Sunday, March 04, 2018

Her Magnum Opus comes to Jacob Burns

My biggest news of the month concerns the next local screening of Her Magnum Opus.

Tuesday April 3 at 7:35 pm
Jacob Burns Film Center

A freewheeling narrative enacted almost entirely through movement and music, Marta Renzi’s Her Magnum Opus is the award-winning choreographer’s (and longtime friend of Jonathan Demme) ode to creativity and community. Presiding over the festivities is Aileen Passloff, a grey-haired force of nature playing a version of herself. A diverse cast weaves in and out of her home, including a devoted younger friend (dancer Arthur Avilés), a pregnant dancer, a young couple in need of counseling, even a fairytale prince who pops out of a pile of autumn leaves. A tantalizing mix of magical realism and improvised naturalism, the film unfolds in bucolic settings—a beach, a forest, and a country house which holds emotional ties for the group as a source of inspiration and solace.

The Jacob Burns Film Center is a prestigious venue, with a beautiful screen and comfy seats - which I expect to fill, thanks to you and everyone you know.  

So please spread the word.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

And it all came true

So far, we're keeping to a schedule of an-Opus-a-month, which is quite gratifying. 

Bay Area Premiere of Her Magnum Opus
Sunday February 11 at 4:30
Monday February 12 at 7:00

At the Q&A after recent screenings of Opus, people have often asked what the script must have looked like, since there's no dialogue, and the actors seem so natural. Looking back at documents from the making of Opus, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much I'd predicted accurately! The original treatment - longer than a synopsis, still not a script - was in fact 99% what we ended up creating. Below, for example, is one of the character sketches I shared with the performers just before the first day of shooting, October 5, 2016.

He’s part human, part animal - can romp and roll with the children and dog one moment, and exude a quiet meditative presence the next. He’s known her the longest and is very protective of her, making sure she has a comfortable place to sit, bringing her a blanket when she’s cold, shooing visitors away when he suspects she’s tiring. (Arthur, will you ACTUALLY please help keep track of Aileen’s comfort level for me? It will be a long day and I’ll be too busy to pay attention as I should.)  In one scene, we see him hammering a repair on a bench outside, under a window she’s cleaning inside the house. They have an easy, teasing relationship, but he holds her in high esteem, kneeling at her feet in adoration, pride - and later, worry.  (Bring at least 2 costumes - party prep and party for real.)

Of course, this character ended up coming across this way  partly because it pretty much represents Arthur's actual relationship to Aileen.  So, does that mean that Opus is a documentary, or some artless combination of dress-ups and cinema verité? Why define it? When people do go along for the ride, it's because they let go of pre-conceptions about what a movie is. (If only I could do the same, I'd be a lot less tormented about not fitting in.)

Folks who have seen or heard about Opus have invited me to screen it again for their meditation group, their country club, their old age home - and there's even a distributor nosing around. For now, I'll be glad for a-screening-a-month: ideally a few closer to home, since the push pins on the Opus map are mostly clustered in the west - Port Townsend, Borrego Springs, San Francisco.

Remember that whirlwind project I made in Brazil at the end of 2017?  The "script" for that was essentially created by my collaborator, since it relied on the choreography of Francisco da Silva for its raw material.  He and the dancers of Urze were wonderfully generous about allowing me to adapt the movement material, incorporating it into various sites at the EcoVila Tiba where we shot for 2 days, had a week to edit, and then shot for another 4 days. 

So we shot a lot of little scenes - many of them duets - taken from a dance of Francisco's called Tao Intimo. The dancers knew the score, though they had to let go of the original context, which had been a proscenium stage. Costumes were street wear from their own closets, the dancing mostly outdoors on grass or dirt. We used no music, except in one scene when we made it ourselves. Here's a rough edit of one scene - with precious little actual choreography, perversely - to show you the evocative location, the hard-working cast ... the warm weather!

As for my recently-released short film 
In search of lost time 
no drum-roll implying a climax. 
Instead let the band vamp, as for an ongoing list:

cha cha CHA
cha cha CHA

Black Maria Film Festival

Sunday, February 11 @ 2pm
AMC Dine-in Theater West Orange, NJ
more screenings to be announced throughout the year


Midwest RADFest
March 9 & 10
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Short Waves Dances with Camera
March 20-25
Poznan, Poland

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Happy New Year, Class

Today's topic is: 
What constitutes an audience? 
Has the audience changed as I've moved from dance making to filmmaking?  
How has it changed from 1978 to 2018, over the 40 years since I first began presenting work?

[Wait! What? 40 Years?? ok, let's proceed.]

