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Bram Koopmans’ Most Valuable Lesson: “Put in the Hours”


The Ambassadors editor on skateboarding being his main focus in life, how aftermovies struck a chord and why wedding photography wasn’t for him, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

Bram Koopmans’ Most Valuable Lesson: “Put in the Hours”

“I always start to laugh when I think about myself as a kid. Though my parents always told me that I was happy and sweet, I know they always skip the part that I was also very hyperactive and sometimes hard to handle, especially at school,” says Bram Koopmans. Though he had a lot of energy as a child and his mum would often have to speak to teachers about his classroom behaviour, his parents have always been supportive, particularly his mum. “She would always stand by my side, even when I was definitely the one being rude, unfocused and annoying.”

Having a lot of energy meant that as a child, Bram had many different hobbies and passions that would fill his time – but surprisingly, he wouldn’t quit them. He says, “It’s not that I’d get bored with one after a while and then move on to the next one, but I would just stick to them all at the same time for years. I could say I was extremely passionate about my hobbies from a very young age. I played the drums, I practised gymnastics twice a week and not to brag, but I won gold at the local championships.” Not to mention, he was a passionate fisherman, spending many hours by the waterside with his dad and often friends, but occasionally by himself. Then, he found a lifelong passion: “Skateboarding came into my life. I was sold - this was gonna be my main focus in life. I had to stop practising gymnastics because of the bruises I got from skateboarding, but I didn’t care.”

With all his hobbies, it’s no surprise that Bram became a social and outgoing person, though often his schoolwork did suffer. “It all comes back to me being a hyperactive kid. I mean, I loved to go to school, but I just didn’t like the whole learning and listening to stuff I didn’t care about part. We all knew (and If I say all, I mean all the people that were involved with me trying to get me to actually do stuff at school) that I had to do something practical, something creative to survive this whole school thing.” It was his best friend who helped steer him in a direction that he would continue to follow: “Luckily one of my best friends, Frank van Hulst, was already filming and photographing our whole skateboarding experience for years and he was talking about attending photography school. I didn’t even know there was something like that. I joined him (thanks bro).”

It’s Frank that Bram credits for his initial experience in the creative industries, saying, “I mean, if Frank didn’t attend photography school, pff, I have no idea what I would be doing right now. I guess a strong friendship led me into this creative world, and it also kept me there.” The accidental career journey began at photography school, where Bram had the ability to try out more than photography, venturing to edit and even film. He says, “During that time Frank and I also started to film and edit aftermovies for parties in De Melkweg, Paradiso, Klokgebouw Eindhoven, and some random gigs.” Among this side project, Bram also shot weddings: “Which paid well, but I didn’t enjoy that after a while. It also fucked up my whole idea of getting married.”

Bram’s childhood ability to be hyper-focused on his passion projects never seemed to go away and though he says, “I was a really shitty photographer,” he still took his camera everywhere, particularly when he’d skateboard almost every day of the week. “I mostly honed it [his skills] at skateparks, the streets (especially beautiful Arnhem) and parties.” He remarks on what he learned very early on in his career and what helped him get to this point: “Put in the hours.”

Thinking back to the early days and first projects, Bram reflects on how everything began with aftermovies: “It didn't pay much, but I mean, I was paying taxes, so it felt super professional. It was one of the best times in my life. We’ve got to meet so many cool people, drink free booze and meet all the artists that were crushing these parties. Just a really awesome experience. In this stage of life (around 19/20yrs old) I also met the king of partying Oscar Marmelstein [head of edit and director at Ambassadors] who was friends with the people who organised these parties.”

