Masterclass Schuldig

How do you make an interesting documentary about a boring subject? Film makers Ester Gould and Sarah Sylbing succeeded and made the popular TV series Schuldig (HUMAN), that was screened on Dutch television (NPO).

In Schuldig, the makers take you to the Vogelbuurt in Amsterdam-Noord. A turbulent working-class neighborhood with charming low-rise buildings and outspoken characters. And many, many debts. The neighborhood forms the background for the series, in which not only the residents are central, but also the helplines around it: the bailiff, the creditor and local politics.

In this masterclass Ester and Sarah showed how they decided to "make a documentary series that is as exciting as it is" as a directing duo. They used two sources of inspiration for the development of the series: the acclaimed HBO drama series The Wire and the English Channel 4 series Benefits Street. The duo also discussed dramaturgy: how do you portray the main characters? How do you turn it into archetypes: e.g. Dennis the non-business but very honest shopkeeper, social worker Paul as king / Godfather etc). They also explained how they struggled to weave the macro level (the debt industry) into the series. And how not to lose sight of the truth.

This masterclass was part of the Movies that Matter Festival 2018.