For the last three weeks I’ve been completely consumed by my videodance project, Fünf ‘n’ Twist. Last Thursday and Friday we shot all the prom scenes of the video, and it marked my first time directing (and producing) an indoor shoot.
Kerrie Welsh & J Why, on set of Fünf ‘n’ Twist. Photo: Susanna Christians
Through a monumental effort on the part of my cast and crew, we got all the essential shots done, including a tricky Busby Berkeley-esque overhead shot that required my DP, Kerrie Welsh, to climb a 16 foot extension ladder and mount her camera to the side with a hi-hat and rachet strap.
This storyboard is of the twist dance scenes of the video. Originally I was also going to shoot a slow dance scene that would have more of an 80’s feeling. However on the first day of shooting we were getting very behind schedule, and I realized the slow dance scenes would have to be cut. I had already decided that they weren’t so essential to the story line, and in some ways they might have even detracted from the overall piece. The twist dance is at the opening of the video, and the dance along with the music will set up the themes of authoritarianism & rebellion, fear, sex, and that in between place I’m calling fünf, as well as point towards America’s cultural adolescence in the second half of the 20th Century.
Production still of Fünf ‘n’ Twist. Photo: Susanna Christians
Remarkably we were able to shoot all of the scenes I had envisioned without any major compromises. My dancers pulled off the choreography that I came up with on paper.. Donna Costello and Matt Sweeney, the two leads, rehearsed the choreography with me ahead of time and then taught it to the other three couples on set.
The dancers all handled the surprises I threw at them with poise and a can-do attitude. This included asking the guys to flip off the girls’ backs from a bridge position and do a cartwheel from the left side. The latter request wasn’t possible for all the male dancers to do, but our grip, Stephen Long, stepped in to save the day. With a background in gymnastics he put on the tux and performed the cartwheel perfectly, earning a second credit of “stunt double.”
Now I just have one more scene to shoot, which is a “flash-forward” scene of the lead couple holed up in a dingy tenement with paper walls. I won’t give away the details, but I’m hoping to raise the funds and resources to shoot these scenes in early ’09. In the meantime I’ll be working hard along with my composer/collaborator, J Why to create a rough cut of the finished scenes to screen here in New York before the end of the year.
Here is a video study of the final scenes of the film, when the boy and girl escape the prom and run into a wild overgrown city park to “get it on.” Instead of portraying the cliche sex scenes literally, I decided to portray them in a ritualistic metaphorical way, where we see the inner feelings of the characters portrayed outwardly in symbolic imagery.