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Dogme.AughtSix Review

A Dailies Project

By Pamela Cole

Imagine making a film without any extra lighting or music; with no special effects or filters; no murders, weapons, or car chases; and no flashbacks -- all in a single location. Why bother?, one might ask in this age of CGI and Final Cut Pro aficionados. But such was the task for the daring filmmakers of Dogme.AughtSix, the latest Dailies Project.

If you are reading this from outside Atlanta, you're probably asking, what the heck is the Dailies Project? Well, the Dailies Project is an Atlanta filmmaking project now in its fifth year that "unites filmmakers to explore their craft through community and creation," according to its mission statement. Dailies is a consortium of actors, directors, producers, and crew who work together to produce films. To date, Dailies has spawned over 100 shorts and three features. One of these films was Exquisite Corpse, which evolved into The Signal, produced by POPFilms and just accepted into Sundance. (See article about The Signal in the March 19, 2006 print edition of Southern Screen Report.)

In the spirit of Lars Von Trier's Dogme 95 movement, which advocates pure filmmaking that focuses on story and actor performance, the 11th Dailies Project was designated as Dogme.AughtSix. Like Dogme 95, Dogme.AughtSix has a set of rules to guide filmmakers. There are actually 10 rules in this "Vow of Chastity":

1. Shooting must be done at one location. Sets must not be brought in.

2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. (Music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).

3. The aspect ratio of the finished film must be the same as it was shot.

4. Special lighting is not acceptable. Practical lights, the sun, and a bounce board are your only instruments.

5. Optical work and filters are forbidden - including any post effects.

6. The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)

7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)

8. Genre movies are not acceptable.

9. Films must be between 12 and 18 minutes.

10. The director cannot be the camera operator.

Rules for filmmakers? This really seems to go against the medium grain, but eight local directors jumped into the Dogme arena and the results were pre-screened on Dec. 12 at PushPush Theater, the home of Dailies. All but one of the films was available for screening. About 35 cast, crew, and press were on hand for the screening, which lasted about two-and-half hours including intermission.

The trick to watching Dogme films is not to get bored, given our quick-cut, over-active camera, MTV viewer expectations these days. A good Dogme film draws you into the story so completely that you don't realize there are no other effects -- there's just the story and the performance.

Critiquing works such as these requires a different set of standards. First of all -- the films got made -- a huge achievement deserving accolades. Most of the films adhered strongly to the Dogme.AughtSix Vows, though everyone had to get creative at times to do this. Writer/director Lucius Williams, IV, stayed within the Dogme restrictions by making use of his cell phone video camera in Mongoose. The quality of the films varied and you can make your own decision about that when you go to the public screenings in January. But I'll let you in on some of my favorites.

I was mesmerized through most of The Singing, delighted by the pace and the high-level theatrical acting. The Dogme vows seemed to do exactly what they were intended to do in this piece -- put the focus on performance while eliminating the distractions of filmmaking. It ran a bit too long for me and missed a few good ending points before introducing a third character. The story was a little unclear to me, but I found the relationship between the characters to be the more interesting story anyway.

Hoopla was another piece that clearly benefited from Dogme restrictions (some say releases). Set entirely in a foggy field, it was beautifully photographed using depth-of-field to create an ethereal quality that emphasized the mystery of the story. Again, the acting really shined in this stark setting, the performances getting the camera's greatest attention.

Most of the films dealt with personal relationships, but Patrick Paints a Picture had an interesting script dealing with artistic expression. I loved the shot from the point-of-view of the painting, and the close-ups, which accentuated the excellent performances.

Dogme imposes many problems for today's technical-savvy filmmaker. All the filmmakers agreed that one of the biggest challenges was audio. With no post-production sweetening allowed, be prepared for lots of hum and don't hesitate to cover your ears during the occasional audio spike.

Lighting isn't as much of a Dogme issue using the highly sensitive DV cameras of today. It does force the DP to display his mastery of the camera, to squeeze every available lumen into the frame. I thought all the films were adequately lit.

Victoria Warren, writer/producer of Truths, said that it was "the most tortuous production ever," but added that it was a great exercise in "bringing the goals down to a more personal level." Some filmmakers said that working within this restrictive framework actually freed them to experiment.

Go to one of the screenings of Dogme.AughtSix in January. It's well worth the price of a ticket ($8 - $25) to see what local filmmakers and actors were able to concoct using this extreme formula. It's not easy to be a dogme-master. But Dogme.AughtSix had some very successful attempts.

Dogme.AughtSix Films

A Choreographed Dance Routine Between Two Siblings
Written by Raymond Carr, Sarah Martin, & Jeremiah Maeda
Directed by Raymond Carr

Hoopla
Written & Directed by Scott Balzer

Mongoose
Written & Directed by Lucius Williams, IV

Patrick Paints a Picture
Written by Anthony Pearson
Directed by Nick Hiltgen

The Singing
Written by Rob Nixon
Directed by Rob Nixon & JD Taylor

The Thought Before
Directed by Charlsey Adkins
Written by Charlsey Adkins & Ashley Patterson

Three
Written & Directed by Adam K Thompson

Truthf
Written & Produced by Victoria K Warren
Directed by Erica Crabb-Moon

PushPush Theater
121 New Street, Decatur, GA 30030
January 5 & 6, 2007 at 8 pm
January 7, 2007 at 5 pm
January 12 & 13, 2007 at 10 pm

www.dailiesatlanta.org