Maybe it’s the cosy atmosphere of the hostel bar, the inexpensive beers on tap, the patient bartenders, or the combination of all three that loosens the tongue. Whatever it may be, the night-shift staff has heard it all. Carlos Eperon Beltran had been working at a Rotterdam hostel for only a week when the anthology of extraordinary tales heard inspired him to start a web series on the matter, “Every day is Friday”. Having visited the Netherlands on several occasions, the 21-year-old self-taught filmmaker moved here from Spain after finishing his pre-university studies. Staying with friends in Amsterdam and The Hague, he finally arrived in Rotterdam in October 2017. Last summer, drawing inspiration from the wild side of the city, he put together an international team of actors with which he produced two independent episodes “Monday, I’m in Love” and “The French Waterfall”, to test interest in the concept. In two weeks, they will wrap up the filming for the first episode of the new season at BAR. They hope to eventually send the series to web series festivals. On a sunny April Saturday, I had coffee with him to discuss his project and the upcoming release of the season pilot.
How and when did you begin making short films and clips?
“I started making short films when my dad got a camera but never used it, so it immediately went to me, and I started making short films with no storylines, using basic software for editing. Later, when I was in high school, my friends and I would play pranks on teachers, and I would film. Eventually, the Principal of the high school saw the videos and we had to stop. This is when I realized that I really enjoyed creating short stories. I would make 5-6 minute shorts and put the ones I like the most online. When I got to Rotterdam, I saw so much potential in this city and it really inspired me to start making my show.”
Tell me more about how the idea for the show came to be…
“When I got here and started befriending people at the hostel, I started hearing lots of crazy stories. The night shift especially was very inspiring, because, at night, you get all the weirdos. Every week, I would hear a new story, and started joking with my friends that “this could be a TV show”. One night, I was behind the bar, talking to my friend Chris who wasn’t working so he was a bit tipsy, and around 6 AM, I was full of caffeine to survive the night shift so I was having a lot of ideas, and I said to Chris “You know the show idea we always joke about, let’s actually do it.” He gave me tons of ideas, which he couldn’t remember the next day, but a week later, my coworkers, Chris, Jeremy, Ayrton and I got together and started writing down all the stories we’d heard and witnessed. I like to describe the show as “stranger than fiction.” Everything we have filmed so far is at least 90% accurate. The season we are working on now is technically fiction, but the vibe and the stranger details are from real life. Some parts are actually softer than the real-life story. Crazy things happen in Rotterdam.”
Working in the service industry you hear all about the wild side of the city. Is that the real Rotterdam to you?
“I think every city has this wild side, but maybe Rotterdam has a little more than average. Around 700,000 people live here, and the combination of being a port city, having a big techno scene, and lots of famous nightclubs might be the reason.
But Rotterdam is more than a party city. The international vibe is another key thing I want to portray. Our team only has one Dutch person. I would happily have more obviously, but I think the international aspect is so characteristic of Rotterdam and I want to keep that. Pablo and I are Spanish, Ayrton is Brazilian, Chris is German, and Lida is Greek. Our team is multicultural and that’s our main point in the show. Truly international casts are rare. Usually, diversity will be that one of the main characters is foreign and that will be the butt of the jokes, like in the Big Bang Theory. I really want to avoid that and show what living in Rotterdam is really like. It doesn’t matter where you are from here. And because we are all creators, we have a mix of all the senses of humour: Spanish, English, Dutch, South American, German (if it exists)... I think it exports well.
So who is in the core team? Can you describe the main characters and their actors to me?
“The main characters are Dudu, Ted and Rick. We create the characters from the people we know, the actors in part, but it’s really an amalgamation of real people.
Ayrton, probably one of the most creative members of the team, he’s also a wonderful actor. His character, Dudu, is a stoner ten years older than all of his friends. Dudu is a common nickname for Eduardo in Brazil. He’s the main character of this season and we’re focussing on his development. Jeremy is the first person I call when I have an idea. He always picks up the phone and gives me honest and direct feedback, which is typically Dutch. Sometimes it stings a bit but it keeps us productive. His character Ted is quite an over the top Dutch gamer that loves punk music and drives an ice-cream truck around the city. Chris is one of the more motivated ones of the group, he’s really enthusiastic, and definitely the best at improvising. His character Rick is German, and an alcoholic, but the fun kind you want to hang out with. During one of our brainstorming meetings, we decided we needed to post more content to keep our page active. So Chris came up with the idea of “Rick’s Essential Party Tips”, short party tips by his character, Rick. They weren’t scripted, we just turned on the camera and he did his thing. We have three, so if you are looking for some party tips, watch them, they will be of no use to you whatsoever but you can get a good laugh. Lastly, Pablo plays a smaller role in ‘Monday I’m in love’ but it was one of the most difficult ones. He’s going to become a main character in the next season.
