Saturday, August 29, 2009

Coney Island Baby

Interlude Filming.

This location was a ton of fun. Everyone from the neighborhood came out to watch and to hopefully get in to a shot.

And We're Back.

So I took a few days off from writing due to a lack of coherent thoughts from lack of sleep, and due to some set backs in filming. I don't have permission to discuss what caused these set backs, nor do I want to jinks the possible gains made to fix them. In time I'm sure I will share with all of you the ins and out of what has gone in to making this movie.
But I've learned something from this mysterious set back. It was easy to see that everyone involved with putting this movie together was invested in their part. Like all professional workers, they are putting their all in to their work. But you can also bust you ass working on something that you don't care about. I have danced in ballets that wore me out but which I had no real attachment to. It's the least enjoyable part of my job, but it happens. When I came to work on Wednesday afternoon, and everyone was learning about what was temporarily screwing us, you could feel the pain in everyone that we weren't going to pick up that evening where we left off the early morning before. I can tell that everyone is in this project wholeheartedly. I never would have thought that production members would give a shit about seeing this ballet come to life on film, I thought this was just another job for them, but now I know that we are all making this, that it's not just us dancin' around the city in front of a camera. Everyone is giving the best of their craft and in the end this movie is going to fucking rock.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

We Are Opus Jazz Presents: Robbie Fairchild's, Opus Jazzercise Part 2 Featuring MC Baby and The Wipes

After having been wiped down a million times with Baby Wipes by our make-up and hair stylists, Jordan and Bridget, I began to get stir-crazy and began singing what would become the Baby Wipe Song. With a fantastic little dance by MC Baby and The Wipes, we shot this video. Is is what happens when you start to loose it around 3:30 am. Enjoy.

Day 2 'Statics'

Yesterday. Wow. Yesterday was pretty unforgettable. Yet I don't remember much right now. Why? Well, my brain is fried. Our call time was 4:15 pm, not too bad, what time did I finally reach my bed?, 7:30 am. No, I'm not complaining, but it was an experience that might be hard to convey well.
After getting on set we had a rehearsal with the steady-cam operator named Cobra. I was immediately jealous of his bad ass nickname. At what age do you have to insist on being called 'Cobra' for it to actually stick? I've been trying to get my friends to call me 'Porkchop' for years, to no avail. But that's besides the point.
Anyways, we went through most of 'Statics' with Cobra, Jody, Henry and Aaron, and sort of mapped out the camera movements and then we went off to make-up to get ready to shoot when it reached sundown. And then just like she always does, the Sun went down, and the filming began.
I would be lying if I said that it was easy and painless, but we all could tell that it was looking awesome (lame vocabulary word, I know) and that made it easy to keep our energies up. It's amazing how adding a new variable to a dance that you have performed over and over for years, can miraculously make it utterly enjoyable again.
I don't know how many times we filmed the opening minute of 'Statics', but it didn't seem all that bad. After every take we were offered water and Advil, and we'd get a loving rub down with baby wipes (more on that later) since the floor has a good half inch of good old Red Hook dirt covering it. In a matter of seconds we would transform ourselves from cool looking youths to coal miners from West Virginia. My fingers are still wrapped in a black dirt that would make a manicurist cry.
I'm thinking tonight might be a little easier since I now know what it feels like to dance at 5 in the morning and I won't as shocked when my brain starts to play games with me and reality and dreaming begin to merge.
All in all, I imagine that Jerome Robbins is looking down on us with a gigantic smile. Grinning up a storm as he watches his ballet transformed in such a way and to see a bunch of dancers busting their asses on the hard concrete, over and over again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Real Deal. Day One.

2 am, View of Lady Liberty from the set. We both need to lay down soon.
Gina tries on one of what seemed to be a million different tank tops. All in the search of sexiness.

The make-up and hair station.

