Industry Insights: Julia Ton – Filmonomics Plus Producer

Industry Insights: Julia Ton – Filmonomics Plus Producer

JULIA TON, FILMONOMICS PLUS PRODUCER

Why do you think you are a film producer?

Honestly, I never thought in my life I would be one. I rolled into it. When selecting a university I focused on management and organisation-orientated studies. I ended up choosing Media & Entertainment Management in Rotterdam. I had to pick something. One of my professors recommended me to do my final internship at an international film production company. After my graduation that company offered me a job as office manager and let me grow into an independent operating producer. My former boss: Kees Kasander, the producer of multiple award-winning Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold and known for his long-lasting collaboration with extremely outstanding film director Peter Greenaway.

The eight years working for him was a true blast, and full of opportunities to understand the ins and outs of the business. One year ago I decided to set up my own production company and so far it has been a great experience. I know now being a producer totally fits my character: having a positive attitude; knowing there will also be a solution for every problem; try everything and don’t mind failing. I recently bumped into that professor at IFFR. I noticed that I was actually proud to tell him I became a film producer. His answer: “I knew it.”

What’s your elevator pitch to describe the kind of films you make?
Striking personal stories from under-represented backgrounds. Are the elevator doors closed yet?

Can you elaborate on why you are drawn to such material/style/genre?
I truly enjoy connecting people. I have the urge to understand every individual person. Find our similarities, rather than focusing on the differences. I want to share, in collaboration with other producers, writers, directors, what I see and hear, to make this world a better place. The world improver in me wants to make sure that our minds can keep up with the growth of technology and the ongoing globalisation. We need to know each other better, in order to feel connected. Sorry Mrs May, but I do see myself as a citizen of the world. And I am hoping many more people would have that feeling, because it is a great feeling.

If forced to give one tip to new people coming through what would it be?
Prepare yourself to run a marathon – unexpectedly you have to run back as well – and believe that you can jump over all the hurdles that will cross your path.

And what pitfall would you say to a newcomer into your realm is essential to avoid?
Do not become a film producer if you want to be rich.

Tell us about where you come from and how it filters into your work?
I am from a very loving (Dutch) family: two brothers, parents both entrepreneurs, nothing extraordinary. Before entering the world of media I really didn’t know anybody in my life that has ever worked in this industry. I had to build my network from scratch. At the age of 19 I travelled to Australia with a close friend (we still are). I still remember what my father told me at the airport: “The world is at your feet.” I still carry that expression very close with me.

Tell us about the latest film / exhibition / book / public figure / article to have inspired you?
It was the book In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney. A nice simple read, interviews with female entrepreneurs in the creative industry. Sincere stories about what keeps them awake at night, why they do what they do and what success is for them. After a setback on one of my projects it inspired me to continue and find that energy again, to keep the engine going full speed.

What frustrates you about what you do?
It frustrates me that the film business model is completely off-balance. Due to the Internet, piracy has grown and “we” haven’t found a replacement to fill up the loss in revenue. The current market mechanism makes the big producers more powerful, and the independent ones who are protecting our cultural heritage are suffering big time. Some plans of the EU (to be specific: Digital Single Market) are going to make that problem even bigger. Insiders do tell me that most likely “they” will make an exception for the independent film industry.

How do you overcome this?
Talking about it helps for me. Finding out how other producers deal with this, but also trying to learn from other industries – music / wine / tech – how they reinvent(ed) their business models. Exploring new ways of film financing, personalizing the marketing strategy of my films, everything I can think of actually. But please, anybody who has an idea to make the business of independent producing economically sustainable again, do let me know!

Do you believe in the ‘female gaze’ and what does that mean to you?
Absolutely. In my honest opinion a very bad and dominant trait, called narcissism, is leading the world. Narcissism is something genetically and we can only lower it in people’s brains when we have more empathy. It is scientifically proven that women have fewer narcissistic thoughts. I truly believe that this world will become a better place if the world leaders have more empathy.