We’re hoping to get more women to join the cast since the only woman on the show so far has essentially been a plot device. The lack of women also played into the ‘lame party’ vibe in ‘Monday I’m in Love’, but I’m hoping to find actresses that will be willing to dedicate a lot of time to this project and I haven’t found that yet. Many would love to be in an episode or two but we need more commitment since we are also all part of the creative process.”
How do you divide tasks in production?
“Everyone in the team enjoys working in it but has little experience. So the actors and I write the script but I do the technical parts like photography, editing and sound, and find outside help when needed. The main group of actors, Chris, Jeremy and Ayrton, are very involved in the creative aspect. We come up with the stories together, but they also usually write their own lines. Looking back on ‘Monday, I’m in Love’, our most scripted one, I decided to leave more leeway for improvisation so that the actors can really speak in their own voice.
Speaking of improvisation, for each episode we make, the idea is to have an improvised ‘after-credits’ shot. During the first film “The French Waterfall,” the actors had to drink a beer for every take, and we repeated them many times, so by the end, we had a mountain of half litter cans. We had to dump them somewhere, and we saw this chill Dutch guy reading his newspaper on the bench and thought, why not weird him out. We dumped two Ikea bags of cans in the trash next to him and he didn’t raise an eyebrow. Another man with his toddler behind us on the other hand did.”
What has been your favorite behind the scene moment? What has been the most difficult one?
“My favorite moment was during the filming of our first short ‘The French Waterfall’. Chris and Ayrton were being filmed by the Erasmus bridge, drinking beers, and we would always shake the beer cans before giving them to the actors. We didn’t start with that idea, it accidentally happened once, and neither of them reacted to their beer can exploding in their hands, as if it was the norm. Plus when we filmed it, a man with his toddler walked behind them. So you had the family in the back, Ayrton rolling a cigarette, and Chris just not reacting to his can exploding. Then it became a running gag.
The biggest struggle wasn’t being stopped by the military police, it was getting everyone to take the idea seriously because we were talking about it for months but no one thought it was going to happen. Another huge inconvenience is running out of beer during filming… Dammit, Chris…”
Watch ‘The French Waterfall’ here.
In “Monday I’m in Love”, Ted drives what is maybe the most unique vehicle I have ever seen. How did you guys get such a strange car?
“The “interesting little car” from “Monday I’m in Love’ will most definitely come back. Originally, a customer of the hostel would come every week, and drive up in this tiny 45 mph car, the ones you see on the bike paths. He agreed to lend it to us for filming, but when the time arrived, the car broke down. As a last ditch effort to save the scene, we posted on facebook groups, asking if anyone could lend us a similar car.
We didn’t think anything would come from it, but we ended up getting much more than we bargained for. So what happened was, this artist from the Hague, Berk, had taken one of those small cars and had a performance art installation where anyone that paid one euro could beat up one of these small cars with a bat. Then, he took the remaining carcass of the vehicle and transformed it into this space-age contraption that was still fully functional. Luckily he let us borrow it, we just had to go to the Hague to film. When we arrived, and I’m not joking about this, there was a working flamethrower on the roof… Keep in mind we were in the fanciest area of the Hague, between embassies and mansions. We picked up the car at a squatters mansion full of anarchists. There was military police patrolling so we didn’t want to be moving around with a working flamethrower. We did get stopped by them, and none of us had a drivers license, but we just told them it was a student project, that always works. So we had this crazy space-age minicar, and we decided to make it an ice-cream truck and call it ‘the ice-cream shuttle’ for the character Ted to drive. We made a banner for it, decorated it with some art and taught Jeremy to drive it!”
Watch ‘Monday I’m in Love’ here.
You can find more on ‘Every day is Friday’ on their Instagram page here: