TAKE ME THERE played to rave reviews at the February 2020 Experimental Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
Chantal Cherry: This film was created as part of the Experimental Film Virginia (EFV) residency and festival program. It’s a two week intensive of collaborating with other artists – dancers, musicians, cinematographers – all with the purpose of creating a dance film. Set in Cape Charles, Virginia, EFV encourages artists to create something that could only be made in this geographical location and inspired by this community. I knew I wanted to make a group piece since I had access to multiple dancers; I knew the style of movement I wanted to work with; and I knew I wanted the piece to incorporate queerness. Once I found the location, it became the foundation for the creativity to flow.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
It was a two-week turn around. The first week of the residency was spent location-scouting, engaging with the other artists, and figuring out who I wanted to work with. The second week was reserved for filming and post-production. We had 6 hours maximum to use for the shoot. I shot my film on the first day of week two and the films were screened on day six of week two at the EFV Festival. I was lucky in that I had a lot more time for editing than some of the other film-makers.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The time restraint was the biggest obstacle because the film had to move from conception into a finished product in such a short time frame. We had one hour-long rehearsal in the location to explore ideas with only two dancers (since filmmakers were sharing performers) and then a three hour rehearsal in a studio with the full cast. So we hadn’t actually done the movement on the tracks until the day of the shoot. I’m used to having a lot more time to develop movement with the dancers and often my concept is driven from movement exploration. Since this wasn’t possible given the nature of this residency, I relied on the location to provide conceptual inspiration. Deciding on and securing a location in just a few days was tricky since I wasn’t familiar with the area and I needed to make sure I’d chosen a place in time to move through the process of getting permission in time for shooting.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
This is so exciting! People feel and think things about something I created. A favorite part of the process for me is hearing how other people see my work – what interpretations or take-aways they get from it.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
I was out walking and saw the neglected train tracks. I followed them in both directions, first one way, then the other, to see where they would lead. The feeling of adventure and excitement I felt following the tracks influenced the playfulness present in the piece. The train tracks provide a clear sense of past, present, and future – a venturing from something and into the unknown. What are the characters moving away from and what are they searching for? Cape Charles as a town has a somewhat abandoned feeling as things once working have become neglected. There is the sense that once upon a time life existed. Once the Chesapeake Bay bridge was built, the main purpose for this town disintegrated and with it, its economy. Now life in Cape Charles is adapting (as is human nature, we adapt so that we may survive). For example, running this festival gives life and purpose to the town, which is very different from the original reason the town was built. The town is repurposed in the process. This influenced the dystopian feeling I wanted to invoke. The train tracks are remnants of a civilization yet they are clearly no longer in use and we never see life outside of the characters in the film who are journeying together. As a queer artist I am committed to providing queer representation, which influenced a portion of the narrative. In addition, I am interested in very physical, athletic, strong movement, and particularly this type of movement being performed by womxn, which was the drive behind the movement vocabulary we explored.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Probably Matilda. I know we rented the VHS 17 times in one month from the video store when we were kids. And we rented it many more times after that!
8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
It’s always so helpful to the creative process to receive feedback. It’s also really important to me to know the audience response to the work and if it is what I intended. Did my intention land with the audience? If so, I know the work was successful and if not, I need to pay closer attention to where the work fell short so as to rectify it for the next project. I appreciate the nuance that audiences are able to read into the work that are in alignment with my vision but a different point of view. For example, one of the audience members mentioned the train tracks could be seen as a metaphor for the queer experience at large. This is not something I thought about during the making of the film but is something I definitely agree with in retrospect.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
10. What is next for you? A new film?
I have two projects I’m currently working on. The first, Our Bodies At Night, is a duet that explores intimacy between women that I’m crafting into an evening-length piece. The other project I’m working on is still in its early phases of development. It’s a three-part multimedia project – photography, film, and live performance – that explores power dynamics in relation to notions of queerness, gender, and race. The photoshoot has already taken place and I am in the process of conceptualizing the film aspect.