Dancemakers must wear many hats. Choreographer, performer, producer, director, marketer, floor builder (tap dancers know what I’m talking about!) Add filmmaker to the list.
See Chicago Dance doesn’t just help Chicagoans see dance, but helps dancers be seen. Now in its third year, the SCD Dance for Camera (D4C) program returns with the goal of providing the basic tools of filmmaking for aspiring dancers to learn the ins and outs of producing dance on film.
Applications for SCD’s 2024 Dance for Camera Mentorship and Workshop Series are open now, and the application deadline has been extended to Monday, February 12. Participants are limited to twenty persons. They will have the opportunity to have an initial consultation with the Project Manager, 10+ video modules (approx. 1.5 hours of engagement each), a “bank” of five one-on-one mentoring hours with professionals, peer support/mentoring with other participants developing their own projects and four 4-hour, in-person, hands-on/interactive “dance for camera” workshops on various themes.
The structure of the 2024 D4C Workshop Series allows participants to “choose your own adventure.” The program is available to Chicago-based dance artists at any stage of their career and allows them to move at their own pace.
What is unprecedented about this program is that some of the materials, designed by Media Specialist Frank Konrath, will be available on SeeChicagoDance.com for free to anyone who seeks to fill in gaps in their filmmaking knowledge.
“Filmmakers will be able to go to SeeChicagoDance.com and download a PDF on any specific thing that they’re not sure how to do,” says Konrath. “For example, if you’re on a shoot and forget how to control motion blur, you’ll be able to look up shutter speed and get a one-page description of what shutter speed is, what you should be looking for, how does it work, and what adjustments you need to make.”
The whole manual is about thirty pages long and provides troubleshooting for all stages of filmmaking, from creative development and preproduction to production and post-production. Budgeting, shot lists, internal camera functions, types of lenses, equipment, distribution, crowdfunding… It has it all! The digital PDF manual will also feature various templates for call sheets, budgets and contracts, and a collection of 5-minute how-to videos. These will be taught by Enki Andrews, Fine Art Photographer, Interactive Multimedia Specialist and Dance Videographer, along with Surinder Martignetti, Production Manager and Live Dance Director/Producer.
In 2019, Martignetti and Andrews spent time catching up and talking about what the dance community needed in that moment. “We came to the conclusion that dancers, reliant on social media and video, didn’t really have the skills,” says Martignetti. “With more people online doing dance on film, it became apparent that it’s a skill that people need help with and that we can teach.”
With a generous grant from the Walder Foundation, the first D4C Workshop Series convened in 2021 via online and in-person weekly workshops primarily taught by Andrews, which culminated in a group live shoot.
SCD launched the second iteration of the D4C Production Residency in 2022. This time the selection process was more rigid, seeking specifically two groups of ten artists each, who were in that sweet spot of having some experience but needing to know more.
Dancer and Composer, Cat Mahari, credits Dance for Camera with not only giving her the resources necessary to complete her film, “Blk Ark: The Impossible Manifestation,” but also the most valuable resource: mentorship. “It was wonderful having a significant film producer in Surinder,” says Mahari. “We had weekly check-ins, hour-long conversations about what I was up to in life as well as my production. She gave me sound advice and provided a depth of knowledge when it comes to film production.” “Blk Ark” has since been shown at festivals and events across the country.
Another participant who went on to continue their work in film is Dancer and Choreographer Amanda Ramirez. “The SCD D4C fellowship helped me expand what I do,” says Ramirez, who is now in postproduction on the film, “Tierra,” which she developed during D4C. Ramirez, who works on commission for various film projects, says “SCD provided an illuminating experience. It allowed me to grow in a career using pathways that work for me.”
Konrath considers the 2022 D4C Production Residency to be a big success. “I said to Surinder, ‘If we can get one dancer, after going through the cohorts, to declare themselves a dance filmmaker we would have a successful D4C 2022.’ Now, we have at least five still actively making dance-for-camera films.”
In 2023, SCD received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to continue its dance-for-film programming, and D4C is back in 2024! Like its previous iterations, the program has evolved with the times and the community’s needs. Now that people are back at work, the program is retooled to coincide with dancers’ busy schedules and provides free materials for the benefit of all who need them.
What exciting new works of dance will make it from D4C onto film? Stay tuned to find out!
See Chicago Dance’s 2024 Dance for Camera Workshop Series runs from March to August. Applications are now open and close on February 12. For more information, go to seechicagodance.com or click the event link below.