A documentary on Dutch politician Geert Wilders, produced by Oxford MBA alumni, premiered on Hulu in June.
In 2017 far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders ran for the position of Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Following the rise of Donald Trump in the United States and the United Kingdom’s unexpected vote to leave the European Union in 2016, the world braced for another political shockwave. The election garnered media attention from across the Western hemisphere.
Wilders’ bid to lead the Netherlands was unsuccessful, yet his party gained the second highest number of votes and a greater influence on policy. Among those drawn to the story were Stephen Robert Morse and Maria Springer, Oxford MBA alumni and co-founders of OBSERVATORY, a film production company that employs the lean techniques Morse and Springer learned at Oxford. The duo set out to chart Wilders’ rise and explore his motivations and reclusive lifestyle. Titled EuroTrump, the hour and a half long documentary is an in-depth study of one of Europe’s most recognisable – and divisive – politicians.
‘We used the lessons we learned at Saïd Business School all the way through the production of this film,’ stated Morse, who was the Emmy nominated producer of the hit Netflix documentary Amanda Knox. ‘We only shoot the scenes we need, and never use more crew than we absolutely have to. By removing any wasteful steps or processes from film production we successfully create what appear to be highly financed projects for relatively small sums of money.’
Gaining close access to Wilders proved impossible for many journalists, but Morse believes his work on Amanda Knox helped him gain the politicians trust. ‘It’s always a tricky balance to strike, but I learned a few things from the Amanda Knox project about how to treat people fairly. We promised Wilders we would be impartial, and we held true to that.’
While critics agree the portrait is even-handed, viewers are left in no doubt of the politician’s extreme and contentious views, as clips of inflammatory TV interviews and rebutting statements from historians, journalists and members of the Islamic community provide a balance to Wilders own explanations of his politics and ambitions.
‘None of us agreed with Wilders politics, but we wanted to understand him. I really believe you should reach out to the people you disagree with and learn about them, because if you don’t, you’ll find that these divisions get worse,’ explained Morse.
In addition to two Oxford MBA alumni, the EuroTrump team included undergraduate students from across the wider University. Harry Davidson, an Oxford music scholar, composed the film’s suspenseful and brooding soundtrack, while Christ Church History graduate and investigative journalist Frankie Crossley was a co-producer.
Morse also described how Maria Springer met the film’s co-director and cinematographer Nicholas Hampson through a careers fair organised by Oxford Saïd. ‘Both Maria and I had entrepreneur visas sponsored by Oxford University, and a member of the Oxford’s careers team asked us to come down and present at a career fair. Nick happened to be accompanying his girlfriend to the fair, and Maria met him after the talk. Two weeks later, he was on the ground with us filming in the Netherlands,’ he said.
With EuroTrump complete, Morse and Springer are now hard at work on new projects, and a forthcoming exploration of a criminal case in the ‘deep south’ of America looks set to further enhance their reputation for powerful storytelling.
EuroTrump premiered in the United States on Hulu 30 June 2018.