1-on-1 with Coco Plooijer: the Happy Rebel

Photo: Coco Plooijer. Photography: Simone Schoutens

We believe that innovative professionals are the pioneers of the changing world. That’s why every week we go in-depth with one of our favorites and pick up some lessons about what it takes to be a professional rebel. This week we spoke to independent filmmaker and artist Coco Plooijer.

Coco, 26, is someone who talks about everything she has ever done and everything she wants to do, with a smile. With a start in human geography she’s gone on to work in various fields of art including photography, design and her greatest passion — filmmaking. Roald Tjon caught with her to talk about confidence, color and chocolate.

Can you tell us something about yourself?

“I am very cheery. I always get up super early and I’m happy there’s a new day so I jump out of bed every morning. I don’t actually have to put on an alarm because I’ll naturally wake up at 6.30 or earlier.’

“I also like doing a lot of things at once and I try to grab every opportunity that comes my way. I try to step out of my comfort zone often even though there are a lot of things I find pretty scary. Even if I’m really anxious I would never say no to something that came my way.”

How did you get into making art?

Coco was interested in creative pursuits from a young age, but after getting rejected for a Bachelor in audiovisual media she studied human geography and urban planning at the University of Amsterdam: “The study really fit me, because it’s all about people and how they move in time and space. It doesn’t really feel like a study anymore, it just feels like it’s me.“

During her study Coco did a lot freelance photography and got accepted for a traineeship at the Foam Lab after graduating in 2013: “That was the first time I was in a team of people that loved art, photography and film. It took me a while but ultimately I really felt like I found my place.”

Next to that Coco also started AYO & OLA — a visual concept studio for film, photography and design — with her sister and runs a bed and breakfast called Cees&Co with her boyfriend.

Photography by: Simone Schoutens

And how did you get into filmmaking?

The day after finishing her traineeship at the Foam Lab Coco started as production designer on a short film called GOTTA and got her first taste of what she considers her biggest passion.

“Making films is what I’ve secretly always wanted to do ever since high school. After GOTTA I helped out at some other film sets, took a course in directing and now I’ve just finished directing my own short film. The working title is Over de Buren and it’s about a girl who wants to brighten up the life of her lonely neighbor. Now that I’ve done this, I’ve taken the first step towards what I want to grow old doing.”

Was it hard to make a switch into a new field after graduating?

“I was very unsure because I didn’t come from the art world. When I started at Foam I didn’t know very many photographers, but I had to push those fears and insecurities aside and start talking to people and asking questions. You have to be open for things, even if you think it’s scary. Then you can learn more about the things you really want to know.’

“A lot of times I present myself a lot more confidently than I am. When I have a presentation for example then I tell myself to pretend I’m really good at whatever it is, and strangely enough it works.”

The Lesson: Fake it until you become it.

What is it like being black in the Dutch art world?

“I’m very aware of my color, especially in the art world: it’s just all white. I don’t have all the answers, but I know that race is something you deal with every day if you’re someone of color. I don’t think there are many female, black directors in the film world for example.’

“Sometimes it’s difficult when people think we shouldn’t focus on diversity. That it’s not important anymore. It shouldn’t be an issue, but are the opportunities really the same for everyone? Sometimes people say, ‘What does your color matter? Everyone’s the same.’ But in reality that isn’t the case, and it can be difficult when people don’t acknowledge that.”

Would you consider yourself a professional rebel?

“I see myself as a professional rebel, because I never let an opportunity pass me by and I always want to keep going that step further, but it’s a bit scary to call myself that. Sometimes it’s difficult to take yourself seriously.’

“I think a lot of women have that as well. They’re more modest and won’t say that they’re the best at something. I really want to change that for myself. If you won’t say you’re the best, how is someone else going to believe you?”

The Lesson: Start by taking yourself seriously.

What’s the last thing you bought for under 50?

“I had to sit in the car for a long time so a lot of candy and chocolate. I like all types of sour candy and just any chocolate you can think of.”

Which people have influenced you most?

“I think my sister, Veralyn Plooijer, has influenced me most. But I have more than one so I don’t know if I’m only allowed to mention one.’

“Anything she told me to do in the past I would, because I really looked up to her as type of god. When I finished studying I could’ve gone on to do a Masters. I didn’t because I knew I wanted to go a different route, but she wanted me to keep studying. That’s probably the first time I didn’t let her influence me. I have that with my other sisters as well. They’re all very important in the choices I make.”

Photography by: Simone Schoutens

Is there something people would be surprised to know about you?

“People wouldn’t expect to know that I can get really mad. Like really furious. Unfortunately, often at the people closest to me. When things become too much and I’m stressed out or overworked I can just erupt. In the past I had some pretty extreme tantrums. I have gotten calmer now and things have maybe gotten a bit more stable. I’ve also learned not to let it get to the point where I can absolutely explode.”

Any tips to other rebels out there?

“If the thought of something makes you scared, you should definitely go and do it.”

Professional Rebel & Coco: It’s a family/friend affair as Chief Rebel Melissa is good friends with one of Coco’s sisters and has always been a big fan. And what’s not to love? She’s easygoing, thoughtful and nearly always smiling, which made the interview a blast.

Get in touch with Coco: Website | LinkedIn | Instagram

Our photographer Simone trying out a shot with Coco outside of our office at B. Amsterdam.

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