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.  

The Long Haul II

Digital Technology Initiative  
Revealing Your Unique Audience: 
Navigating Film  Festivals
Saturday, May 7 / 12:30 – 3:30 pm
Whether it’s live work or dance film, what am I making and why?
Who are the characters whose movement stories I choose to reveal?
Who is my ideal audience for these stories?
How do I choose collaborators who “get” me?
Where and for what audiences you screen your work is as much a reflection of your voice as the work itself. In this professional session with choreographer and filmmaker Marta Renzi reveals how she does this – and how you can too. As Marta puts it: “In my case, sharing work with an audience that has little experience with dance film is exactly where I like to be, much as it was when I mostly made live dances”.
“I’d like to share my experience, in particular strategies for infiltrating non-dance film festivals, thereby creating a dialog with curators in the US and abroad. I’ll show clips which range from my 1981 YOU LITTLE WILD HEART with music by Bruce Springsteen, to my recent self-produced short dance films. 
I’ll bring lists of resources of course, and will talk about the challenges and rewards of reaching other-than-dance audiences. Participants will also be encouraged to reflect on their own practices – choreographic, cinematic, casting, – over the long haul. How do you decide if your current modus operandi is working for you?”

This workshop is part of the Digital Technology Professional Series, curated by Paul Galando.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

While I'm away...

Coming attractions in March and April:

Thaw in Iran at the Nowruz Film Festival

Honeymoon in Poland and Spain

Roxie at Ethnografilm in France

Besties at SENE Music & Film Festival, Rhode Island

Wildwood at the Painted Birds in Spain

Plow Plant Reap in Sweden

Despite all my self-deprecating talk about my "little films" and something of mine appearing in a "small film festival", it's hard not to derive some satisfaction from the above roster of Renzi shorts screening all over.  When I look back at the past decade as I've learned to express myself in a new medium - from Thaw to Besties - I can't help but be proud.

I'll be in Europe for the next 2 weeks for a trip bookended by the screening of Honeymoon in Poland and Roxie in Paris. In between I'll visit my brother in Brussels and my too-rarely-glimpsed former collaborators Anka Sedlackova & crew in the Slovak Republic.

It's perfect timing to gain the perspective that often comes with going off the rails for a while. Here in Nyack I'm nearing the finish line with "My Magnum Opus" which started shooting in October 2015 and should finishing shooting by July.  After the past several years of experience of churning out mostly short works, I rose to the challenge of making a feature-length Something. Still no dialog and still led primarily by intuition rather than a screenplay, it's turning into a meditation on time.

At some point in the next few months I'll probably send out invitations to a preview screening. I'm looking forward to feedback about what works and what doesn't.

Meanwhile, enjoy the trailer for Besties, a little something I tossed off last September before plunging into said Opus. I continue to enjoy the spirited dancing and warm friendship between Mica Bernas and Caitlin Roben - and very special guests! - along with the infectious Brazilian pop music.