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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Thomas Vinterberg and Berlinale Talents

by Becky Tan

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg spoke to ambitious, young filmmakers at the Berlinale Talents. For six days, invited students from 78 countries met to learn and network. This section, originally called Berlinale Talent Campus, was established in 2002 as an opportunity for striving young filmmakers to attend 35 workshops and master classes in directing, producing, acting, screenwriting, cinematography, editing, and much more. The 300 attendees were selected from 2648 applicants. Four alumni from former Berlinale Talents proudly showed their newest films.

Some of the discussions were open to the general Berlinale public. In this venue many of us could hear Thomas Vinterberg give advice to the next generation in a discussion entitled “The Director must not be Credited.” Vinterberg is known for such films as The Celebration (1998), The Hunt (2012) and Far from the Madding Crowd (2014). He is a founding member of Dogma 95, at that time a new direction in Danish filmmaking. His newest film, The Commune, showed in competition at the Berlinale (see review page…). He is relatively young (born 1969) and very good-looking; he could easily play a leading role in any film.

Vinterberg began by explaining some of the Ten Commandments of Dogma 95. It “tried to avert holding actors’ hands from A to B.” There should be no makeup, no music and only natural light. None of the participants pre-read their scripts, filming was in real time and the director would not be credited (the title of his discussion). Interestingly Vinterberg no longer holds to Dogma 95, as seen in The Commune. He said Dogma 95 was supposed to be new and revolutionary and after 20 years it was mainstream, no longer “new,” which defeated the purpose. As soon as everyone was following these guidelines it “was the beginning of the end of Dogma 95.”

He discussed using a hand camera and the difficulties of adding sound, also how to re-do a scene during filming, which can lead to multiple repeats of just a few minutes. Actors need “frames” or directions in a certain segment, which they can expand according to their own interpretation. He listens to the actors’ input and then sets the limitations. Usually, there are two weeks of rehearsals. The “more solid the foundation, the more you can let go.” He recommends testing a film idea on the stage, which he did at the Vienna Burg Theater with The Celebration. Contrary to film, a theater performance disappears when the curtain goes down and starts anew the next night.

Berlinale Talents generously allows us to see this 90-minute discussion in English on www.berlinale-talents.de. Click “Watch Live Recordings” and scroll down to “The Director must not be Credited.”

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