The Case for 'Thinking Like a Filmmaker': Using Lars Von Trier's Dogville as a Model for Writing a Statement of Facts

Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Forthcoming

St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-0083

Posted: 7 Oct 2007 Last revised: 22 Feb 2008

See all articles by Elyse Pepper

Elyse Pepper

St. John's University School of Law

Abstract

Notwithstanding the consensus that cases are won on facts - not law, scant attention is paid to persuasive fact writing in the law school curriculum. At best, we instruct students to "tell a story," and provide them with a few organizational guidelines. The result is one newly-minted class of lawyers after another who struggle to enlighten the court about "what happened" to the parties in the case at bar. This article considers how movies can help law students make the connection between storytelling and legal outcomes. Not only do the films that captivate us as an audience address the themes we must communicate as advocates, but the narrative, structure, and style of a film can serve as a model for conveying a story to the court. Using Lars von Trier's 2003 film, Dogville, the article explores the philosophy and process of crafting a series of events into a persuasive statement of facts. Examining the film's storytelling techniques, and borrowing many of them, allows the advocate to build a convincing narrative that promotes the logical reasoning advanced in the brief's argument section.

Keywords: legal writing, persuasive writing, briefs, statement of facts, film

Suggested Citation

Pepper, Elyse, The Case for 'Thinking Like a Filmmaker': Using Lars Von Trier's Dogville as a Model for Writing a Statement of Facts. Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Forthcoming; St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-0083. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1019524

Elyse Pepper (Contact Author)

St. John's University School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439
United States

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