Angelo + Alexa

Gus and I wanted to explore Dogme 95, a film movement which began in Denmark in 1995, so we developed this Dogme scene for our directing class with Samantha Lang at the Australian Film Television & Radio School. The sound is compromised, because we couldn’t turn off the air conditioning, but the piece still reflects the Dogme style, a set of rules which brings rawness and potentially realness to a dramatic story.

Even though we storyboarded and planned the scene with our classmates, we ultimately decided the camera should follow the action, which is the rule in Dogme. It’s interesting to see how our camera operator Dan wanted to catch the reactions, so sometimes preempted where the camera should be. The scene was cropped to the 4:3 aspect ratio because of the Dogme rule but the monitor of the camera was 16:9 so it it’s actually cropped 16:9 and I feel that the framing is not always working.

After directing the scene, I continued to research how Dogme had influenced film and TV from Denmark. I was curious to see if stripping away production values and working with just the story and actors had made the films better and explore this in my video essay, The Day Denmark Dumped Hollywood (For A Dog).

I was then inspired to direct my short film Hate Dance with some of these principles. It’s not strictly Dogme, but the influence is visable, especially in the connection between the camera and actors.

Further down this page are the initial storyboard, and some photos with Nikki Brown and Elliott Brissenden, who were our devising collaborators

Directed by Beverley Callow & Angus Burns

Written by Angus Burns

Cast
Alexa – Diab Metry
Angelo – Ben Brock

Camera – Daniel White
Sound – Angus Burns
Editor – Beverley Callow

Journal entry

In approaching the visual design of our short scene, Angelo and Alexa, we have taken cues from the mode of production we wish to apply, that of the Dogme 95 movement. In Dogme, a manifesto created by Danish filmmakers Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg among others, finding the truth of a story is emphasised and made possible by a series of rules that seek to strip away the trickery and manipulation of Hollywood films and reveal raw and unfettered human emotion.

The story centres around Alexa, a pop star of questionable influence, as she prepares for a performance before her mirror in her harshly lit dressing room. Her body-guard, Angelo, looks on, offering support as she criticises her own appearance. Her flippant mention of the suicide of a boy she went to high school triggers Angelo to transgress the unspoken rules between them, altering their relationship and breaking Alexa’s self- denial.

One of the prerequisites of this assignment is to film the scene in one continuous shot. In addition, we have chosen to be inspired by the rules of Dogme through which we aim to combine the fluidity of the continuous shot with the momentary truth of the Dogme style. We are extending the Dogme concept to other rules of the manifesto including to provide no costumes other than what the actors bring to the scene. Props and lighting will be what ever is available at the location we have selected that meets the basic requirements of the script. We have drawn upon films such as En Soap (2006) by Pernille Fischer Christensen and Black Swan (2010) by Darren Aronofsky, paying close attention to the way the camera finds its way through the scenes, particularly when mirrors are involved, rather than the imposition of selected design elements. Beverley’s storyboard works with the lights and mirrors of the makeup room to conceal and then reveal characters and space for symbolic and metaphoric effect. These principles work directly against the principals of Dogme, however in true Dogme style, we are willing to arrive on the filming day and create the scene with the actors. The storyboard and test photographs we have done are merely to show us what can be done and not done. The Dogme rule of hand-held camera will assist us in creating a closer relationship between camera and actor. We are considering recasting with professional actors in order to be able to push the boundaries of what we have been able to do with the scene up until now. We suspect that we will discover more about what can be done with the subtext of the piece if we recast, though we are undecided at the time of writing this journal.

What is most important to us now, and what will inform the look and feel of the piece more than reference imagery and storyboarding, is the approach we take to directing the actors cast in the film, a process that we want to be organic, gritty, reciprocal and rewarding and one that we look forward with excitement ~ Angus Burns

Storyboard

References

Stevenson, J. (2003). Dogme uncut : Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterburg, and the gang that took on Hollywood. Santa Monica, CA : Santa Monica Press, c2003.

Bjèorkman, S., Jèonsson, L., Rèoed, J., Mantle, A. D., Blixt, B., Flamholc, L., & … Trier, L. v. (1997). Tranceformer : a portrait of Lars Von Trier. [DVD]. [Denmark] : AB Memfis Film & Television in cooperation with [others], 1997.