1992, and Donna Wijngaart and I decided to make our first dance video. Of course neither of us knew much about making a video, but that would never stop us. I was studying dance on film and Donna was studying sculpture/performance. Anyway, we decided to collaborate. This work was to become the practical exploration for a paper I was writing where I proposed that to effectively make dance films, the choreographer had to understand and make major directorial and design decisions. If not, the work likely lacked coherence in its resolution of dance, design and film media.
I am really proud of this work. Donna did enter it in one of the Metro award seasons and won. But beyond that it wasn’t half bad for our first attempt, and spurred us both on to make other films.
We had plenty of other people contributing – Chris, Lara, Tasha and Danielle were all there and never forgetting Daniel La Forest who did the edit for us in my loungeroom, overnight, so that we could meet our respective assignment deadlines. Daniel also then set us up with our own analogue video editing equipment which provided many hours of fun, frustration and exhaustion.
We learnt a lot about what not to do in using effects on film, but it was pre-digital, so it was timely.
Perhaps the longest title we had – The fool, the cult and the tower – our RE in 1991. The theme was based on ‘cults’ using the imagery of tarot and circus and a parody of TV evangelists. My favourite bit of the whole design process was the stuffed cats on sticks, which the TV audience waved in adulation (pre-empting an Oprah-style event). The very talented Danielle Baseley (below right with Ram’s horned hat) created much of the imagery for the Principal cast costumes and the sets. She and our production crew (including the legendary Lara and Bell Frolchenko and the wonderful Judy Charnaud) pretty much hand-painted everything in sight. We prided ourselves on the fact our costume budget was about $10 per cast member e.g. Dan painted all the detail on the the fool’s shirt, so it cost next to nothing but was absolutely unique!
We always tried for an atypical ending in these performances – nearly everyone else ended with a huge cast tableau, so we always wanted to be different, and besides, a tableau never suited our content. This one didn’t quite come off – the ending included the fool’s parents bowling (lawn bowls) and painting (a fence) and the TV Evangelist/High Priestess and their crew standing in informal noisy huddles congratulating themselves on the fool’s entry to the tower at the end of the ‘show’. Just another moment for the audience to think ‘What the …’