Inspiration: the Dogme95 Film Movement

The Dogme95 movement in filmmaking was started by Danish filmmakers Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg in 1995. It was a response to the rising budgets, technical gimmicks, and overwhelming special effects that were taking over the industry. What they wanted was to wrest control of filmmaking away from the studios, and put it back into the hands of directors. They wanted to shift focus back to the things they felt were most important, which were story, acting, and theme. Allow creators to make the sorts of films that they wanted to make, the way that they wanted to make them, rather than following the studio’s focus-group driven, test-marketed formulas.

Dogme95 “Rules”

They came up with a list of 10 rules, which they referred to as the “Vow of Chastity”. If you wanted to be part of the movement, you needed to do these things:

  • Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in (if a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found).
  • 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.)
  • The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  • The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable. (If there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera.)
  • Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  • The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  • Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)
  • Genre movies are not acceptable.
  • The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  • The director must not be credited.

Black Box Manifesto “Rules”

When my friend Daniel Perez was putting together the Black Box Manifesto, this was his starting point. He wanted to make a similar declaration for tabletop roleplaying creators. You can read it over on his site, and there’s a copy on the Dancing Lights Press site as well because we helped him with it. Shift the focus away from production value, and back to the table. Get rid of the gimmicks and the spectacle, and put the emphasis back onto roleplaying.

You don’t have to agree with it. The point isn’t to say that all filmmakers should follow Dogme95’s rules. Even von Trier and Vinterberg haven’t hewn tightly to their own vow. Daniel and I aren’t saying that all game designers have to adhere to the Black Box Manifesto or they fail some ideological purity test. That’s nonsense. These statements are, at their heart, a call for people to recognize that there are other ways to do things. There are even valid reasons to do things in ways other than what’s been accepted as the norm. If nothing else, these are the standards that we aspire to, some guiding principles that shape what we do and the way we do them.

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