Why make a documentary?
This was the second time Video Artisan has been commissioned by dance shoe manufacturer, Supadance, to make a film about this same-sex dance competition held in Blackpool. Last year’s film was a relatively straight-forward record of the event. It was well received, and has had thousands of plays online, but it did nothing to explain what same-sex dancing is all about or who it is aimed at. We were therefore really looking forward to making a more in-depth documentary and help tell the world why same-sex dance deserves much wider recognition.
Before I move on to the making of the documentary itself, I have to admit that even after filming last year’s event I wasn’t totally convinced of the argument for same-sex dancing. I’m not the only one to feel this way though. We have made several films for Supadance about their shoes as well as other short films about mainstream dance events which they sponsor. During the making of these films it’s become obvious that certain sectors of the mainstream dance community would rather not see same-sex dancing at all – and would certainly be opposed to seeing it integrated into mainstream competitions.
Hopefully this new documentary will help change some of these opinions. It has certainly changed my point of view and made me appreciate the subtle but important differences of same-sex dance.
Like any documentary you’ve got to tell a story and at least present one side of an argument. This documentary is certainly presenting the argument from the same-sex dancer’s side but, in all honesty, I don’t believe there is a logical argument for continuing to exclude same-sex dance from mainstream dance competitions.
Whilst Supadance sponsored the production of this documentary I was very much under the guidance of the event organisers, Bradley and Soren Stauffer-Kruse (AKA The Sugar Dandies). You might be familiar with these guys from their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. Prior to the event I got Bradley and Soren to list out the questions they get asked most often about same-sex dancing in general and the festival itself. This was like gold dust and gave me the main thread of the story and formed the basis for all the interviews we carried out over the two days.
Getting the answers to these questions then became the main focus of our documentary filming. To ensure we had all the points covered our first day of filming started with Bradley and Soren giving their answers to these questions. This day was actually just a practice day for the competitors so there wasn’t much real action taking place on the dance floor but it did give us a relevant background for their interview where dancers can be seen on the floor behind them.
The second day we set about gathering general scenes from the dance festival itself, but at the same time we worked out with Bradley and Soren which competitors would be good subjects for interviews. These were all recorded later on in the afternoon whilst the competition was still running which often meant grabbing couples as they left the dance floor. You will normally experience some resistance from people in these situations but thankfully the same-sex dance community all seem to be anything but camera shy. Still, part of the skill of the documentary maker is getting your subjects to relax in front of camera and I hope the film shows them as being that way. We certainly ended up with more content than we could fit in the film.
The general shots of dancing were simply b-roll images to help tell the stories told within the interviews. We didn’t therefore film any dance in its entirety but were instead looking for fleeting moments within the dances that would look good on film and covered all the dance-types, costumes and characters taking part in the competition.
The final filming sequence was carried out at around 11pm once the competition was over and most of the contestants had left (a long day after a 9am start). This was with Bradley and Soren in all their finery doing a very professional job of opening and closing the documentary. It’s just so nice to work with people who shine on camera.
All filming was carried out by two videographers (Martin Baker and myself) using two DSLRs – namely a Canon 5D MkII and a 550D. All the interviews were filmed on the 5D using a Canon 24-105mm f.4 lens. For much of the day Martin was using the 550D with a vintage Fujinon 55mm f1.8 lens to gather the shallow depth of field shots. There’s also one or two shots in there where the 550D was mounted on my iFootage Mini Crane and using a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 super wide zoom – plus there’s also a slide using the Varavon Slidecam 900. Lighting was provided by two Lishuai LED lighting panels.
The majority of interview sound was recorded in-camera via the Tascam DR-60D recorder/mixer using a Sony ECM674 directional mic on phantom power. This was the first real field test for the Tascam and I have to say it was fantastic. There was however two interviews where we used our Sony tie-clip mic connected directly to the camera – namely the interview with Supadance Chairman, Barry Free and the vox-pop with Strictly Come Dancing’s Erin Boag. These came out OK – but I think you can tell the difference.
The editing took three days to complete and was all carried out on our Edius 6.5 edit suite. The only exception to this was the opening graphics and caption lower 3rds which were all created in PhotoShop and then imported into Edius as separate layers and animated.
Music is always a challenge with Supadance films as you have to avoid tracks which are obviously either ballroom or Latin. It simply doesn’t look right if there’s Latin music over the top of a couple ballroom dancing. It might not get spotted by the uninitiated but for anyone involved in the world of dance it’s going to look very odd indeed. Thankfully AKM Music came to my rescue again with the track ‘Celebration’ from the album AK157 ‘Positivity’.
Making a documentary go viral
There’s a lot of talk about videos going viral and how best to achieve it. The fact is that “viral” is a relative term and a documentary on what is a special interest subject is unlikely to ever reach the heady heights of films about cats and dogs doing funny things. Going viral is therefore really about getting your content shared by as many people within the target audience as possible. It’s never a one-man job and has to be a collaborative effort by all those with a vested interest in the film.
As the producer I’ve obviously got an interest in spreading the documentary about as much as I can and have tweeted, added to Facebook, blogged about it, added to my YouTube and Vimeo channels and took various Instagram pictures during the event and after. Bradley and Soren have since shared the video in various ways throughout the same-sex dance community whilst Supadance will be using the film as part of the media library on their website and will also be screening it at mainstream dance events they are involved in. It’s very early days as I write this blog but the documentary was watched over 700 times in the first day of going live. In my mind that’s gone viral!
Commissioning a documentary
Whether you are into same-sex dance or not doesn’t really matter, the point is that any organisation can commission a documentary that will engage with your target audience and help augment your brand. There must of course be a reason or aim of the video in commercial terms (this one was, “Buy more Supadance shoes”), but the art is making something that your audience will want to watch and share with others with a similar interest.
If you think you have a story to tell contact us today for a free consultation and we’ll go through the process and costs of getting your documentary out there.