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Masterclass 2020

Niels Pagh Andersen, Denmark

Wednesday, 4 March 2020 | 2 pm

Goethe Institute/Max-Mueller Bhavan

First appeared in Hamburg Dramaturgy, a series of essays by the German dramatist and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing written during 1767-69, the term Dramaturgy has been associated with motion pictures since long. From on-stage it has slowly found its profound importance to on-screen as well. In the complex body of contemporary reality storytelling, it has already been in the centre of critical engagement as one of the important formal tools.

Far too often Dramaturgy is used as a mechanical archetype, not engrained in film`s most important power: to tell stories in emotional curves; in between words; frames; in or between the pauses layered with images and sounds.
With the starting point in his own journey, Niels Pagh Andersen, one of the most talked about editors of our time, has been known for his works as a dramaturge and supervising editor. In this masterclass Niels will unfold his universe to touch upon how to regulate the emotional curve in a film and find the precise balance between the plot and the emotional logic the story intends to resonate. He will open up his toolbox from his editing room; furnish his talks with tips, tricks and methods with reference to his own editing works.

The editor’s masterpieces that has bagged several notable awards are The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence both by Joshua Oppenheimer, Palme by Kristina Lindström and Maud Nycander, Concrete Night and The 3 Rooms of Melancholia by Pirjo Honkasalo, Prostitution: Behind The Veil by Nahid Persson, Flying: Confessions of Free Woman by Jennifer Fox and Human Flow by Ai Weiwei.

Emotion: Dramaturgy

Why documentary films are interesting? Because filmmakers go out in reality which is much more complex than we think it is. Granules of reality is always beyond our apprehensions.

On this note NeilsPagh Andersen started his masterclass on Day 3 of DocedgeKolkata, Asian Forum for Documentary 2020. Sharing his experience as a dramaturge and editor to an audience of new generation storytellers, Niels said, “If we don’t make our own stories, the audience will make their own,” and hence the focus should be on emotional guidance to the viewers by creating order in chaos.

Editing is an incredible knowledge-imbibing exercise for self-illumination. As a human being one is extremely privileged when an editor encounters a recorded reality unknown to him /her. It is the emotion that irrefutably embeds the desired dramaturgy in the reality through a formal process of story!

He went on to describe that stimulation that reality offers us is much more surprising than the best scriptwriter could pen down. Niels also spoke about creating tension within a frame and gave example of musical compositions stating that all art forms, in their core, are evolved and regulated by tension: an interplay of opposites.

The master editor pointed out the fact that too much information raises many questions and confuses the viewers. He traces that the ordinary is what illuminates the extraordinary. As the reality beams out too much of truth, the understatement is one of the important tools for engaging the audience for progressively fruitful conversations.

However, the most refined tool is the controlling emotions and placement of elements of reality for evocation, understanding and empathy. Niels illustrated the role of emotions in storytelling by amplifying how obstacles are strategically placed in the body of the story to heighten curiosity and stimulating responses.

Among all the explanations and giving out master tips, Niels stressed on simplicity. He pointed that using the curiosity and expectation of the viewers at the utmost level by holding back the information and then spread the relevant fragments out is what makes the work rich in engagement.

The first viewing of material holy and pure. The editor encounters the reality absolutely without any pre-given or prejudice. Niels strongly proposed that being an editor one must first fall in love with their characters, which makes them like everything about characters; then look for the contradictions, conflicts, and the opposites; ask the characters what their dreams are, what journey they intend to make and then gradually filter out material to chose the inevitable combine of reality they live in. Then we know the way they think, emote, oppose and submit. It is love, empathy and respect to people make the editors understand the reality one is going to touch upon and shape up.

The masterclass was followed by an interactive session of question and answers. A wide latitude of core points on editing and storytelling were raised through the questions by tutors, participants and observers. Niels Pagh Andersen concluded the masterclass with an inspirational embrace to the community by suggesting the filmmakers to be an integral part of the truth.

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