Yesterday I arrived in Red Hook at 3:15 pm for a final costume fitting and to have my first day of filming. I was picked up at the subway station by a large white van marked, "Opus Jazz Film". Being driven through Brooklyn, I began to get really excited, this is finally going to happen. I have marked down days in my calendar years earlier for this experience, and those dates have come and gone. Now I was about to actually get in front of that camera and help make what I believe will become an extraordinary dance film.
I was completely unprepared for the bombardment of crew members bustling around the Imlay Building, where 'Statics' will be filmed, dragging cables, installing lighting rigs, moving god knows what from here to there.
At the test shoot last week there were maybe ten crew members there, and I naively thought that that would be about all. I had seen photos from when 'Passage for Two', the fourth movement, was filmed on NYC's Highline and I don't remember seeing the amount of crew there like I did here. I am positive that there are towns out west with populations much lower than the city that had come to live in the Imlay Building.
After settling in and meeting the more important (to me) crew members, I finalized some costumes, got a quick hair trim and had some make up applied to a few zits. I love how all make up and hair stylist have what seems to me mandatory tattoos. I love tattoos and there's nothing better to stare at while someone is trying to cover up the nastiness on your face.
So after I was dressed and made up, I waited.
I don't mind waiting, that's what most of life is. I know that everyone is moving along as fast as they can, so why get annoyed? But the only bad thing about waiting, is thinking. Am I going to look stupid on camera. I'm not an actor. Can I pull this off? Thinking is not all that it's cracked up to be. You can do a lot of damage with just your brain and some free time.
Luckily things eventually went well. I didn't fall off my bike. I managed to stay in frame, and I'm presently full of fantastic craft service food.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Last Day of Rehearsal

Today we all gathered at our Rose Building studios to finish rehearsing Opus Jazz. Once again we were joined by former Opus Jazz dancer turned ballet master, Eddie Verso, to polish up the ballet.
It's great to see things coming together finally. I have been in this ballet since N.Y.C.B. had its' premiere of it back in 2005 and over the years the cast has changed many times. Some of these rehearsals can be tedious since some of us have learned these dances long ago and now we are re-teaching things to some new dancers. But it is still valuable to tighten up what you already know and get things looking even better for filming.
Cast changes to a ballet that you have danced for a long time can normally go by unnoticed. One day you may look to your left and see a different dancer, but the dance still stays the same and you don't really think twice. Opus Jazz it not one of those ballets. When a new member joins the cast the ballet changes. We are not blank dancers filling a costume that fits, nor are we dancers playing a character from a story that will never change. We are playing ourselves. This is not a usual occurrence in the ballet world. We are use to either being the paint on a choreographers' canvas, or playing a role in a story. Now, a different cast member can seem foreign and a little confusing at first. Almost like initiating a new gang member, it takes some time for a new cast member to truly fit in and become accepted. I think today we reached that point, or are close enough to go forward.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Test Shoot for 'Statics"

Our first day on set. What to expect? We'd seen pictures of possible locations, but now Gina and I were to be the first members of the cast to go out and test one out.
'Statics' is the 2nd movement of Opus Jazz, and without a doubt, the darkest and sexiest. One can view it as a scene where a girl enters the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe it's about a girl who is just asking for trouble and in the end gets it. Never the less, this movement is filled with sexual tension, overt sexuality and violence. It is fantastic.
So Gina, the sexy little spitfire in 'Statics', and I went to test out lighting and spacing. The location is enormous and rather scary. Open elevator shafts, abandoned stairways, broken glass, walls falling in...all I can think is "Lets dance!"
After waiting for lights to be hung and cameras to be set up, we try to place some important shots so that things move quickly when everyone is here next week. One would think that dancing on stage at Lincoln Center for 11 years would make you immune to being watched, but standing with a giant camera two feet in front of my face made me hyper aware of everything I did. They weren't even rolling, but I kept thinking, 'How does my hair look?, are my eyes crossed?, do I have food in my teeth?". I'm sure I'll get use to it, but this first day was a wake up call to what we're all in for.
And I frankly can't wait.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

At The Starting Gate

After years of planning, fundraising and more planning, New York Export: Opus Jazz, is about to begin filming. It is easy to declare that any project is a "labor of love", but since 2005, Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi have been tirelessly planning to turn this monumental ballet by Jerome Robbins in to a film.
Way back in 2005, we all began learning this ballet from scratch. Countless hours were spent learning the dance styles of the 1950's. We immediately sunk our teeth into the dark, sexy, rebellious undercurrents of each step we danced. Under the watchful eyes of our ballet master, Eddie Verso, we slowly became the angst filled youths of Opus Jazz.
Unbeknownst to the rest of the cast, Ellen and Sean were making plans to update this ballet.
Why not dance this ballet in the streets and buildings that it belongs? Why not dance this ballet in the clothes of our time? Why not take a daring leap out of the 1950s and make this ballet ours, just as the original cast did decades earlier?
Now, years later, that is just what we are doing. Soon the world will see some of the world's greatest dancers take an amazing ballet and set it where it has always belonged, deep in the grit of New York City, ensconced in its dirt, its sweat and its never ending energy and rhythm.