Belgian director Leo Van Dijl seems to be everywhere these days. He is only 22 years old and doesn’t even have his master degree yet, but he made videos for some of the hottest bands in Belgium and his short film “Get Ripped” has been nominated for film festivals all over the globe. Maybe the fact that a former Mister World has a role in it has something to do with it, but we guess it is just hard to overlook Leo’s unique style and experimental nature.
Can you tell me something about yourself that everyone should know before they meet you?
My birth name is Leonardo but my friends calls me Leo, I am 22 years old and I live in Brussels. I am an Audiovisual Arts Master student. I made a short film “Get Ripped”. You saw it and really liked it, so we talked about doing an interview. So that is what we are doing right now!
"Get Ripped" tells the story of a young boy who joins a fitness club. Can you tell me something more about the plot?
The film concentrates on the encounters between twenty year old Niko and a personal trainer. Though they meet daily at their gym, their contact remains indifferent and silent. As Niko’s efforts start to pay off, a game of manipulation unfolds. The biggest inspiration for this film was American Psycho: I wanted to do sort of a prequel on Patrick Bateman in a coming-of-age setting.
The film has been selected for OUTFEST, which is like the biggest LGBT film festival of the world. Did you see this coming?
No, not at all! I feel very honoured because the movie started of as a very personal project. We had little to no budget and it was made on a very small scale. It is nice to see the amount of attention “Get Ripped” is getting since its premiere.
What do you think is the strength of "Get Ripped"?
The photography. I talked for hours and hours with the director of photography about what the film should look like and I really think we got what we were aiming for. We decided to shoot in black and white to make the environment of the gym very anonymous. The other strength of the film is the great friendship I have with the main actor, Alessandro Cangelli. His influence on the project was huge.
You've also been shooting some music videos. Do you see more of a career in this?
I am very curious, I want to have a bite of everything. These videos happened all on a short notice and gave me a lot of liberty to experience with new things. I like to collaborate with creative people, which is very important, specially when working with young upcoming bands. It’s a very informal way of working. Me and Max, the main singer of Oscar & The Wolf had so many fights during the shoot but now he has become one of my best friends! During the shoot I asked myself “What the fuck are we doing?!” for like a hundred times, but in the end it turned out to be okay! We had only one week to do the production,shooting and editing, you see. I told myself to don’t give a fuck about that and trust my gut feeling that we could pull this off. After editing, we were so euphoric and tired… I started playing the video with other songs to it, such as the Mariah Carey, Fleedwood Mac and Chromatics to see what it would look like. I think we did that untill we fell asleep at 3AM. To work with someone on such a level of creativity, is one of the most beautiful experiences ever.
Do you have any other projects you want to share with us?
I recently shot a video for Clouseau, one of the most popular Belgian bands, They gave me carte blanche so I casted Louis Talpe, one of Belgian’s most famous actors, and Yana, a fashion model that I put in a yellow bathing suit. The studio was so cold she had stiff nipples all day long. The clip was quite a scandal on the fan forums, the fans really didn’t like it. Haha, I made it even into the tabloids!When I finished the video for Clouseau, I called Max and we did exactly the same thing we did with his video while doing shots.
What made you get into filming? Is it something you have always been passionate about?
I have always loved movies. As a teen, I became a diehard MySpacer and that really made me discover completely new things such as Nouvelle Vague and Italian neorealism. I started writing for the Belgian Vice Magazine when I was still in high school, not much later I started organizing fashion shoots for them and became their Fashion Editor. Somehow I lost my passion for cinema a bit as I was more attracted to what was going on in fashion...
Fashion can be very distracting, you know!!! While I was working as a stylist, I was studying documentary. My plan was to become the new Loic Prident but like I said, I was too distracted to become good in what I was studying. Besides that, for making documentaries you need a lot of patience, I always found it very frustrating not knowing how to get the story I had in my mind on a screen. So I started reading books about scriptwriting, which was something very exciting and new for me. I decided to quit fashion and take courses in fiction as well. That’s when I discovered my real passion. Making fiction was very similar to what I did as a fashion editor, only that now I'm creatively in charge and no longer the supervisor.
In what way do you think your background in fashion influences your movies/music videos?
Fashion can be very mysterious and therefore very appealing. As a fashion editor, I felt a little bit like a magician. I try to direct in the same way. You need to keep in mind it’s about creating magic, keep in mind the eye the audience wants to be enchanted.
What would you say is your significant style?
I am very keen on aesthetics. I think my editorial background has a lot to do with the way I look at things.
It seems like creative Belgians are taking over the world. Why do you think this is? Is it an inspiring country to live in?
It’s a very small country but it has a lot to offer and everything is accessible. I grew up on the countryside but I often took the train to Ghent, Antwerp or Brussels to check out what was going on there. On the weekends, I worked in my village concert hall De Kreun. I saw a lot of amazing bands such as Liars, Beach House, Mt Eerie, Health, Deerhunter, and Xiu Xiu.. Somehow I always felt connected to what was happening creatively on the other side of the world. The fact that such a great place exists in such a small town is very typical for Belgium, I think!
Besides that, we also have great examples showing us how it should be done such as The Antwerp 6, Front 424, Raf Simons, Kim Clijsters & Justine Henin, Michaël Roskam and Frederik Heyman.
What are your future plans?
Raving George asked me to join her on her festival tour as a videographer and I still need to get my master degree in Film, so I better start working on that, haha.
And your biggest dream?
I always said I would love to work for Raf Simons one day, but I think I fucked that up by doing that video for Clouseau. My new dream is to make a long feature film one day.