Monday, April 27, 2009

Slow Mo PoMo Promo!

With apologies to Neil Greenberg for the title, check out the promo i just finished for 13V!

13 Variations on a Car Crash Promo from Sarah A.O. Rosner on Vimeo.

I've had my nose to the grindstone for the past week or so on this EMPAC application, and this weekend I had that great moment in the app-writing process when all the painstaking explaining and delicate rewording gave way to an "oh" moment. As much as grant writing and apps can be tedious and a huge energy drain, I almost always come away from them clearer on the piece i'm submitting.

I though i'd share some of what I wrote in the treatment for the film version of 13v:

Picture a head-on car crash in exquisite slow motion:

As one car hits the other, the sheet metal hoods ripple, snap, buckle, and condense—forcing themselves into the windshield, which holds and holds, suddenly crystallizing into shatter of broken glass. Crumple zones spent, the real weight of the cars grind over each other and the symmetrical ballet begins, the ends of both cars lofting in the air and rotating before sucking themselves back to the pavement with such weighty heft that even in slow motion you sense their heaviness in your whole body. As the cars compress and fracture, an array of scrap metals detach and spiral outwards. Glass bounces glittering and metal shrieks twisting, as the cars lurch to a stop.

Point is, you can’t look away.

I propose the creation of a new dancefilm entitled “13 variations on a car crash”—a piece that blends the heavy partnering and detailed gesture of my dance work with the aesthetics of a car crash—edited like an action movie and told as a love story.

I am admittedly obsessed with the aesthetics of car crashes. Perhaps this is not so surprising: as present-day humans we are constantly viewing car crashes (on the highway, on the news, in action movies, etc) knowing we shouldn’t be attracted to them and yet not being able to look away. I feel a kinship, especially as a mover, with these hulks of gravitational metal. There is no falseness in a car crash—only the weight and the speed of the cars involved and their resulting physics. Their heaviness is brutish, their interaction is defined as ‘wreckage.’ These qualities embody my type of dance: hard falls, striking images, and brutally honest physicality.

The film.
The film itself follows two once-lovers (the two main dancers) as they experience a series of physical and emotional crashes. Entering into a dream-like collage of effortless yet heavy partnering, hard falls, surreal images, and grocery lists, the pair is pulled through space and time, navigating a visually stunning junkyard in the black of night. Amidst crushed cars and blaring TV sets, dark Muses direct the action and embody the physics of wreckage. Crashes disrupt time and render each moment infinite. As heads sail towards dashboards there’s still time to think “coffee…eggs…flour…facewash…” Exploring the emotional damage of lovers becoming once-lovers, the film’s fixation with crashes is an embodiment of physical and emotional hurt, an exposure of the beauty of debris. As the dancers struggle to find control in the face of inertia, the film’s editing and slow motion mimics ideas of control and lack thereof, horrible beauty, and the mess of how we treat the ones we love.

Point is, you can’t look away.

Shooting the film.
I propose to create the film via three main shoots.
The first shoot (which we will choreograph in early September 2010 and shoot later that month) involves the two main dancers, and consists of intimate shots of the two lovers together – approaching for a kiss, unexpected shots of the soft “crash” of the two bodies coming together, etc. This footage will be edited together in late September with found footage of actual crashes, crash tests, and driver safety videos to create a montage of crashes, both mechanical and sexual. After being edited and printed to VHS, this montage will be played through the cluster of old TVs that will serve as the lover’s “car” in the second shoot. I am excited to create this film-within-a-film because it will lines the dancers, counterpoint their movements, or re-contextualize what they are doing. Since the new footage of the dancers will be mixed with low-fi found footage, I will be shooting it on my own equipment (a Panasonic 100dvx)—and will therefore be able to save on production costs by requiring only minimal lighting and one camera operator on this shoot.

After completely reworking and rehearsing the movement for the piece for the month of October, the second and third location shoots will occur over a weekend in early November, using the first two nights to shoot in a junkyard and the third to shoot in a black box theater.

