VOTF award for Michel van Laer
The VOTF ( Flemish association of tv freelancers and AV service companies) has presented one of the founding SBC members Michel van Laer with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his career as a cinematographer. VOTF president Wim Robberechts presented Michel with the award at an informal dinner in January 2023.
After having worked as a lighting technician and sound person for some years, Michel invested in his own film camera equipment and started freelancing for the news department of the Belgian national tv station BRT. His work doing tv segments and documentaries was the perfect training ground for him to make the jump into doing drama work in the mid-1970s.
During his 40-year-long career, he shot 14 feature films, ranging from comedies to historic dramas.
For director Robbe De Hert he lensed the WOII drama Gaston’s war, a true story of a resistance hero, a large-scale production released in 1997. The two comedies he shot around the same time Max (1994) and Oesje! (1997) were both huge commercial successes and still occupy a place in the top 10 Flemish box office list.
And the 2001 film Pauline & Paulette by Lieven De Brauwer was both a commercial and critical success story. The film picked up several awards among others at the Cannes festival.
Michel also had a successful career shooting tv dramas, both in the episodic and tv movie format. For directors Marc Punt and Guy Goossens he shot 2 seasons of Matroesjka’s, a show on the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe to Belgium. Some of the location work for the series was done in Thailand, allowing Michel to work with a large local crew using an Arri Super 16mm camera.
Over a period of 6 years, Michel served as the DOP on the long-running police show Aspe, shooting a total of 78 episodes, before retiring six years ago.
During his long career, Michel had to deal with the various technical changes in the industry going from shooting on film to digital capture. But also he was a witness to the evolution of the Belgian filmmaker’s community, growing from a small group of artisans into an industry with international recognition.
At the age of 80 Michel still plays an active role serving as a board member in the SBC with his extensive knowledge and advice.
VOTF pictures by Wim Robberechts.