When I was in the business of presenting live work, typically the audience was the folks who bought their tickets, sat together in a darkened room and applauded at the end.  
(I'll never forget dancing right in front of one man who was fast asleep ... did he applaud at the end? ... never mind.) This audience probably actually knew something about me and my work or they wouldn't have bought a ticket in the first place.

Of course, when Arthur Avilés & I compiled the NEWSLETTERS recently, I was reminded of just how often Marta Renzi & The Project Co. performed outdoors for audiences who didn't necessarily buy a ticket, or choose the experience, or know anything about me - or contemporary dance for that matter. Often they wandered by; they stayed for as long as they felt like it; they voted with their feet.

Now that my work screens in festivals, the relationship to an audience can be similar in some ways: if it's at a festival there's usually a ticket, there's a group sitting in theater seats in the dark and there's applause at the end. They may not know my work; they're interested in the form, tend to trust the programming, and are up for a Q&A after.  

For this kind of audience, I'm flying all the way to California twice in early 2018 - to Borrego Springs Film Festival in January, and to SF Indie Fest in February - just for the experience of witnessing-the-witnesses to Her Magnum Opus. If a tree falls in the forest, I want to be there, goddammit. Since September this particular tree has fallen about monthly, but that won't last forever...

Of course my work can also be seen by a solitary viewer in online "festivals" - which I've discovered are completely unrewarding for me. My 2013 short Her Children Mourn was in one sponsored by New York Women in Film & Television, and included a pre-scheduled "chat" - which no one attended. Both Children and Honeymoon are currently in one called Cinemaniacs, which creates venue through Vimeo-On-Demand. Only $5, which is less than the price of a theater ticket in 1978 ...

And then there's the audience who stumbles on my dance films for free on Vimeo or YouTube. Brother's Keeper below is an example of lovely work which had some festival success, and lately has been "followed" or "liked" by men who like men. A self-selected audience who enjoys private screenings for free and has absolutely no interest in me or for that matter contemporary dance. 
Ok by me; I think these men are beautiful too.

Thanks to Vimeo/Youtube, I can even measure my audience by number of views and viewing time: Plays vs. Finishes. (True, I could've done the same with that sleeping viewer years ago, if only I'd remembered to clock him at show's end.) It's no news that nowadays we all vote with our fingers, easily clicking away when we're bored. Why not? In fact, even for you, Dear Public, what's posted above is only an excerpt, because I presume that you don't have the patience for the full 6:45-minute original.

So, class, to summarize: nothing much has really changed. 
I'm still making what I want to make, having some success at it and making it free and accessible whenever possible. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Skipped a period

Although these posts are meant to be monthly, last month's was merely a list of upcoming screenings. Her Magnum Opus has now had 4 of them: two at the Port Townsend Film Festival on the Olympic Peninsula, one at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck, and one at YoFiFest in Yonkers. I'm happy to report that after 4 viewings, I don't twitch at every transition. I can almost see what's actually there instead of what existed in an earlier draft.

Certainly audiences see what's there - and they seem to be very moved by it.  

Delicious and whimsical. 

Stunning. Blew my mind on a dismal afternoon.

People have commented on how the toys dance, on the house-within-a-house, on the music, on how Opus makes them want to dance, how it allows viewers to receive the narrative at their own pace. One dear woman was crying too much to speak!

As well as a local screening coming up on Wednesday December 13 at Rivertown Film in Nyack, Opus is an Official Selection in the Borrego Springs Film Festival, where it will screen over MLK weekend, January 2018.  Now that I actually believe in it myself, I'm daring to submit to film festivals again, so there will be probably be more good news soon. I look forward to getting so jaded that I go out for dinner during the screening and only return for the Q&A, like a real filmmaker.

Below is the latest my latest short film, in search of lost time, which had a preview at BAAD! last month, and is already a semi-finalist in two festivals: 

- the 37th Black Maria Film Festival - where I have a 30-year history starting with Mountainview

 - Midwest RAD Fest.

One a dance/film fest, one not  : just like I like it.

In December, when I would be writing the next post, instead I'll be in Sao Carlos Brazil, where I was a guest artist 3 years ago during their Sao Carlos Videodance Festival. Over the course of a few weeks, I'll concoct a dance film, based on the work of choreographer Francisco Silva and his URZE companha  de danca, and shot by a local cameraperson.  

The plan: trust. The storyboard: a dream. The budget: love.  
And whatever magic does or doesn't happen, there's always the editing - what dancer Andy Chapman calls "editography".  To be done back here in Nyack, over the winter with images of summer in Brazil to keep me warm.

As Thanksgiving rolls around,  I have a lot to be grateful for.