Saturday, May 20, 2017

Update for Spring ? Summer?

You sure can't tell by the weather.  
Wait, wait, wait - why are we talking about the weather !!?!

Her Magnum Opus is finished, completed, wrapped, exported, sweetened, you name it. It's being submitted to festivals left and right. If you have recommendations of venues that need to present this highly unusual first feature of mine, bring 'em on!

After almost 2 years in the making, I'm very very proud - also relieved that it's done. And I'm excited to be moving on to something new next month with two wonderful performers - David Thomson and Aislinn MacMaster. Both have worked with me often over the years, though never at the same time - nor have they met Charles Caster-Dudzick a frequent collaborating cinematographer (890 Broadway, Aqua-booty, Honeymoon). Since we'll be dancing, shooting, eating and drinking together 24/7 at Marta Miller's place in Vermont, I bet we'll know each other pretty well by the time it's over.

And the narrative? 
Not. 
For this project, I intend to pay a lot of attention to composing, to creating a lovely palette of shots to play with in the edit, to welcoming any abstraction, non-sequitur or felicitous image that might waylay us. Sounds like a summer vacation, right? And my preparation is just to look at a lot of films to inspire me. Yeah, ok, to steal from.

The first clip below is one I viewed several times after stumbling on it and filing it away in my someday list. In January of 2014 I made A Thousand Miles from the Sea for Rhode Island College students. Wonderful performers, memorable music by Judy Henske, a rewarding collaboration with cinematographer Devon Catucci - and a pillow fight.

Miles didn't get enough exposure, so recently I submitted it to one of my favorite festivals: L'Art difficile de filmer la danse, in Brussels.  Last week I got a text from Wolfgang Kolb who'd seen it, and said:


I adore your film. The music, the point of view you chose, the dancers, the reference to Jean Vigo, the lady with the robe, the way you filmed and cut it.

Jean Vigo, Jean Vigo, I says to myself, why do I recognize that name? (I'm not as schooled as I should be in cinema history, except now via You.niversityTube.) Sure enough, as soon as I saw the title Zero for Conduct, I remembered. Check them both out below.


In conclusion:

a. Wolfgang Kolb is very observant and has exquisite taste
b. this is how influence works, and is then forgotten (I swear, Your Honor)




Courage, I says to myself. If I had only a week for Miles,  I should be ok with a bit less for As Yet Untitled. 

Meanwhile,  other work is getting exposure.

Plow Plant Reap
Braga International Screendance Festival, Portugal
Festival Dolhar Itinerante, Brazil

Honeymoon
Ibiza Shortfilm Festival & Market

Besties
Festival Dollar Itinerante, Brazil

890 Broadway
Iowa International Screendance Festival

This spring a lot of time was also spent updating the Burt Supree website, which compiles the dance reviews Burt wrote for The Village Voice  from 1976 until his death in 1992. 

Do yourself a favor.  Read anything Burt wrote and you'll be delighted by his observations, his references beyond the world of dance, his sense of humor. And like Wolfgang Kolb, he has exquisite taste:

You get a marvelous and unusual sense of weight in the dancing - through the force of the movement, through the way the dancing is contrasted against ordinary people moving or hanging around in ordinary time. Sometimes it's the slowness of a gesture, the physical resistance, that allows you to sense the quality of the contact, so you infer the weight.

But one of the wonders of You Little Wild Heart is the way everything dances, not just people. The life of the streets fuses with the music. At the beginning the timing of a taxi, a bus, a silver oil truck passing across the screen is extraordinarily satisfying in relation to the music. You know that nobody was out there telling those cars and buses when to go. But somebody saw it and left it and got the music to synchronize with it.

Editor's Note: 
Lots of the credit for what Burt enjoys in the second paragraph is down to the talents of cinematographer Robin Doty and editor Susan Dowling.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Ahead, Fall Back

As completion of Her Magnum Opus is delayed to some not too distant future, I occupy myself by continuing to delve through archives of past work. With the help and encouragement of Arthur Avil├ęs,  we're compiling over 20 Marta Renzi & The Project Company newsletters to create a stunning two-volume publication with added photos.

URGENT: If any of you have copies of old newsletters, please share them with me. Although my good mother did her best to  save archival documents, there seem to be several missing ...

Once it's completed - neck and neck with OPUS at the moment! - I'll find a way to make it accessible online as well. Of course I was dying to add annotations about who's doing what now, but Arthur's brilliant idea is to let the newsletters + images speak for themselves. Here's most of  the brief introduction:

In a pre-digital age, mailing these newsletters was Renzi's way to keep in touch with her audience: friends, family, dancers and supporters. Reading these almost diary-like entries provides us with the historical landscape through which one choreographer made her way during the turn of the 21st century.

Ms. Renzi's candid and intimate writing offers insight into more than twenty years of work, her creative process, as well as the spirit and philosophy that moved her.

After 2006, this personal conversation with her audience migrated to another sphere: http://martarenzi.blogspot.com

Which brings us together, here.  The "voice" in this blog is the same as twenty years ago, as is the format, more or less.  Each one included a little info about upcoming events:

March 30
Honeymoon
Strawberry Shorts Film Festival 
Commendation Screening
Cambridge, England

May TBA
Her Magnum Opus (sneak preview)
Cinematique
Daytona Beach, Florida

And no newsletter was complete without a photo, usually in an insert. Since I've become a filmmaker, I typically share moving pictures, but for this archival anniversary let's make it a photo just like olden times. And why not one that became a brand for the Project Company? So it must be one by Robert Flynt who, the compilation will demonstrate, was as close to the  company photographer as it was possible to be.

See what I mean by an archival anniversary?


