In general, Van Heijningen, 38, prefers storytelling and comedy over serious fare. "Nobody asks to watch a commercial; I think you should entertain people one way or the other, unless it's for a charity." His dramatic work, however, doesn't need any force-feeding. A Gold Lion-winning PSA for the U.N. emotionalizes dry statistics via still photography dimensionalized in post. "At first, we thought about using stock footage that showed horrible images, but it became pretentious and a bit boring, so using pictures from photographers in 3-D maybe makes it more interesting to watch." Whatever statement he tries to make, Van Heijningen belives "your commercials should be personal. If you don't feel a personal attachment to what you make, it's somebody else's and probably won't have a soul. Sometimes it's difficult to defend, but the trick is to inform everybody upfront of what your aim is."
Upfront, his aim was to be a lawyer, looking to do something different after growing up on the set with his father, a Dutch filmmaker. But, inspired by an ad for Central Beheer, a client for whom he himself later went on to direct, Van Heijningen turned back to film. The spot was "was about an arrogant bastard who drives a very luxurious car," he recalls. "He watches television, sees a hypnotist on the TV and gets hypnotized forever. It was very well executed and I thought, Wow, if commercials can be funny little stories, maybe that's for me."