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FAQ about DOGME 95 Films

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 5 months ago

Which camera is the best for shooting a Dogme95 film?

Most Dogme95 films are shot on consumer DV cameras. Which one that takes the price as the best, depends heavily on which photographer you ask. So, ask your photographer which model he prefers and it will no doubt work perfectly. The most common problems we have encountered here at the secretariat are difficulties choosing the format and calibrating the camera. Your photographer has to remember that the DV film has to be transferred to 35mm Academy, which is the almost square, old film format 1.33:1. So be sure that there is no confusion at all regarding what you have in your viewfinder and what comes on to the 35mm. print.


How much does a Dogme95 film cost?

The price of making a Danish Dogme95 film has been around 1 million $, with “The Idiots” being the most expensive. But otherwise the price differs a lot depending on the experience of the director. First time directors have ultra-low budgets and therefore the transfer to Academy 35mm becomes an almost insurmountable problem. But there are no limits at all, either way, for the price of a Dogme95 film. Due to the accessibility of affordable DV-cameras and fast consumer computers, and the generally low-tech approach to film production that Dogme95 implies, it should be possible for almost everyone to make a Dogme95 film, although the manifesto was originally thought of as a break, a welcome shift in focus for professionals who, through Dogme, could forget the heavy load of the modern film production machinery for a while and instead develop and exercise their creativity


Is it really true that you cannot use props, costumes and music? Is a fist fight “superficial action”? How can I incorporate a dream sequence in my film, and can I use flashbacks?

Yes. No props, no additional sound and so forth. The essence of Dogme95 is to challenge the conventional film language – in order to make authentic films, in search of the truth. This implicates cutting out the usual aesthetic means of adding sound, light, make up, “ mise en scene”. In addition, it gives more time to improvise the acting, because there are no breaks for hair, make up, light and costume change. Another point is that the handheld camera gives the actors more freedom and space to really impersonate and act out their characters, since the camera follows the actor instead of the opposite. These unusual production circumstances, gives both restriction and freedom to the director, who is forced to be creative. You eliminate the possibility to “save” a horrible, not functioning scene with underlying music or voice-over. You have to come up with creative solutions to get, for example, music into your film. In “The Celebration” Thomas Vinterberg decided to let the plot take place during a traditional Danish family get together where it is custom to sing a lot. At the start of “The Idiots”, Trier has a musician play a little toy-like instrument just beside the camera when driving through the forest in a horse carriage. At the same time Dogme95 creates an even playfield with other people around the world by eliminating the necessity to have a make up department, a big light crew etc. It is a form of economical democratisation because cost are cut. Concerning flash backs, it’s not allowed, and the main purpose of the temporal alienation rule is to prohibit period films, like 2. World War films, 18th century films, science fiction films and so forth. Concerning a dream sequence, you could turn to the film of one of the founding brothers, Thomas Vinterbergs “The Celebration” and the dream sequence about the sister “Linda”. In fact, it is not a flash back, everything takes place here and now. What is “superficial action”. Is a fistfight superficial action? It can be, but then again, it is a matter of judgement. And those judgements have to be made by the director of the film – he has to interpret the rules and try to recognise the intention of the specific rule. And what is accepted as “superficial action” today will most likely be something else tomorrow. You cannot show violence and use it as an aesthetic form of expression.


Why can’t short films be Dogme95 films, and why can’t Dogme be a genre film?

The Dogme95 rules are intended to inspire and raise a debate about film in general and feature films in particular. Short films cannot be Dogme95 film, although it is not spelled out in the rules. It was a decision taken by the original, founding brothers shortly after Dogme95 came to life in 1995. The rules are in fact targeted at the professional directors who might need to have a “purifying” filmmaking experience. In fact, it is not advisable for first time feature film directors to make a Dogme95 film, because one has to be aware of the difference of making a conventional film and making a dogmefilm. Basically it is important to know what constructs a conventional film, before one starts tearing the film language apart.

What is a genre film? It can of course be argued that all films are genre-films of some sort – and that Dogme95 have become a genre in itself. But the intention is to avoid mass-produced films of any sort – be it comedy, action, gangster or western films. Genre films are generally predictable stories, and the manifesto of Dogme95 is meant to create grounds for innovation, rather than present old news. Recycling of props and sets should be avoided and the same goes for narrative and plot construction.


When, how and where were the rules invented?

The Dogme95 rules were conceived in the beginning of 1995. Lars von Trier had the rough idea of some sort of new manifest and called Thomas Vinterberg to as him if he “wanted to start a new wave with him?” He accepted and according to Thomas it took 45 minutes to formulate the rules. They were presented at the Odéon - Théatre de L’Europe in Paris on the 20th of March 1995, where Lars was invited to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of film.


Does a Dogme95 film have to be improvised?

No, Dogme95 films don’t have to be improvised. But improvisation has been an inspiration for almost every Dogme-director because it fits so perfectly with the freedom of the handheld camera. The handheld camera follows the actors which allows them to concentrate on acting with each other, and not acting towards a big monster of a camera. At the same time it is much cheaper to shoot on DV which allows you to shoot longer takes, and many more takes then usual.