It's also appropriate that today's photo is from Lincoln Center Out of Doors, where I was lucky enough to present work for many summers, through the birth of Amos & Lorenzo - and the death of Burt Supree. Or as one newsletter notes, from federal restrictions on NEA grants in March 1990, to ... the dissolution of the NEA in 2017? Say it ain't so.

Every newsletter also made a plea for feedback, and often included wonderful missives from far-flung dancers, students or audience members. Remember letter-writing? I miss hearing from folks in that way - not snail mail necessarily, but more than a COMMENT or a LIKE.

Each newsletter invariably ended with a cheeky but heartfelt request for donations.  As the piggy-bank echoes with the sound of post-production coins paid out - and as we head to tax time - your donation is still most welcome, and still tax-deductible!

Thanks for continuing to join me on what continues to be a great ride.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Watch out, world.



Low-budget...hand-made...artisanal. Those were the adjectives I used to introduce Wooden Toy Productions during a recent meet-up with members of New York Women in Film and Television. Artisanal: a high quality or distinctive product made in small quantities usually by hand or using traditional methods.

Take 2008's Considering an Exhibition, above. With projected text that I'd written in response to a grant rejection, it creates its own world largely thanks to David Thomson's low-key performance and Jake Goldwasser's black and white cinematography. My friends in Pittsfield donated the attic they call "the Jane Eyre suite" and the 3-person cast/crew slept and ate at my parents' house. I was director, art director and post-production team. The only unusual expense was royalties to 2 photographers whose work I'd found online and a friend's talented daughter Saiya Miller. Music was contributed by renowned composer, William Finn.  Total Budget: under $4,000

Almost ten years later, at almost the same cost per minute, the hour-long Her Magnum Opus already looked downright gorgeous on the big screen at Jacob Burns Film Center this past October.  Since then colorist Jason Bahling has worked his magic to make it look more fluid and luminous. It will soon have a similar overhaul of the sound. At the NYWIFT meet-up, I told someone that Opus was likely not dance-y enough for some, not narrative enough for others. But I made what I intended to make: the hand-made, the "distinctive."

Sure, I wasn't trained as a filmmaker when I started this trajectory. But I was no kid: having made dances for 30 years, I already had a voice, and a worldview. Reading through my old newsletters recently, I smiled to see that they promoted "small is beautiful" and "virtuosity is not my goal." The same is true today. Also, I've kept near me a great collection of performers, whose history and authenticity is part of what makes Opus special. 

So my goal when it's finished - soon, soon! - is to add a budget line to really get my artisanal product out there. For which I could always use your hands, helping in any way you can. 

Watch out, world. 
Low-budget, hand-made, and coming soon to a theater near you!

Friday, January 13, 2017

What's Next ?

You mean, what's on the horizon in terms of upcoming screenings? 

That's an easy one:


January 28 + 29  -
Incident at Chekhov Creek - Dance on Screen  Graz, Austria

March 3 + 4
890 Broadway - Philadelphia Screendance Festival Phil, PA

March 21-26 
Plow Plant Reap  Short Waves Festival  Poznan, Poland

Good for you. But what's the next project?


That's a little harder to answer. The long-awaited completion of my feature-length Her Magnum Opus is still a-waiting. It's taken me forever to learn a lesson about using music requiring a license: sometimes they say no - and sometimes it takes them many months to do so. In December, after 3 months of waiting, I got a very blithe no which sent me back to the drawing board for 3 scenes.


Luckily, I immediately contacted  Ljova (Lev Zhurbin) who'd already given me permission to use his evocative music in the same-sex fireside tango from Opus. (Think Zorba the Greek meets Fiddler on the Roof.) Ljova has already begun creating replacement music for the 3 short scenes, so the sound mix will truly be wrapped by mid-February. Not only that, I expect the Opus soundtrack will be much more cohesive thereby. Lesson learned.

Fine, but what are you actually working on?

I'm thinking. I'm thinking! Give me a minute, ok?

This period between projects can be frustratingly fallow and yet mysteriously productive. Anything is possible but nothing is cooking. I'm making lists - possible locations, possible cast members, possible shots, possible movement ideas.

What I do know:

it will be under 10 minutes
shooting this summer
a cast of 2 - 4
a location in New England

I know from recent experience that the process of editing a film is whittling, whittling, waiting and more whittling.  But how do I describe the process of imagining something that's still gestating? Is it a blob of clay with chunks being added gradually? Or maybe an aerial view that hones in more and more on a specific character/place? Or is it a collection of index cards that get blown into a random order - one landing in a direction I hadn't anticipated, redesigning the whole constellation somehow.

In my last post I was hankering for time spent creating live work. So it's entirely possible that this one will begin as a live dance, even though I describe it as having "a location". Which brings me to the Archive I've selected for this post.  Blow by Blow was a live quartet made at The Yard on Martha's Vineyard in just a few rehearsals.

What I knew:

I'd invited a cast of 2 men and 2 women
it should be about 15 minutes long
it was called "An evening with Martha Myers" -  so someone believed I could do it!

It was a grand success, largely thanks to the four adorable, game, highly talented of dancers I'd assembled. 

Below is an edited souvenir of that project - not precisely a "dance film"-  using footage from the live performance.  The song which became its title was composed by long-time friend Steve Elson (with lyrics by long-time husband Daniel Wolff) so licensing was a cinch. The dancers - who have since appeared elsewhere in my work, on Broadway and in the Mark Morris Company - are credited in the goofy animations which I was teaching myself to use.

Although seen only 3 times in the charming but small theater at the Yard,  little old Cartoon Love has gotten more hits on YouTube than anything else I've made.  

Lesson? Just put "cartoon" in the title!