Dance for Recovery – Films soon to be Released

The Documentary Dance for Recovery Behind the Scenes is almost complete. Final edits today and then it is sent to the project organisers. It’s been the biggest project in my short film making journey so far.

Many documentaries are done by a full crew and have the luxury of people specialising in editing of sound, image, camera work and they have access to some time saving programs like Pluralise etc – films even short films benefit from having a lot of crew on board. But ABC Open has taught me it is possible to work on a shoe string, but this means it can take more time. I have an even tighter shoe string budget than ABC too (: just explaining the limitiations of my current small film set up. Sounds like time for me to set up some serious collaborations and search out funding.

I have had to make this documentary fairly independently, with some support and mentoring being provided by Leandro from ABC Open and my hubby David who truly is a genius in coming up with creative ways to solve our lack of expensive equipment, we used our tablet with an application to collect the sound – which was a step up in quality from our mobile phone, but it probably has some better apps, I’ll have to ask Leandro and google for some more advice. I loved having access to Dez Green’s beautiful sound track, which was used for Danielle’s show. He’s a talented man and himself a budding film maker and music maker for stage shows.

It’s been brilliant interviewing and going over some raw footage with Danielle Wilson since the workshop and mixing it in. Danielle is so eloquent in explaining the processes behind her project. It’s a thoughtful interview. Also mixed into the documentary are some shots collected from one of the preplanning meetings and some of the footage collected at the workshop.

The documentary film makes extensive use of photograph stills as well as video and gives a sneak peek of the performance as I filmed it from the behind the scenes. An additional challenge to this film was collecting footage which gave participants a sense of privacy and space as they were involved in ‘healing the past from the cyclone.’

It is not uncommon for documentary makers to work with sensitive subjects and to have to come up with filmic solutions and compromises in reaching their goals of an interesting story shot in an interesting way. Trust is important in making many documentary films and many are in search of emotional truth. I will do some more research and future blogs on documentary films I have seen that have moved or inspired me and find out about some famous ones for my readers.

Mark Edwards has filmed and edited a very polished version of the silhouette performance and after viewing the documentary I am sure you will be keen and very curious to see his film; I have seen some of the early edits and it’s looking like it will be fantastic.

The making of this mini documentary has given me enormous insight not only into Danielle’s vision of Dance for Recovery, and the work and team needed to help her realise that vision, but also into taking my own film making to the next level and assisting me to develop more confidence and skills in this very interesting genre. It would certaintly be brilliant to have access to a few more programs, some better lenses, sound equipment and more helpers, but I’ve definitely learnt that anything is possible, even if you have limited resources. Now just imagine with more resources, finances, and a bigger team, yes maybe its time to hit trop fest sometime soon.

Dance for Recovery was funded by FNQ Volunteers, Queensland and Australian Governments, Isay project, Connecting Community Voices, and involved many volunteers and a small budget for production for some contributing Artists.

Filming with Sensitivity: The Sacred Space of Healing through Dance

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Dance for Recovery – photographs by June Perkins

It was just so rewarding and exciting to assist my friend Danielle Wilson by filming behind the scenes of her project Dance for Recovery.  She was supported in her vision by two community arts workers,  Avril Duck and Melissa Robertson working for Connecting Community Voices, ISAY project, funded by Far North Queensland Volunteers inc, and several other creatives in  music, sound and film: Dez Green, John and Mark Edwards. A couple of members her dance class and some of the wider dance community came to participate, although not all participants were dancers and this was not a requirement.

There was a fantastic response well beyond the circle of Danielle’s friends  (most people attending did not know Danielle or each other) to attend this workshop and some people had heard about it on the radio, through the newspaper or the web or through friends; the workshop  gave the chance for many people to connect beyond their immediate home. Danielle is all about accessibility and so the class was open to everyone over the age of sixteen.  Danielle said she loved that the workshop brought people together from Cairns, Cardwell, Mission Beach, Tully and Innisfail, to express and find their emotions about the cyclone and release them through movement.

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Dance for Recovery – Photographs by June Perkins

I have known Danielle since taking my children to her free movement classes in Mission Beach when they were little.  She still works with children but has branched out to work with adults and so Dance for Recovery was an important extension of that process. I vividly remember the way in which she created a sacred and creative space for children of the Cassowary Coast to express themselves and my children have never forgotten the classes.  I knew the participants were in for something special even before we had begun.  Danielle and I had been talking about a collaboration at some point as I wanted to experience photographing and filming dance, and Danielle wanted to document and be creative with making a dance film. It was amazing to have this opportunity to support a friend and work on my own creative practice.  Danielle and I have often crossed paths at workshops for writing, and other projects in the Cassowary Coast and we respect each others arts practice.

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Dance for Recovery – photographs by June Perkins

Even as we speak Danielle is looking at a draft mix of some of the footage as well as still photographs I took of the workshop Dance for Recovery.  I so hope that she is happy with how I am beginning to piece together the story of the project.  I am looking forward to working with Leandro Palacio from ABC Open who makes some amazing films that have quite an artistic flair to them.  As we filmed on Thursday Leandro especially encouraged me to experiment with my perspective, work the height of the tripod and develop a steady hand-held technique, he directed me to move, just like the participants guided by Danielle in their dance.

To prepare for working on the edits with Leandro I thought it would be helpful to sift through 23 minutes of footage and find the parts which:

1- Help convey the story of the project and performance.

2- Look varied, creative and arty and have some continuity with each other.

3- I am pretty sure he has sound to as my camera has some limitations with how well it collects sound.

4- Are free from camera shake or wonky hand-held technique.

5- Do a draft premix longer than we need to try out some editing techniques and mixes for the final documentary.

6- Look at doing a longer interview with Danielle, either me or Leandro can do this, I could maybe pop over to Danielle’s to do this, she was pretty tired after the workshop.

In the process of filming and photographing I was sensitive to the participants, especially due to the topic of the workshop, cyclone, recovery and finding calm, and Danielle let participants know who I was and that they could opt out of being filmed and that I was approachable and wouldn’t mind whatever their decision.  I look forward to their responses to the final documentary as well.

It was great that everyone, participants and artistic support, seemed keen to help Danielle by being in the documentary and a few were happy to talk on camera afterwards even though they were on the way home after long day.  The rest of the time they forgot I was there and just went about their workshop.  It’s always good for a documentary film maker to be invisible and exist primarily in the movement of her camera!  A special challenge with filming this documentary was working with the concept of faceless portraits, and avoiding the human face as much as possible.

June Perkins

Dance for Recovery was funded by FNQ Volunteers, Queensland and Australian Government, Isay project, Connecting Community Voices, and involved many volunteers and a small budget for production for contributing Artists.