Is there a “Dogme-police” who can strip me of my Dogme95 Certificate if they find out that I broke a Dogme-rule?

There is no Dogme95 police. Back when the first 4-6 Dogme-films were made the original 4 directors, Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier, Søren Krag Jacobsen and Kristian Levring got together every time a new Dogme95 film was made, and discussed, if the film was in accordance with the rules. It got harder and harder to get all the directors together, as they became occupied with their own new films, and they didn’t always agree upon the “verdict”. When you look at Harmony Korinne’s “Julian Donkey Boy” you will understand the trouble the founding brothers had. This tough description of a schizophrenic young man stretches the Dogme95 rules to the limit. So by now, it is all up to the new Dogme95 directors. It’s up to their conscience and personal judgement. But let us promote an idea, adapted by Thomas Vinterberg, in the first Dogme95 film: Make a confession if there are things happening that are not in accordance with the strict interpretation of the Dogme-rules. (Click at “The Celebration” picture at the start of the web site, and choose “Confession”.) There is no one who can forbid you from calling your film a Dogme95 film. You can of course expect to be judged by the critics and the audience, many of whom are very aware of the rules. But the Dogme95 manifesto has never been intended as a brand.


Where can I get hold of all the Dogme95 films?

As far as we know there is no place where you can find ALL the Dogme95 films for sale. Big online-bookstores like Amazon.com have some of the films, but some of the not so commercial films are really hard to get hold of – best chances are to contact the producer of the film, find them under the menu “Dogme-films”.


Is 'dogme' a way of making low budget films?

No not at all. The Dogme95 Manifesto does not concern itself with the economic aspects of filmmaking. A ’dogme’ film could be low-budget or it could have a 100 million dollar budget as long as the filmmaker follows the Vow of Chastity. Far fetched maybe, but hopefully a clear example. Also FESTEN - The Celebration is not a low-budget film in its native country. At a production budget of about usd 1,3 million it is just slightly below the average cost for feature films in Denmark. In Denmark a low-budget film would hover around usd 0,5-0,75 million. (Thomas Vinterberg, director of FESTEN - The Celebration).

The Vow of Chastity states that the director must not be credited - isn’t it contradictory or ironic then that the dogme directors do give interviews and that the PR surrounding the films is so intense ?

The Dogme95 Manifesto is exclusively aimed at the filmmaking process (’the making of’) and not the ’afterlife’ - e.g. pr, marketing and distribution - of the films. The ’dogme’ rules should be considered ’symbolic’ and not as a means to remaining secretive or hidden. They are an expression of the directors wish to recede into the background and thus push other talent into the foreground. The ’dogme’ directors finest duty is to register private moments between persons and not to influence them. (Thomas Vinterberg, director of FESTEN - The Celebration).


Isn’t Dogme95 just a sleek, superficial, commercial gimmick ?

Most definitely not. While the ideas behind the Dogme95 Manifesto was born out of honest analysis it is true that the enormous international and local success of the first 3 dogme films has to a degree turned ’dogme’ into a commerical gimmick - a pr stunt. But that is fine with us. After all we are missionaries for the message.

There is an implicit duplicity in The Dogme95 Manifesto. On one hand it contains a deep irony and on the other it is most serious meant. Irony and seriousness is interlinked in inseparable. What we have concerned ourselves with is the making of a set of rule. In this sense it is a kind of play, a game called ’rule-making’. Seriousness and play goes hand in hand. A clear example of this is that the very strict and serious Dogme95 Manifesto was actually written in only 25 minutes and under continuous bursts of merry laughter… Still, we maintain that we are in earnest. Dogme is not for fun. It is, however, both liberating, merry and almost fun to work under such a strict set of rules. It is this duplicity which is the magic of ’dogme’.


Why ’dogme’ - Thomas Vinterberg?

My reasons for subscibing to and being co-inventor of the Dogme95 Manifesto are personal and not necessarily 100% similar to those of the other Dogme Brethern. My reasons were personal, artistic as well as political/ideological. I wanted to counter or moderate certain tendencies in modern filmmaking. I wanted to counter the mediocrity and the conventional in the most conservative of our times’ artforms - namely filmmaking. But not only in other peoples filmmaking - most definitely also in my own. Filmmaking must be linked to a certain degree of risk. Dogme95 is my attempt to undress film, to reach the ’naked film’.


Strangely the strict set of rules we have set ourselves have turned out to be a release, a relief and emancipation almost. The strictness of the rule have not hindered but on the contrary encouraged my imagination. When adding a musical score was suddenly prohibited this has resulted in my film FESTEN - The Celebration being filled with people singing ! It has come alive.

The advantage of the Dogme95 rules is also that they ensure a great freedom of movements during the shooting. While nearly all other film-making instruments have been stripped away what remain are the two most essential of instruments to a director, the story and the acting talent. Dogme95 allows my to focus on these instruments in the extreme.


On a philisophical level it is also noteworthy that the peoples in the world who have been most oppressed have also turned out to be the strongest. Resistance in this way creates movement.


As for myself I am a confused human being and find it wonderful to adhere to rules and regulations.


Thomas Vinterberg - director of FESTEN - The Celebration.

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