Paul the film director

“I was so excited when I was offered to choreograph a dance film instigated by a partnership between National Youth Dance Company NYDC and Corali, it is great to have the opportunity to create something completely new and that I was going to be given a cast of eight dancers to work with including mentorship from industry professionals.

The project begun long before getting into the studio, I had some creative development sessions with the film maker Tobi and the producer Zara. I had tons of ideas right away so we worked together to work out a storyline and some key themes. We liked the inspiration that Mazes gave us and also playing with the concept of imagination verses reality. From there we took our ideas and planning into some rehearsal development sessions where I worked with the two dance facilitators Corinne and Carly to plan creative tasks to work on once we got into the studio with the dancers – this is when the ideas started to come alive!

Once all this was in place we were ready to start the film residency…

Meeting and Greeting the Cast 

All the dancers and staff gathered on the evening of 6 August to get to know each other and to settle into the accommodation. Just like NYDC residencies we moved into a skills development session right away and it was great to see that everyone was eager and confident to get up and try things out right from the start. It was pretty nerve wracking introducing the project to everyone as public speaking is not my greatest strength but it was a good challenge for me. That night when I went to bed I did a little more planning as I knew this was going to be very different for me, I am usually used to choreographing on myself but now I had eight dancers to work with!

Day 1 – Developing the Material 

This was our first full day of rehearsals, it was a little overwhelming at first, there was a constant need to adapt and change ideas to make sure we could deliver the project on time. I was so impressed with how quick all the dancers worked and the creativity they brought to each task. I quickly figured that making a dance film is all about working on some key short sections rather than full sequences as I knew my film maker Tobi would be able to piece together all the sections. Eight hours of studio time flew by and everyone’s concentration and stamina was first rate! Back at our accommodation Tobi joined us for our skills training session and led a dance for camera workshop which got us thinking about camera angles and how dance is portrayed on film.

Day 2 – Refining the Material 

Once again a packed rehearsal day, we started with a few more creative tasks and then had to refine all the material we had worked on. It was amazing how quickly the company learned what was needed and this allowed us time to really play with some of the more improvised sections. Over lunch we discussed and decided on what the costumes should be so that some of the team could dash out and pick up some items. We were ready to show Tobi and Zara what we had created by 3pm, it was great to have their feedback which was mainly to ensure that each section had a little more commitment, intention and clarity from the dancers, this was actually very similar feedback from when I performed in the latest NYDC piece Tarantesismic the choreographer Damien Jalet had asked for exactly the same qualities! Day two also brought us a bit of a turn in events because we had planned to film outside the following day but it turned out that it was going to heavily rain, luckily Zara had found a plan B and we quickly adapted our content to work in a Victorian warehouse in London Bridge!

Day 3 – Filming Day 

Filming always takes longer than you think, a few seconds of film can take hours to shoot and we had only six hours to get all the material in the can. It took a while for the dancers to get used to having the camera on them, I had to keep telling them not to look into the lens, once they got used to it they used to it they did a great job of performing. Tobi shot many of the sections in multiple locations across the venue and in different ways using different angles. It is really hard to imagine how the film will edit together to create a whole work but I look forward to putting that together with Tobi. I am really proud of everyone and cannot wait to see the final result!

Looking back on the project 

I have tons of ideas for future films, I really liked directing and found I could guide the dancers really well using visuals to get my ideas across for the movement qualities I wanted them to embody. It was great to have mentors as this helped me feel in control and that we created a strong and professional working environment together. I really liked the responsibility this project gave me, I sometimes felt a little strict but I wanted to get things right. My most exciting moment was on the film day when we started using the haze machine, the atmosphere was incredible, I am hoping that section looks amazing on camera!”