop.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
I would like to pass on all our companies’ everyday production, logistic, administrative work to someone else (but it might be still a bit too early for that).
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
My favorite piece of art … difficult … it changes a lot: I’m very attracted to colorful, positive, powerful art pieces, mostly paintings or sculptures, but it can also be performances, as long as they surprise, amaze and preferably make me laugh. Current crush: Jeff Koons, Theo Jansen …
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
I don’t admire just one person. I admire many people for different reasons. Strong, determined women have my preference though.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
That I’m a fun and good friend.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Tacky ‘80s outfits and mullets.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
You’re doing great! (And maybe “drink a tiny bit less”? Ow, what the he…)
Q: Where would you most like to live?
On top of the world! And otherwise New York City will do for now.
Q: What is your idea of success?
To be able to fulfill my dreams, never stop improving, being able to go to work happy every day, achieve goals.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Happiness is having not too many sorrows, having enough loving people around you, doing great things (both privately and in work) and always be able to see the glass half full. Oh, and some sunshine would help too!