As complements to the theoretical classes of the core curriculum of the Directing master’s studies, a series of recurring, practical workshops are offered in cooperation with other departments of the Film University. These block-courses are all about honest exchange of experience, hands-on work and building a lasting network with fellow students. Since the resulting films or works are not made with the goal of external distribution, the workshops allow great room for free experimenting and learning without fear of failure.

Staging for Theater

Disciplines: Directing, Acting

Supervisors: Prof. Andreas Kleinert (Directing), Prof. Florian Hertweck (Acting)

After an introduction by the acting and directing instructors, the directing students regularly rehearse scenes from a 20th or 21st century play of their own choice with the acting students over the course of a month. Opportunities to work with costume and set design, lighting and music on stage are encouraged and taught. At the end there is a public theater premiere on the big stage and evaluations with the lecturers.

Image description: In collaboration with director João Pedro Prado, actors Emilie Neumeister, Henning Hermia Gerdes and Lennart Thomas stage the 1977 play What happened after Nora left her husband by Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek. Premiere on December 10, 2021.

© Carolin Hauke


Disciplines: Directing, Screenwriting, Producing, Acting, Cinematography, Editing

Supervisors: Ulrike Vahl (Directing), Prof. Sophie Maintigneux (Cinematography)

The interdisciplinary workshop deals both theoretically and practically with the development of characters and a conflict and the visual realization of a scene. The collaboration of the various trades is also particularly important here. How do credible, truthful and unique characters emerge and how can psychological lines of development be depicted and shown in their differentiated form on the various artistic levels? Each team develops a scene out of the characters and their conflicts. This scene is then rehearsed with sufficient time, the characters worked out in detail, a visual concept created and shot on an original location. The material is assembled and the finished scenes are evaluated.

In the theory part, film examples are shown and the visual resolution and its effects are discussed and comprehended. What does perspective mean in the visual language, for example? And which visual decision leads to which perception by the viewer? How are play and image connected? The teachers from directing (Ann-Kristin Reyels & Ulrike Vahl) and cinematography () will report from their experience and go into different working methods. The practical implementation consists of the material development, an additional improvisation workshop, a rehearsal part, two shooting days per team and a week of editing.

This is (not) a lovesong

Disciplines: Directing, Film Music, Cinematography, Editing, Creative Technologies

Supervisors: Prof. Stefan Schwietert (Directing), Prof. Ulrich Reuter (Film Music)

In film, music usually has the task of complementing and enriching an existing film narrative. This workshop, on the other hand, fundamentally examines the interrelationship of film and music. Common to both arts is their arrangement along the time axis, or as Walter Ruttmann put it, "painting with time": verse and chorus, climax and counterpoint. Close-up and long shot correspond to orchestra and solo voice. Acceleration, deceleration and pause create rhythm and structure.

In the workshop, students create short films (or a film scene) in which the music plays an independent narrative role. The image and sound levels are developed in parallel. Images are shot for sounds, sounds are composed for images. Film examples from film history, in which the experiment is in the foreground, serve as inspiration. Special attention will be paid to the question of how the interplay of music and film can be further developed in the 21st century. The German Film Orchestra Babelsberg is available to the students for the recording of the film music.

Here's a selection of the films that have been made in the workshop over the last few years.

Editing in Documentary

Disciplines: Directing, Editing

Supervisors: Prof. Gesa Marten (Editing)

In contrast to feature film editing, which is oriented to the script and works with material that has been shot according to plan, the structure of documentary films is only developed in the editing room due to the often unpredictable nature of the film material. Dramaturgical considerations therefore come first in the editing of such films: What is actually the plot of the film? How can I stay close to the plot through editing? What is the conflict in the story from which the tension stems? And how can I build up the conflict and increase the tension? How can I use the existing footage to tell what was planned? Or to what extent do I have to modify the original idea in order to still make a good film? The seminar will also provide an insight into the work processes and techniques of editing documentary films: From the planned preparation of large amounts of material for editing to the tools for finding a dramaturgical structure, methods from practice will be presented and tested.

Image description: Prof. Gesa Marten teaches a method for reshaping the dramaturgy of raw documentary footage in the editing room.

© João Pedro Prado
© João Pedro Prado

16-mm Observational Exercise

Disciplines: Directing, Cinematography, Editing

Supervisors: Prof. Susanne Schüle, Ines Thomsen (Cinematography)

As a form of training the students’ documentary eye, the cooperation between the directing and camera departments is put to test by conducting observations on limited 16mm film material. The imaginary and the fictitious are consciously relegated to the background whilst observation unfolds its potential above all in the accompaniment of action sequences, without intervention. The observation of a process should also lead to a description of the place and the people inhabiting it. The resulting shots should then be edited and assembled together into a self-contained, meaningful scene.