The second (and main) shoot will take place in a crushed car lot in Brooklyn. This set of crushed cars and scrap metal, along with the eight TV sets showing the crash montage, will serve the piece by providing a location that is at once surreal and pedestrian, enhancing the piece’s sense of unease and impending impact. Lighting designed by Lauren Parrish will utilize the location by shooting with the available industrial light, as well as hotwiring select headlights of junked cars to frame the piece. This location will feature the majority of the movement of the piece, and will be shot in a variety of stationary and moving shots. It is important to me that dance on screen still convey visceral excitement and impulses to the audience, so we will shoot both a well-planned storyboard, and leave time for improvisational shots of the movement as to allow for maximum flexibility in editing.

The third and final shoot will be in a black box theater. This shoot will capture two types of footage: surreal images of the two main dancers and lighting-specific images of the Muses. The surreal snippets include shots of the main dancers playing with a small matchbox car, the woman putting it in her mouth and running it over her legs. Lighting-specific shots of the Muses’ movement will utilize the black box setup to create a night-driving atmosphere, playing with the effect of the dancers moving in darkness while “headlights” sweep over them, illuminating them in glimpses.

Starting in December, I will begin editing the footage from these shoots together to create a cohesive and alluring whole. Because I work day jobs in addition to my art making, I plan for the project to be fully edited by the end of March. After the film’s premiere in August 2010 at EMPAC, I plan on submitting the film to a number of film festivals (dancefilm and otherwise) as well as using screenings and DVD sales of the project to fundraise and build excitement for the eventual production of other sections in the larger piece.

In terms of production, this piece will be fortified by the collaborations and working relationships that will create it. As I work as an editor and producer at reels4artists, Gerrit Vooren (owner, producer) and Brian Miller (production coordinator, camera operator) are excited to bring their expertise to the film. Additionally, Lauren Parrish (lighting design and execution) has lit many of my stage works. New collaborations include Tracy Klein, (costume design and execution) who is interested in creating a movable and pedestrian subtle-grunge look, and the Psychedelic Disco Angels (composers), who are committed to a collaborative approach to making a lush dark sound-score specifically for the film.

As always, feedback (as E.D. would say: questions? headaches? heartaches?) is welcome, as are questions about the meaning of life, and great summer salad recipes. I'll post the whole app once i'm done so you can cross your fingers with me. Here's to the imminent maybe of our funding, the eventual certain of our success, and the rare joys of clarity!


emily said...

The promo video, especially at the moment of transition from the shopping list to the crash, ties it all together for me and addresses my concern that the first-time viewer may fail to connect the different elements that make up the piece.

Also, great to read your treatment! I hope this happens, I am especially curious about the site-specific shoots. You really painted a picture & created an atmosphere in your description. Crossing my fingers!

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

thanks emily, that's really helpful!
It's gotten to a point where i feel a really close connection between the grocery list and this impending thud of a crash - things we've talked about a lot like the disruption of time during a crash to allow for all of these other thoughts - but i know that that's just us coming from within the piece.

I'm still going back and forth on weather I want people to be really clear about the connection (and perhaps spell it out more by having them say the list in the context of a single crash) or for it to act as two disparate elements that somehow make sense. I kind of like the separateness of it, but maybe it's only fulfilling because i really do get how they connect. Either way - it's really helpful to know where the disconnect is in making that decision though, so thanks!

Thoughts from other people on the grocery list/crash connection?

LLP said...

hey sarah, just checked out the video, if you ever want to talk one on one, let me know!
take care

MRP said...

i assume you have seen the commercial, i think it is a car commercial, of bodies being flung about in slow motion from normal everyday activities, like sitting at a desk. it is a creepy and arresting image, partly because they have taken the slow motion image of a body in a car crash and placed it against such mundane activities and also because what is happening is physically impossible in real life. it's hard to figure out what is happening and why until they explain it. It seems that you are battling some of these juxtapositions, but in real time. interesting challenge.

I like the shopping list. I like when it happens in the piece. i like "nothing that breaks". It gives me a context, a premise, without being redundant or overstated. These two people, a couple, on a routine shopping trip, are in an accident. from thre you can go anywhere.

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

i have seen the comercial (a co-worker showed it to me) and i LOVE it. If we could do that (even just in real time)on stage. It would be massively fun.

If we get this EMPAC grant we've applied for (or even if we don't - we're still going the HD route either way) we'll get to really start playing with the slow-motion film capabilities. I'm TOTALLY looking forward to it!

Thanks for the grocery list comment too - it's kind of become maybe my favorite part of the piece in hindsight.