For one of the 2012 college projects, the ‘challenge’ was to make a Dogme95 film. Dogme95 is an art movement based on little more than a ill-conceived “fuck you” to Hollywood that was literally scribbled on a napkin by a collection of filmmakers on a drunken bender. It should therefore come as no surprise that even the founders of the movement don’t bother to follow the rules they themselves wrote; even films made at the very beginning of the movement by the people who created it break the rules multiple times.
But, for those who aren’t familiar with it, to “qualify” your film as a Dogme95 piece, you have to do the following: shoot entirely hand-held, use only natural light, bring nothing to the set that wasn’t there originally, no sound editing can be done to alter or add to the sound recorded on location, it must be filmed in unaltered colour (i.e. no filters or special effects), it must take place in current day and in the location it is shot, genre films are outlawed, and the director must not be credited. There was also a rule about using 35mm film, but for this project that was replaced with 1080p video. It was supposed to be a return to “purer” film-making, divorced from the excesses of Hollywood, telling the “true” stories, like, big companies never would, man. This is, like, art, dude, and breaking any of these rules isn’t just a faux pas, it’s a full-on sin (their terminology, not mine).
College opened my eyes to a lot more experimental and artsy material than I would have experienced otherwise. There are a lot of films that I like, find interesting, even take inspiration from that I’ve only seen thanks to that college course. Just because something is obtuse, unusual, or otherwise doesn’t spoon-feed the audience doesn’t make it automatically “pretentious” as so many people seem to think. I therefore feel a bit more justified in stating that the entire movement is blatantly pretentious wank. You could make arguments for and against the individual merits of the films themselves, Idioterne (1998) for example does have ideas under the hood that are at the very least interesting and worth analysis. However, the ideology that birthed them is so laughably malformed, underdeveloped, and based so much in spiting other, “fake” forms of art and so little in actual creative drive that I honestly cannot find any way to take this anal-gazing rubbish seriously. It’s the art movement equivalent of that bearded, pasty twenty-something strumming the acoustic guitar he barely knows how to use so that he can “teach” you all about his “hashtag deep” thoughts about the world. You know, that insufferable prick nobody other than the other insufferable pricks can stand for more than five consecutive seconds.
I keep harping on this point, but I do so for a reason: not even the fucking people who came up with this idiotic bullshit could be arsed to adhere to the arbitrary, faux-philosophical crap they came up with. So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I was trying to come up with ways to rebel against the constraints I was under. Ironic, considering the whole point of this worthless excuse for a movement was specifically to do just that. Originally I wanted to do a parody of shitty game reviewers on YouTube, but my performance was unwatchable in how incompetent it was, and not in the intended ways. So, the night before I was supposed to be showing a work-in-progress version to the lecturer, I improvised. I scribbled some vaguely ominous “supernatural” shit on some pieces of paper, and headed out into the woods near my house in the middle of the night. It was 2012, back when Slenderman was actually somewhat relevant, so I threw together a pastiche of the popular game Slender. As a result, I wandered around the empty streets with a camera, “finding” said pieces of paper in various places as in the game, and then tacked on a bit at home about how it was actually just a ruse. It wasn’t anything actually supernatural, it was actually about shallow “realistic” drama instead of anything interesting, just as Dogme95 likes it.
I still broke some rules despite going out of my way to stay within the limitations (whilst spiting them as much as possible, natch). I brought the pieces of paper to the woods, and I did some sound editing to decrease the volume on the shot where the bus speeds past, since it blew out the mic. The reaction to this one was pretty muted, it was pretty soon forgotten by everyone, including me. Then again, I learned years later that, aside from one or two people who really gelled with the movement’s aesthetic and production style, no-one gave half a shit about this project. One person said later that they were half-asleep throughout most of the screening day. I only bothered uploading mine to the internet years later, and it’s easy to see why. Dogme95 is a movement that’s both stiflingly inflexible and infuriatingly nebulous and ill-enforced, so I was only ever going to make something disposable and forgettable to just meet the requirements and move on. Then again, I’m listing it on this site whereas other things I’ve done didn’t make the cut of quality to do so, so I guess the finished film isn’t entirely without merit or potential interest.
It is still massively dated, though. I mean, an entire film based around Slender? I just needed to work the Gangnam Style, bronies and the Mayan apocalypse in there and it’d be the most painfully 2012 thing to ever 2012. (For the record I wrote this paragraph long, long before the actual Slenderman movie was a thing -Future Ashley)