Love Scenes

Disciplines: Directing, Acting, Cinematography, Editing

Supervisors: Prof. Angelina Maccarone (Regie)

Screenplays often contain a simple sentence like: "And then they love each other passionately." To execute it, however, is one of the most complex cinematic tasks of all. In this seminar, students will address this challenge, the staging of intimacy and physicality.

Within a longer screenplay, love scenes often function as a gauge for the relationships between the characters, as they fulfill or feed off an expectation and tension that has been built up between the characters. The way in which this happens and is conveyed is also of great importance for the emotional identification of the audience. Love scenes are charged with all kinds of conflicting feelings: Arousal and repulsion, anticipation and fear, excitement and shame. 

The first part of the seminar is the analysis of existing examples in film history and contemporary cinema; ranging from Lubitsch's closed door to the documentary-like acts of love. The visual language will be examined together in order to fathom which cinematic means are used and to enter into a conversation with each other about their respective effects: What is shown and how? What is suggested in such a way that a certain inner image emerges during viewing? What is withheld in order to give more room to the imagination? Which is the means of choice and why? How is the place designed? The light? And much more. In addition, some texts will be read and discussed together. It is essential that students actively participate in order to create a common basis of trust and work.

The second part of the seminar is about searching for forms of representation of intimate moments and trying them out in the interplay of cinematic elements (such as design of space, framing, light, perspective, shot size, scene length, editing frequency) and, last but not least, acting and directing.

This is neither about judging (secret versus confession), nor about a competition ("better, further, more explicit"), but about exploring the limits and possibilities; one's own and those of others. Love scenes also require directors to have the courage to show themselves, instead of hiding behind the camera or the monitor and sending the actors into a situation where they are supposed to expose themselves in their private intimacy. By working on their own scenes (e.g. from their planned final films or new scenes developed together with screenwriters), the directors expose themselves and thus open up a space of trust that involves not only the actors but also the entire crew. An essential question is: How can such a protected space, which is so fundamental for an opening, come into being at all? 

Working on love scenes is about distilling emotional arcs and translating these emotions into a choreography of the bodies in relation to each other and to the space; establishing movement sequences for the actors and the camera. The central point of the collaboration is to find a language and film language beyond shame (but also beyond banalization). The credo here is: truthfulness leaves shame behind.

If it succeeds, the usual – also visual and staged – "number-safe-clichés" are replaced by the uncertain. It is a matter of deciding which secret should be kept in order to break something open emotionally; it is a matter of allowing something groping, which may also be awkward or even end in embarrassment, if it is conducive to exposing the vulnerability of the characters without denouncing them. In doing so, it is essential for all participants to admit their own limits and communicate them on the one hand, and on the other hand to leave the comfort zone and expose themselves to uncertainty again and again. Here, a (further) paradox comes true: the greater the courage to open up and show oneself, the less what is shown turns into navel-gazing. 

To understand this difference between exposing the private and the artistic realization of the personal is generally indispensable for the development of an unmistakable cinematic handwriting. This seminar is not about teaching morals, but about making directors aware of their responsibility.

Workshop Situative Camera

Courses: Directing, Cinematography

Advisor:  Prof. Stefan Schwietert (Directing), Prof. Susanne Schüle (Cinematography)

Whenever there is something happening in front of the camera where neither the director nor the DoP have any influence on, documentary filmmaking can became very challenging. However, it is also a big part of the work in the documentary  ield. In this workshop we want to practice these type of situations and talk about how we as directors and cinematographers can prepare for such incidents. How do we prepare content concepts and aesthetic approaches that will help us in these moments? How can we keep on shooting without loosing time and maybe even without words? This workshop is supposed to tackle these big challenges by learning from experience. 

Workshop Interventions: Interfering, arranging and staging when shooting a documentary 

Courses: Directing, Cinematography

Advisor:  Prof. David Bernet  (Directing), Prof. Susanne Schüle (Cinematography)

There are may controversies surrounding the core of documentary filmmaking - a form of art which gains its relevance from its relationship with reality. One of the biggest controversies is the question in which ways interventions, arrangements and staging approaches are legit. How far is a documentary filmmaker allowed to interfere? What does it mean to have a concept based on interfering? What is the difference in between fictional images and images that can be found in reality? These kind of questions are the pivot for this workshop.

Portrait Workshop

Courses: Directing, Cinematography

Advisor:  Prof. Angelina Maccarone (Directing), Prof. Susanne Schüle (Cinematography)

This workshop delves into the documentary sub-genre "portrait". What is a portrait? What are the specific chances and challenges of a film portrait? It is a practical workshop where openness, curiosity and courage are needed. This approach will guide the shoot in which 5 to 8 minute long material will be shown and discussed by the end of the week. The workshops is not about the finalisation of a film but about new ideas, interesting approaches and brave encounters that help the attendees understand the versatility of portrait films.