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Behind: Movies

Film dramaturgy – That’s what’s behind it!

   Reading time: 3 Minutes

Film dramaturgy, what is it actually? What is the difference between dramaturgy and the actual story?

Dramaturgy describes the “how” in the process of film production. How is a story best told? That is the task of dramaturgy. The story, on the other hand. can be described by the question “What?”, that is, what is being told!?? The plot is the story, but the way the plot is told is the dramaturgy.

The following example shows how important dramaturgy really is: For humans, birth and death are existential in themselves. From a storyteller’s point of view, however, they are merely two cornerstones between which anything imaginable can happen. That’s why storytelling for film and video needs a framework and a structural principle so that life circumstances can be conveyed in a way that is comprehensible to a broad audience.

The roots of dramaturgy

Like so much of film and video, classic film dramaturgy has its roots in theater.

Almost exactly 200 years ago, authors and theater operators recognized the following phenomenon in restored Europe: They could remind the audience of events from the past, but the audience ultimately only found the play good, and applauded when the good on stage triumphed in the end.

after this realization, they always arranged the scenes in a 3-act structure:
Act 1: The conflict between the most important person in the play against evil.
Act 2: The struggle
Act 3: The good triumphs
With this structure, classical dramaturgy was born.

At the beginning of the last century, film pioneers adopted this structural principle and to this day it guarantees billions in sales and has made a worldwide career as the “happy ending”.

Not “beginning and end” but “before and after” give the characters and the story in the script their value. This is the answer to a mistake that occurs again and again. The mistake is this: The Greek philosopher Aristotle is often credited with the statement that every story has a beginning, a middle and an end.

This, however, is double nonsense, because on the one hand this quotation never existed in Aristotle and on the other hand: The beginning and the end are relevant for the telling of a story, but they are not yet a story!

This realization leads directly to one of the most frequently used and technically extremely powerful tools: the contrast.

The greater the loss for the characters, the more insurmountable a problem for the audience, the more the plot draws the audience in!

Dramaturgical tools

Dramaturgical tools, in interaction with cinematic tools of the trade, ensure the fascination of the moving image. Thanks to them, situations become stories.

Dramaturgy is like storytelling: a craft with the potential to become an art!

There are six very proven dramaturgical tools:

  1. surprise
  2. contrast
  3. delay
  4. advance of knowledge
  5. excitement
  6. humor

Without the right dramaturgy, even the most beautiful video calculation is futile, even subjective perception can’t change that, and it’s not just the storytelling in the image film that is lost.

One can go so far as to say that without the skillful use of dramaturgy, the future in commissioned film is in jeopardy!

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