So you’re thinking of making a dance film?
Well, I don’t mind telling you you’ve come to the right place. As you probably know I began my career as a dancer before moving into film. I’ve made quite a few dance films both for myself and for other people.
Is the dance film for yourself? i.e. it’s your project or are you making a dance film somebody else i.e. a choreographer? The reason I ask is that you approach each slightly differently.
For the sake of this blog I’m going to assume your making a dance for camera work.
The first thing you want to figure out is your choreography. When making material for the camera you have to approach it slightly differently, you don’t have a front per se. Meaning that the audience don’t watch it from one angle. One of the things I really love about making dance films is that you essentially re-choreograph it when filming and again when editing. You in control every step of the way. It’s exhilarating.
If this is your first time making dance films my advice is to try lots of things, try lots of ideas and definitely don’t be afraid to get it wrong. The great thing about working on film is that it is NOT live, you can do as many tasks as you and your dancers are able and they all don’t have to be done in the same day. (Obviously if you’re on a budget that impacts things somewhat).
Quick note; making a dance film is different to making a dance promo for a dance piece so for example if you’re making a dance promo you need to make sure you get the key points and narrative of the dance piece across in a short space of time, if you’re making a dance film you are re-writing or developing the narrative.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is figure out the concept and a rough guide to what the material will look like, if you are making specific material for the camera you will choreography it with the lens in mind. You don’t have to have a fully formed choreography, it can be sectional or bitty or just small ideas. You can tie it all together in the edit if necessary. You’re basically building up you narrative. In filmmaking terms this would be called the narrative character arc in dance terms it’s getting your shit together.
Once you figure out how the content is put together and roughly what you want to say it probably would be a good idea to storyboard and shot list it. This will keep you on track when you start shooting the film and it will also give you a good sense of what it look like in the planning stages without wasting time and resources. Note; this is just one way to do it. You could of course just dive straight
Once you’ve got your shopping list and more storyboarding place it’s time to get cracking. Now there are no right or wrong ways to feel anything really it’s all down to your artistic interpretation, you’re filming and I, and what you want to say in how are you want to say it.
There are a couple of things however that I think will really help you create something dynamic. As you’re filming movement you have lots of choices as to how you capture the action. Taking the camera off the tripod and having movement within the shot always add another layer of dynamism to the finished film. Then it’s a case of cutting between establishing wide shot / close-ups / micro shots etc focussing in the eyes or the body parts cutting across screen, you know the drill.
The possibilities really are endless (for those that are old enough that’s a Bob Hoskins reference). Make sure you get lots of coverage and lots of different angles of the same material, that way you’ll have lots of options in the edit process, you can always recut the movement if you’ve not quite captured it.
There is NO one correct way of working or creating a workflow when making films (despite what film schools will tell you). There are a few simple things such as do make sure you press the record button (I literally have done that before, if that happens you can always say let’s do another take for good luck). Try different filming approaches such as getting static shot so you’ve got coverage (you can always cut back to this if the other shots don’t work), to following the action so in affect the camera almost becomes part of the dance.
Right let’s assume you shot all of your footage and I’m guessing there is a lot of it (if you’re anything like me). It is and I can’t stress this enough IT IS vitally important that you figure out a comprehensive filing system. The last thing you want to be doing is searching for ages to locate specific shots or sections of your peace.
So go figure out a good filing system. I do something like card one, day one and the content that is on it and then I go through each clip and label adding notes on what is in that clip. I know it sounds boring as hell and it is but I promise you it will save you time in the edit. Some cameras also allow you to do this on the camera itself so it burns the metadata into the file. Proper timesaver.
All you need to do now is pop it in the editing program of your choice, get your second creative wind and get cracking and create a really amazing dance film.
I personally would love to see it once you finished it so please do send me a link.
If this has helped/inspired you please do let me know. I can be found on all the social medias @waynesables or via the email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a link to some of the dance films i’ve made. There are loads more in the film page http://www.waynesablesproject.co.uk/films/