With the exposure to the fun side of the industry, Bram had a dilemma in the form of being stuck between “partying and being professional”, which meant he now had a choice to make. “Although I was still motivated and passionate, I felt like I had to change things up. I really wanted to learn more about editing and film, and take everything to the next level. I messaged Oscar on Facebook in June 2017 asking him if I could come by Ambassadors just to learn more about editing and see how it gets done at a professional creative studio. Well, that was where my journey ended as a self-employed photographer-cameraman-editor.” Upon his visit to the Ambassadors Herengracht studio, Bram was introduced to “insanely talented people” from various sectors who collaborated to create the type of work he was looking to create. “I mean, this was another level,” he says.

Most recently and significantly, Bram has worked on an adidas project for agency TBWA\NEBOKO, which was directed by Sophie Ebrard. “Sophie really knows what she wants and what not, she has a strong vision. One morning she called me up to tell me she had a hard time sleeping because she had this idea she couldn't let go of. One hour later she was back in the edit again, with, of course, croissants.” Together, the creatives debated on what would and wouldn’t work, hashing out everything that came to mind. The experience reminded Bram of the old days, of going out with his camera but this was on a “professional level.”

For many creatives, the process of completing a campaign and seeing all the hard work come together is the most rewarding part of the process, which is certainly true for Bram. “I mean, we can all relate to that moment when everything comes together on a project, you feel that the idea just came to life and people start to smile. That’s just good vibes, that’s the reminder of how creativity keeps us going.” But of course, with those moments of joy, there are challenges, long periods of time when a project is in a state of limbo. During this time, Bram says, “it can be really challenging to motivate yourself to stay creative and try different things, especially when there are a lot of different opinions and politics involved. It just happens that you get stuck at some point. I’ve learnt now that that’s just a part of the process, and a part of your job to get through this phase with your clients. Like Oscar taught me, just trust the process.”

Bram believes that being able to adapt within the industry is vital to keep going and ensure that you’re getting the most out of things. Part of where he finds his inspiration is through detoxing from Instagram which was “too much of a distraction” by creating an alternative profile that focused on the editing side of his process. He says, “It actually worked. I never use my personal Instagram anymore, and now I’m actually getting something back from it – connections, knowledge of the industry, and inspiration.” Along with this account, Bram’s passion for music and playing the guitar tend to centre him and trigger a calm state in which he can be inspired. He also stresses the importance of keeping “ego” out of the picture, something that he thinks the industry could get rid of: “We are still just people doing what we love to do, creating beautiful stuff. I just don’t understand the whole ego part of the industry. What is the point?” As a subjective discipline, Bram believes that the underrated quality of being nice not only opens doors but champions self-improvement.

“I think the Paturain film I did together with Daphne Van de Berg and Nosh Foodfilms is a great example of a fun challenge,” says Bram when asked about something particularly interesting he’s worked on. “The story was quite simple, and we just wanted to add a little extra craft to the film. Besides the beautiful CG lavender field created by my colleagues at Ambassadors, we used our voices to emphasise the feeling of a Dutch family visiting France.” The team showcased their vision by mimicking the sounds and accents, and as it turned out, the client loved it and even kept it in the piece. “Also, the grandpa saying ‘vite les hollandais’ is my voice, but lowered in pitch. It was meant as a reference for the sound guys, but the client loved it and kept it in the film.”

As he’s progressed and taken music production “more seriously”, Bram has found a passion for not only editing, but sound design too. “It’s like entering a new phase in life. To me, it helps to see things differently in edit. I’m learning a lot from the sound and music team at Amp.Amsterdam, who have partnered up with Ambassadors as strategic sound partners.” With the sound studio just down the road from his office, Bram has been able to work closely with the team and learn about different disciplines that he hadn’t considered before. 

Having broken his ankle while skateboarding during the pandemic, Bram had to give that up for a while but he’s adamant he’s “gonna get on the board again real soon.” For now, playing the guitar has been tying him over as well as “producing electronic music, photography, filming and of course – editing.” Not mincing his words, Bram has two things that make him continue within the industry:

“Creating and improving.”

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Ambassadors, Fri, 01 Apr 2022 17:09:00 GMT