Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Welcome to Renzi-land



Make yourself comfortable for the 19 minutes it takes to view this not-so-short short made in 2008 and starring - yes, that's him - David Strathairn, Oscar-winner for Good Night & Good Luck. The Incident at Chekhov Creek shares some attributes with the not-so-long feature that is currently still in post-production: a rowboat, water, little or no dialogue, dancing that appears out of nowhere, and a rather subtle portrayal of relationships. Watch to the end and you'll see the quietly startling denouement inspired by John O'Hara's short story Over the River and Through the Woods. And it wouldn't be Renzi-land if there wasn't a party attended by a large and diverse cast of characters.

Chekhov
is no longer making the rounds of festivals, though it had its moments in the sun as you'll see if you scroll down this impressively long filmography.  After formulating your own thoughts about Chekhov, do take a look at the feedback below, written by 4 panelists at the Cleveland International Film Festival.  Reading their anonymous reviews recently was a great reminder that no matter how assiduously I edit the project currently in the works, its appeal will not be ... universal.


There are those who might think it's counterproductive - or snarky? - to publicize critical feedback. But stumbling on it recently while archiving 4 decades of Marta Renzi & The Project Co. memorabilia,  it struck me as appropriate to share this kind of rejection (albeit dated) along with the previous post's cheerfully long list of recent acceptances.

Because none of this really matters. All of it is part of a historical moment which is already passing...

[If you know a little bit about boats, note particularly Score #2's suggestion that rowing should be re-invented for the cinema.]

Scene #1: D
This film presents a very original approach to look and storytelling. I thought the film did a good job in editing and keeping the rhythm of the film but I thought in many of the scenes a different use of light would have improved the presentation. While I thought the editing from scene to scene was good and usually worked well, I thought that some of the framing of shots - while creative - took away from the subject matter which was the dance and movement of the characters. At points in the film this lack of focus (from a framing standpoint) on the dancers really took away from the ability of their movements. From a story standpoint - I don't believe there really is one - other than the individuals interacting in their day through dance, which was fine for this viewer. I liked the audio when it blended music with the sounds of the surrounding environment, e.g. water, leaves, etc - but this use of audio was not consistent throughout the film. Given what the film presented, I believe a shorter film would have been more enticing.

Score # 2: D
Camera angels [sic] were too tight at times. Perhaps if I saw the entire scene with the dancer, it would have made more sense.  There was so much going on outside of the camera's view (you could catch glimpses of someone who was part of the scene). The scene with the two on the bench was quite beautiful. Extremely poor quality (of the film) at the fire scene - like when the focus was on the man & woman that were watching. The night scenes without some source of light were very hard to watch. The quality was abysmal when there was no light I can not imagine how bad this would have looked on the big screen When the man is rowing the boat, he keeps looking over his shoulder. Why not turn around and row forwards (instead of backwards)?

Score # 3: D
I was not sure what to make of this short. On one hand you could say it is an experimental period piece, on the other hand I found it to be rather dull and repetitive and I couldn't quite understand what it was leading to. I hate not to like this short because David Strathairn is in the movie and he happens to be on elf my favorite actors, but I just couldn't recommend this. Perhaps I would have liked this better if there was more dialog or more of a story structure to it.  Production wise it was so-so, it looked filmed on consumer cameras to give it a decent look, editing was decent but not great. I think the elements were here to make a great short but it just wasn't executed effectively.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Here's what's HOT


August finds me continuing to fine-tune HER MAGNUM OPUS, the roughly hour-long project I've been working at - off and on - since last October. There's certainly a lot of dance in it, but its characters speak - including the wonderful leading lady, Aileen Passloff -- so I think of it less as a dance film than …  a feature film. Below is a scene from OPUS so  you can decide how/if to categorize it.

"Left on the cutting room floor." It's an expression we've all heard but let me tell you it's heart-breaking to experience the loss of a cherished sequence of images, especially when they'd been associated with a poignant song like Little Pearl, written by David Pulkingham, with lyrics by Daniel Wolff.  Of course there's plenty of editing in the process of making live work, too, so I'm no stranger to losing stuff I love. But that doesn't make it any easier. As of now, this sequence is out of the film, and it makes me think that whoever coined that other heartless editing expression -- Kill your babies” -- clearly wasn't a parent! 


Little Pearl from Marta Renzi on Vimeo.

Speaking of live work, I'm looking forward to returning this fall to Manhattanville College to make a new dance with students there, and to my second visit to The Truro Center for the Arts on Cape Cod to make community dance in October.


I'm proud to list below a cornucopia of screenings of my various short films, both old and new.   It's a pretty impressive list, if I do say so myself. They're showing all around the world, from late summer to fall, with Nyack Film Festival listed first, out of chronological order.  I figure Nyack is the one my readers are mostly likely to attend - unless you happen to be traveling in Tasmania!


