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Opening windows with creative director Dennis Hooftman

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When it comes to inspiration, few things are as important as being able to remain open to new inputs.

Creativity isn't always about doing something original. Sometimes, looking at work that has already been done can help you come up with new, brilliant ideas. Opening 'windows' in your own head, as creative director at DH Creative Agency Dennis Hooftman loves to say, will enormously help you in the process.

For this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about the creative process of an affectionate creative director, lover of creativity in its truest and most pure form. Because all the rest in the industry is just "gossip and hearsay."


How did you get into the industry?

When I was growing up I got interested in photography, I guess the impact of storytelling power of images, colour and lighting inspired me. I got my first camera as a birthday gift when I turned 8 and that was the beginning of my interest in the creative world. Fast forward a few years, after having received my BA in film/video production, I joined the Dutch public broadcasting company TROS, and there I really started to learn about all the different skills and trades that come with storytelling.


Where are you based now and who do you work for?

At the moment I work as a freelancer. Because of the Covid situation a lot is done remotely. I work on several projects, ranging from rebranding strategy development to directing digital video content and webseries. I’m also involved in developing the Creative Business curriculum at the University of applied Sciences ‘InHolland’ and teach film and video storytelling

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Haha, that would range from being a physician to professional sailor or actor, or maybe all of them.


Can you explain your creative process?

To me, the process has a few different stages – when it comes to brainstorming by yourself, I really enjoy opening up windows in your head, as I call it. To help me doing that I dive into lots of different items that can loosen the everyday grind and loosen up new ideas; listening to music, looking at music video’s, artwork, creative websites, pictures of architecture, murals, paintings, reading poems. It’s really about finding the right mindset and inspiration to allow rough ideas to take shape. It’s not about trying to be original, but it’s really about being able to find inspiration by diving into great and diverse work that has been created over the years across so many different horizons of craft, skill and creativity. If I work in a team, I prepare some of these items to share with the team, and ask everyone to do the same, so a lot of stuff is on the table, and the cross pollination can take place, that’s the really fun part.


Once a shift has been made, and a few ideas have been selected to work on a bit more; teamwork really becomes essential.

I really enjoy and thrive in collaborations and teamwork. I guess my approach to being a creative director is to surround yourself with the most interesting team fit for the job, and make sure that everyone is able and challenged to do their best work. That way the project gets the best creative attention and the team is involved from the very first moment on.

How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

Of course, back in the day, moving from linear editing to non-linear editing opened up a whole new universe of possibilities. Bandwidth and internet speeds allows us all to work remote, save time and money, share and store enormous amounts of work easily, and insights that data analytics provide concerning viewer or user behavior, user interaction, CTR’s, likes and so on, has both positive and negative impact. At the same time; work still must stand on its own, be able to speak and inspire, regardless of the platform or interaction. Trying to create something that has storytelling and stopping power is something that transcends technology. Good work will enable platforms to interact with fans and consumers in a habitat – native way.


What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

That’s one of the most interesting themes all creatives everywhere have to deal with. The duality of it is I think that you want to grow and develop, learn your trade and craft and try to perfect your mastery. At the same time, it always helps to try out different routes and routines. For instance; if you’re great at drawing or editing, try to improve your craft, by learning something new.

Do something that you don’t want to do. Within certain limits of course.


What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

As far as teambuilding is concerned; I’m really proud of the team I was able to create and bring together at Film1/Sport1. We started out with nothing ( a copy machine and a few desks) and within a few years there was an award winning creative team that was able to conceive, create and produce 360 degree campaigns which really helped identify and strengthen the brand. Other proud moment was to launch an entire new FOX channel in Belgium in a very very short amount of timel which required a huge effort from all teams concerned; creative, programming, marketing, sales, management. That really was an amazing team effort which paid off really well.


What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Be creative not only in your work, but also in your process of obtaining a (new) job. Be mindful of the fact that no one else creates and envisions the way you do. Of course there are more creative who can draw, edit, write or paint, but no one does it the way you do. This sounds like a bad slogan on a toilet wall, but I’m convinced if you give your work, your art, your vision room to breathe and your narrative room to develop, allow this to guide you in your steps and you will succeed.

What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

That one day all that the world needs is art, science and love. The rest is gossip and hearsay.


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