Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Take the Pledge...

Make Better Movies! (And TV!)

Jim Emerson, of the great Scanners blog, introduces Dogme 09.8:
Dogme 09.8 has the expressed goal of countering "certain tendencies" in the cinema today. In the spirit of Lars Von Trier's "The Five Obstructions," it acknowledges a fundamental truth -- that new constructive discipline is needed in filmmaking.
The idea comes from Dogme 95's list, but is better, in my opinion, because Dogme 09.8 recognizes that films are illusion and that truth can be found in fantasy.

My favorites from the list:
1. Get a tripod. Learn how to use it. Human beings do not feel their heads bobbling around all the time. If they did, they'd throw up a lot more. The hand-held camera, once a legitimate tool, has been overused to death. It is beyond a cliché, beyond a "certain tendency" -- it has become the most obtrusive, commonplace annoyance in modern films, a hallmark of visual illiteracy. Audiences should throw things at the screen every time they notice handheld camerawork.
I can argue that there are times when hand held works well, but only when it's actually important to the story. When it doesn't help the story, all it is is a distraction. Directors, if you want freedom of movement, get a steady cam. They're not perfect, but they don't interfere nearly as much.
4. No more than three consecutive shots should last less than one second apiece. Nothing undermines confidence and interest in a movie more transparently than a film that is too timid and skittish to allow itself to be seen. Hyperactivity is self-defeating.
I've always been a fan of lingering cameras. That's why I'm cool with all of Kevin Smith's two-shots.
5. If you can tell it's CGI, don't use it. If nobody will notice, go right ahead. If your monster or your spaceship or your location or your decapitation can't be created in camera or with analog effects (like matte paintings), don't assume you can fix it with CGI. If it violates the reality of the film -- no matter what it is -- don't show it.
Really, this one boils down to the last sentence, so I'm going to write it again, "If it violates the reality of the film -- no matter what it is -- don't show it."

It also should go for any special effects, not just CGI stuff.
7. Don't scramble chronology just to make dull material less linear. It doesn't help.
It can make things worse and it's a cheap way to try to build tension.