I saw a terrible movie this weekend. The movie is so bad that I'm not even going to post a link to it. In other words: I'd rather this movie not exist, and there is nothing good to be learned from watching it. However, since I did watch it (mostly in fast forward to waste the minimum amount of time), there are a few lessons I can apply to the experience. Well, there's one lesson that comes out of the "style" the film was shot in: Dogme 95.
"Dogma 95" (for us American folk) is a "style" of filmmaking that is all about getting back to the "purity" of filmmaking. They follow such rules as: No props or sets; No added sound; It must be hand-held; Must be in color; No filters/optical work; No murders; The film must take place here and now; No "genre" movies; It must end up on Academy 35mm (but should be shot on a home camcorder); The Director must not be credited... oh, and the "goal is to force the truth out ... at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations."
In other words: Dogme 95 films are pieces of non-artsy artsy trash. To swear to be devoid of any "taste" or "aesthetic considerations" for the sake of "truth" is a philosophical minefield that mistakes ingenuity and talent as selling out, and praises home movies as pure filmmaking.
To make matters worse, it seems these filmmakers consider lesbians making out and people saying "f-you" for a few hours to be "truth". That's right up there with the claim that Ellen Paige is now "one of the most exciting young actresses on screen today" because of her "tour-de-force performance" in "The Tracey Fragments" where she plays the same character she did in many of her other films: A smart-mouthed, bitter, jaded, under-aged sex object capable of turning the tables on older men.
Lesson #1: If you can't make movies well, just create a "style" for yourself and become a self-proclaimed genius. ...Okay, that's not the lesson, although the truism still holds: There is an audience for everything (someone gave the horrible film at the start of this post a 6.8/10 on IMDB). It is important to note that restricting yourself to what you have at your disposal for filmmaking can lead to great learning opportunities and fantastic moments in films. But what the Dogme 95 crowd forgets is that this ingenuity is practiced on virtually every film set out there, including Hollywood.
As Stu Maschwitz noted in his Keynote at NAB'08, "Filmmaking is all about showing less." He also gives some fun examples of things he's done (including helicopter stunts) in a basement.
(NB: I think there's some swearing in the video, if that's going to bother you.)
So, Lesson #1 is this: Filmmaking is about using the tools you have to get the medium of film to do what you need for your piece to convey your message, no matter your budget. If you forget that, like the Dogme guys, you'll produce lame strings of moving pictures.
There are certainly more lessons to be gleaned from filmmaking from a theoretical standpoint to inform your shooting style, but we'll leave it at that for now.
Your Media Production Mentor