August 19 @ 7:30

Nyack Film Festival
Honeymoon & Besties

September 22-25

Columbia Gorge International Film Festival, Washington
Plow Plant Reap

August 24-27

International Short Film Festival of Faro
Faro, Portugal
890 Broadway

September 12 -17

La Rioja es de Cine
Logano, Spain
Her Children Mourn

September 15 & 16

Autumn Shorts Film Festival
Somerset, Kentucky
Besties

September 15

Southway Film Festival
Mikolaiyv, Ukraine
Her Children Mourn

September 21-24

International Dance Film Festival of Brussels
Brussels, Belgium
Besties

September 22-25

Golden Door International Film Festival
Jersey City, New Jersey
Besties

September

Salamanca Moves Festival
Tasmania
Besties

October

Third Coast Dance Film Festival
Houston, TX
Besties

November 5 & 6

DanceLab Nicosia
Nicosia, Cyprus
Plow Plant Reap


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Soft Sell



What you see above is a version of my erstwhile signature solo I'm Not Very Pretty. It combines a performance of me dancing at Bates Dance Festival in 1993, with photographs of the original production taken by Robert Flynt in 1986. 

Pretty as a solo was excerpted from the full-length performance SOFT SELL co-conceived by myself, visual artist Harry Roseman and writer Daniel Wolff.  In the show, the "solo" was performed sequentially by each of the three brave and beautiful dancers - Kaja Gam, Hetty King and Cathy Zimmerman - at the end of the first act. The hour-long SOFT SELL ran for three weeks at LaMama in the spring of 1986, then toured via the National Performance Network with Cathy, me and Marta Miller. 
The voices you hear are Daniel and Susan Haskins; others whose voices were heard in performance  included Maeve Kinkead, Jim Desmond, Mary Shulz and William Finn. 

SOFT SELL was a huge and rare endeavor for me for several reasons:


it was my first ever full-length work

it tackled a controversial topic - pornography - head-on
it was a juicy/thorny collaboration among 3 artists
it was a rare instance (in those days) of me directing but not appearing in the production

In fact, I didn't dance in SOFT SELL at LaMama because I was involved with another huge and rare endeavor: I was pregnant with my first child. 


For more images of Roseman's settings for SOFT SELL, check out his website.  Here's a link to Daniel Wolff’s latest book of poetry. And for an abbreviated version of the evening-length SOFT SELL, go here.

For many years I was lucky that photographer Robert Flynt created photos from our performances all over the NY area. I recently dipped into the digital collection of Renzi/Flynt work and got happily lost in time.  

SOFT SELL marked a threshold into a new perspective on dance making for me - thirty years ago! Today I can feel myself morphing away from being a "dance" filmmaker into … something else. More on that in the next post.

Recent news in brief: 
Besties was accepted at Autumn Shorts in Kentucky; Honeymoon at Seattle Transmedia Independent Film Festival - neither of them screen dance festivals, which is just the way I like it. 

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Long Haul I

Posted immediately below are details of a workshop I'm leading this coming Saturday - part of a series at Gibney Center curated by producer/cameraman/friend/performer Paul Galando.

Having followed this blog many of you are already familiar with the kinds of questions I ask.  On Saturday I hope to widen the conversation with folks who may not be so familiar - some who may even object to the strategy of my deserting dance film festivals.  So please send your friends, especially the argumentative ones! Tossing this ball around with others might enlighten me as well  - "the long haul" being something that I re-define quite regularly.

Speaking of long hauls, we officially wrapped production on my first feature-length film. Beginning in October 2015 Her Magnum Opus was shot primarily in the same location as the seasons changed from summer to golden fall, from winter wonderland to our final gorgeous rainy party last weekend.  With no real dialog but plenty of relationships expressed through movement, it features a cast of 18 extraordinary individuals from the age of six months to 84 years. 
[Aileen Passloff, Tina Vasquez & daughter Aya  screenshot: Charles Caster-Dudzick]
Over the past nine months I've collected a wealth of footage shot by several collaborators on camera: Jim Desmond, Charles Caster-Dudzick, Paul Galando, Cari Ann Shim Sham, Kal Toth, Ben Harley (with his drone) - even some of my own iPhone footage when there was a snowstorm that begged for coverage.

I've been editing it as I go, so it should be finished before the end of the year. And then it's time to market it - can you believe this is ME saying THAT? - to reach larger audiences, though I don't necessarily want to bite the screendance hand that has fed me. Maybe you can recommend a marketing/distribution genius? Or maybe I'll meet my  perfect champion at the workshop this weekend...

As for recent shorts, last month Besties screened at SENE Music, Films & Arts Festival in Rhode Island;  this month 890 Broadway showed in the First Iowa International Screendance Festival, and Honeymoon is an official selection of the Uptown Short Film Festival in Harlem, USA May 12-14 in a program of American Independent Narrative Shorts.