ALWAYS | a case study in directing choreography
TRUTH BE TOLD, let’s get it straight: I’m not going to wax lyrical about the beauty of movement here, and nothing I say will magically turn an actor into Ninjinski. All I’m doing in this commentary is giving filmmakers some choreography “fuck-up-proof” advice.
When I sat down to start writing this segment, my intention was to do a detailed analysis of potential obstacles and variants one should consider when directing film choreography. The problem is, all these talking points just ended up spawning variables and each one of those variables spawned into another variable… And discussing these details just sounds like a big yawn-fest.
So, here’s my quick and easy “fuck-up-proof” advice.
1. Have an amazing musical track to do the choreography to. Spend time on music selection and get the opinion of your choreographer before pulling the trigger on it. Some tracks lend themselves to choreography better than others, so ask an expert.
2. Always, and I mean ALWAYS, cast professional dancers. Not just for their ability to move, but for their ability to learn the choreography quickly. Professional dancers can pick up the moves as quickly as a TV actor can memorise a script. Your shoot will be far more efficient in terms of time with pros onboard.
3. Give yourself enough time for rehearsals. I’m talking double or triple the amount you had in your schedule (cue producer gulp moment). Although a pro dancer will learn the choreography quickly, there’s no space for error when you’re capturing performances in high-definition, and often slow motion. Give them the time to get it right.
Almost 99% of film choreography problems will be solved by implementing these three simple things. Sounds pretty obvious, but so many people think they can do it differently. They have an average track, don’t get the best dancers, and don’t even give those dancers enough time to rehearse. And what happens? The choreography lets the whole film down. It’s the mismatched movement that creates problems which put the camera crew on the back foot. You’ll end up cutting the hell out of your takes to disguise the issues and ending up with something that looks more like a B-grade action movie where no one can actually fight VS Keisza’s Hideaway. Got it?
Great track, great talent, and plenty of time for rehearsals. Get that right and everyone will strut away from the production like a Rockstar.
– by Porteus Xandau.
BUSY BABY | a case study in filming with babies
TRUTH BE TOLD, filming with babies is as unpredictable as filming wildlife, but we’ve mastered a few tricks over time to become really good at it. Experts actually. We can’t give away too many of our trade secrets, but I’ll share two tips to set you on your way.
Director Porteus Xandau is a guru in filming with babies. Not that he has a magical touch to get performances out of the little ones (for that we have another secret), but rather knowing how to production-engineer a shoot to optimise results, which is the only way to approach a ‘baby’ film shoot – aim to get the desired shots, but allow yourself the time to explore other possibilities that tell the story in the same way.
Firstly, all baby film shoots start with one single important step: the casting! Know what you need to achieve before you cast, and make sure you cast for that ‘performance’ or key scene. But be mindful of the fact that babies can sometimes only do that ‘one thing’ you want them to do, and to avoid disappointment on set, try other unscripted scenarios in the casting as well, and note what the babies are good at, and build the shoot and story from there.
Secondly, let the babies surprise you! Filming with babies is all about quality time and quantity time – you need to let the shoot breathe a bit and camp out behind the camera. That’s the only way you’ll get those unscripted, magical little moments that will lift the film to another level. Babies give you very little at a time, it really is just moments, so be trigger-happy with the camera.
There you have two keys to a successful baby shoot.
– by Herman le Roux