Prelude to a dance documentary

It’s never the way you think it’ll be…

What am I talking about? The ballroom dance/argentine tango documentary I’m planning for the Toledo, Maumee and Bowling Green, Ohio-area.

It’s a shift from the dream I’ve had to make a dramatic dance feature film to making dance films period.

The documentary is called, Conversations: How Dance Changed Their Lives. Ballroom dancing and Argentine tango are the kinds of dance that will be featured. And right now, ballroom dancing is so popular with all the dance on T.V., while Argentine tango is the hottest thing at colleges and universities all over the world because it’s fun and improvisational, and well, you’ll need to see the documentary to find out more and go out and experience the dances for yourself to experience the magic.

The process of making a film is kind of like going on an amusement park ride – there’s anticipation, maybe a few qualms, and lots of questions.

Eyes wide open, it’s going from the high of inspiration to wondering, “What am I doing?” and “How did I get up here?” to “Whoa, the ground is really far away.”

In life one never knows what will happen.

When I’m taking photos and making my little videos for fun it’s just me. No logistics or scheduling, no dancers or crew, no release forms,  permissions needed, no HD video cameras, lighting equipment or microphones, and no cash involved unless you count the investment in the Kodak point and shoot I bought years ago.

A documentary? Whoa. Very different. I met with the man who is to be my Director of Photography Friday, Jose Cardenas, and was reminded that just because he shoots a two-hour dance party or practica doesn’t mean we will have a total two hours of useable footage.

Why? Because we’re shooting in the moment and sometimes the shot you wanted doesn’t fulfill expectations. The lighting isn’t right. Someone collides and knocks over the camera. The couple dancing are riveting and suddenly another couple moves right in front of them and all you get is one fellow’s back.

I envisioned filming the documentary in the next two or three months and I think Jose did too. Once we got talking though we progressed to seeing the real possibility that the trailer might get filmed now while the documentary could very well become a part of a BGSU practicum this fall. We just don’t know.

While I am an advocate for personal growth and higher learning, I am also someone who doesn’t like waiting and wants to go-go-go and get things done chachacha right now. Spontaneity can be a good thing. But I learned the hard way that when you don’t plan and things go awry in filmmaking, you can waste a full day or your feature independent film isn’t of the caliber to make it into movie theaters. That brings me back to being on that ride.

It’s the upward trajectory right now, the planning. We need a few key interviews with people you might never know ballroom dance all week, compete every few months, or would travel anywhere in the world to tango at a festival.

I’m wondering now who will stick it out with me for the full ride. Then I remember the two ladies doing West Coast swing with the lucky husband of one of them. I recall the sense of enchantment when in a zen moment the dance studio filled with couples doing Viennese Waltz and looked like a staged production. I laugh when I remember the ballroom instructors cavorting in the corner doing street dance then breaking into a fantastic merengue.

I’m also moved to tears when I remember how ballroom dancing changed my life. But that’s another story.


Have questions about the path to making this documentary? Ask them here, tweet me, e-mail, etc., and I’ll respond  as best as I can until we’re ready to start our Facebook page, run a contest or two, tell you all when we’re filming and where, as well as progressing to indiegogo with our photos, trailer and all the phenomenal people who dance around here and know dance has changed their lives.

Melanie on twitter: aplace4us

Melanie is a fiscally sponsored project of Fractured Atlas