Interview with Filmmaker Jennifer Petuch (LIMINALITY)

LIMINALITY was the winner of BEST DANCE FILM at the October 2020 Dance & Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We began this project as a small collaboration. Annali Rose is currently a Graduate Student at Florida State University, School of Dance, on the returning professional track, and I (Jennifer Petuch) am currently Staff and Faculty at the FSU SOD, in charge of all the tech equipment and Documentation Directing for concerts, and I was approached by Annali in the beginning of Fall 2019 to see if there was a way for her to film underwater. She knew I was the person in charge of the tech equipment and cameras, and she wanted to film one of her choreography class’s projects underwater. One thing led to another, we became good friends and collaborators and had similar back stories for both dark experiences within the Ballet industry and trauma from past relationships. This became the root of our story: hitting rock bottom and self- perseverance to fight your way out.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Took about five months to complete this project:

-2 months: Annali choreographing under water in a swimming pool and me practicing different vantage points and movement with the GoPro camera in tandem with the choreography as well as us driving around Florida, scouting locations to film underwater.

-1 month: Filming at the Spring

-2 months: Editing all footage accompanied with an original music score.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

“New Beginning”

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Where to begin:

Freezing cold conditions, as we filmed this in a cold Spring in January of 2020. It is interesting to note that the water was warmer than the air. But that was the problem we didn’t expect: We kept trying to steady our breaths after each take by resting on the dock steps, but because it was in the 40’s and 50’s (Fahrenheit), each shoot, our body temperatures would drop faster and we kept getting first stages of Hypothermia.

There was a very strong current within the Spring which made me almost lose the Gopro at one point which would have fallen into the depths of the 30ft deep cave. I did however become Nemo at one point, where I lost a fin, but kept swimming and filming, but never recovered it to this day. Perhaps my lonely fin is a lovely, new home for a turtle?

Of course, I have years of experience filming on land and being a Florida kid, I pretty much grew up in the water, but I soon discovered, even with all of this background, this shoot was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to film, as I also had to compose shots while swimming and filming simultaneously.

In general, being that cold and trying to be creative when your brain felt frozen was by far the biggest challenge. But the Art was worth it!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Beyond touched. I started crying one-minute in. The viewers totally understood the story and interpreted the main metaphor behind the piece correctly. It’s this artist dream to be able to connect with viewers, especially at such a remote time like this. It was such a treat to hear everyone’s feedback. Thank you so much.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Annali and I had a lot of similar dark stories from our pasts both pertaining to abusive relationships from men and destructive experiences within the harsh world of the Ballet industry. On the outside, the film is about the continuation of the story of when Odette, from Swan Lake, dives into the lake to drown herself at the end of the Ballet, but there is a much deeper metaphor lying in the depths of this film.

The water itself is something that our past partners never were; supportive. It’s both a curse and a blessing as we can certainly drown but a blessing that it will never drop us and it supports us on all sides. As I had just personally ended an abusive relationship a few months prior to this film, I really wanted to emphasize where I currently was in my life; the stage of hitting rock bottom and finding the strength within myself to fight my way out.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I like the platform of submitting films on Filmfreeway compared to the “old school” method of filling out tons of catered forms for individual festivals. Love that I can make one profile with all the info included for each film and then submit it. I appreciate the convenience, so as artists, we can spend our time creating instead of spending time on paperwork.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

“Opening” by Philip Glass

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I am in the process of creating a self-portrait, projection mapping dance film, called “Me. Too.” This film will be shared via Social Media the first week of December 2020. It’s the idea of a phoenix rising from the ashes and flying. Yes, the story is pertaining to the “Me Too” movement. It will be danced, choreographed, projection designed, mapped and filmed all by me and I see this as the most cathartic piece I’ll have ever made in my life. The time is right.

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