Dramaturgy and film (1 reply and 4 comments)
In theater and opera there's often a dramaturg involved in the creative team. Dramaturgs are different from the other collaborators in that their responsibility isn’t to a single aspect of the creation. The dramaturg is there to respond to the ideas that are being expressed and to help find the next step in the process. A dramaturg can be seen as the theoretical conscience of a production.
Roger (and others), did you ever work with a dramaturg? Can you see a need for a dramaturg in film creation?
This is an interesting article about the role of a dramaturg in the creation of new opera works:
I first came across the role of 'Dramaturg' in German theatre in the 70s and I was surprised to discover that someone gets paid good money to supervise the literary, historical and intellectual merit of a production. I suppose in a film that would be covered by specialist advisors for such things as historical accuracy, voice/accent coaches and so on.
Because of the tendency towards pseudo-intellectualism by some dramaturgs, in the Anglo-Saxon world, they soon got rechristened 'Drama-Turds'.
German theatre loves its' intellectual merit - but then it is heavily subsidised and can afford to be like that and many audiences expect to be given plays in which intellectual merit can be more important than entertainment value.
Yes, I know they do easily get mocked. In the end of the creative process they do not have anything tangible to take credit for. Besides that they tend to look deeply in thought while looking at rehearsals while others are at work.
But they do seem to have an important role in theater and opera. As you say 'to supervise the literary, historical and intellectual merit of a production.' But also as a mirror and conscience for the director and other creatives.
As my father is a dramaturg for german operas I can assure you, that they do a little more than "looking deeply in thought while others work" - rather they are a little bit like a DoP might be for the director of a film.
He is the first person the director would talk to when they are not sure about certain things in pre-pro or while rehearsing scenes. Also they look at historical facts, search for the notes the musicians can play, take care of legal issues, do some marketing (like supervising poster design), writing the "programmheft" which is a little booklet the audience gets before the plays, moderation of info-sessions with the audience, organising concerts...All that comes in addition to supervising the actual dramaturgy of the opera. So if the audience will understand certain things, if the "artsy side" is bigger than the entertainment factor, if there are plot holes etc.
Don´t wanna defend anything here, just thought I could clear some things up, because basically no one (often not even people working in german theatres) know how much work is done by the "Dramaturg" - so sometimes I actually ask him for help when preparing a movie - because he can not only help me with the art-side of things, but also how to market, how to reach an audience how editing could make sense, philosophical questions etc. - sometimes I wish there would be more films having a Dramaturg 😉
When I said "they look deeply in thought when others work" I didn't mean to say they do not work. I was merely illustrating how a prejudice can easily be born because of the fact they operate differently from the rest of the team. Their work is not so tangible (apart from program books etc.). I know because I've worked closely together with them for quite some time.
I started this topic because I know dramaturgs play an important role in the making of opera's. And I wonder if film has an equivalent.
Quote "sometimes I wish there would be more films having a Dramaturg"
Certainly many TV series could use one! Some of those period dramas that are being churned out nowadays have dialogue that is totally inappropriate for the period in which they are set. Unfortunately, the dramaturg in UK and US circles is a very 'reduced' role (in the very few occasions in which they are hired) and if he/she were to suggest major changes, they would probably be ordered off the set!
Downton Abbey is full of truly dreadful and inappropriate dialogue - I have just clicked on Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey highlights and already at 30 seconds into the clips package, she delivered the line "Then I must have said it wrong."
A 'dowager countess' would hardly have made such a crass grammatical mistake (and one that at the turn of the Century was still a Cockney idiom) and I assume that a decent dramaturg would have pointed out that until recently, the word 'wrong' had a moral implication (e.g. "I have been wronged!") whereas our dowager countess would have stated "Then I must have said it incorrectly."