Ben Zijlstra


Netherlands Film and Television Academy

Ben Zijlstra had studied mechanical engineering for seven years when he decided to follow his gut feeling and switched to study sound and camera at the Netherlands Film Academy (NFA). His motivation came from playing guitar in an amateur band, realising the emotional impact of music and sound. Without any knowledge of film, but with a strong passion for sound and the emotions it evokes, he discovered the power of teamwork both for sound-with-image and filmmaking in a group process.

He worked for 17 years as production sound mixer and sound editor on documentary films, feature films and single plays, including films by Frank Scheffer; ‘Conducting Mahler’, ‘Eclat’ and ‘Five Orchestral Pieces’, Alex van Warmerdam; ‘De Jurk’ and ‘Kleine Teun’, Theo van Gogh; ‘06’, ‘Blind date’ and ‘De Pijnbank’, and Mijke de Jong (who was a classmate at the NFA); ‘Krakende Welstand’, ‘Hartverscheurend’, ‘Broos’, ‘Lopen’ and ‘Labyrint’…

In 2001, at the height of his career, he was asked to become Head of Sound Design at the NFA. Reluctantly he decided to follow his intuition again: to try and push sound recording, sound design and mixing up the ladder, over boundaries previously inaccessible.

After 13 years of hard work, the Sound Design curriculum is at the core of filmmaking at the NFA, with an emphasis on sound theory, sound analysis and critical listening experience for all students, sound-concepts before shooting, collaboration with composers early in pre-production, team coaching during pre- and postproduction and enormous attention to all aspects of synchronicity and counterpoint.