Interview with Artistic Directors Noelani Pantastico & James Yoichi Moore (SEATTLE DANCE COLLECTIVE)

The Seattle Dance Collective produced the short dance film “CONTINUUM: Bridging the Distance”, which won BEST SHORT FILM at the March 2021 Dance & Music Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

We were in the midst of planning our second season of live performances when the shock of COVID-19 hit. Once it was clear that we had to cancel our summer program, we made the decision to reimagine how we could continue to collaborate with other artists and create dance for our community. It was such a dark time and we were committed to bring some beauty into people’s lives. By making this film, we were also able to offer other artists the opportunity to continue practicing their art in a period of time when most had suddenly found themselves unemployed. This ability to help our colleagues was not only extremely rewarding to us, but also crucial for the continued development of the arts during this period of lockdown.

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

We conceived of the project in early March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic lockdown and the first work within the film premiered in early July. Each team was given two weeks or 24 hours to rehearse and 1-2 days of filming, plus additional time for editing. It was a very quick timetable. During this time period we also created five documentaries chronicling the process behind each of the five works.

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

Time Capsule

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

First of all, neither one of us had ever made a film before, so we were faced with an entirely new challenge. In fact, with the exception of our director of photography, nearly every single dancer and choreographer was new to the film medium. But the greater obstacle was figuring out how to safely create and film dance during a pandemic shutdown. Dance is an art form that demands physicality and close contact. Our choreographers had to completely adjust their method and figure out how to successfully develop and rehearse a new piece remotely via video call, rather than in the studio. The dancers had to adapt to working in the confines of their homes, and for many of them, learn how to dance with each other despite being in separate spaces. In some cases, dancers were only able to experience the full breadth of movement when on location for the first time, right before filming. Our filmmaker was also working in an entirely new way, as he had to conceptualize camera work with very limited on-location rehearsal time.

Although the pandemic was our biggest obstacle, it also gave birth to the idea of making this film in the first place. The constraints of social distancing guided us and gave a framework from which the artists found inspiration.

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

It was actually quite emotional. As dancers performing onstage, we are accustomed to receiving immediate feedback from an audience after a live performance, but this project was different. We were also in new roles as producers, so with the exception of the one work we were both dancing in, we felt further removed. Feedback via text and email doesn’t carry the same weight as watching and listening to people react to the work. It was really wonderful to find out how the films resonated with people, how they saw different things. The feedback video provided us with a connection that we were longing for.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Fortunately, we found eager colleagues to choreograph, dance and film five new works. Although there was no thematic direction given, we knew that all the resulting creations would inevitable reflect how people were coping in the once-in-a-generation environment that everyone was facing.

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

Noelani: As a teenager and into my 20’s, I was obsessed with “Tommy Boy”. I also have watched “Dogma” over and over again.

James: “A New Hope” or “Empire Strikes Back”

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

The FilmFreeway submission platform was great. It was so helpful to have a centralized location to submit our films, especially for newcomers to the industry.

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

Noelani: Definitely a Beatles song. I have listened to them my whole life.

James: Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”. I listened to that all the time on cassette during my childhood. Also “Scar Tissue” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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

By taking live performance away, we had to think very differently about how to bring artists together, and how to continue to engage our audiences in a brand new way.

Capturing SDC’s work on film has added an exciting element to our offerings and has greatly expanded our audience. Filmmaking will now be an integral part of what we do moving forward.

We have a new dance film premiering in April, and as things begin to open up, we are looking ahead at how we might be able to present live performances this summer.

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