Interview with Filmmaker Charissa Kroeger, Eric Schloesser (SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING)

SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING was the winner of BEST SHORT FILM at the May 2021 DANCE Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Eric Schloesser: I think the time was ripe for us both personally (and in the world) to make some art.

Charissa Kroeger: Last year we all were in desperate need of joy and escapism.

E: Charissa reached out to me with the song and a still from Pulp Fiction and said she envisioned us creating a duo with that vibe. I sat on it for a few days, but couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was a casual idea that turned into an avalanche.

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

8 weeks. 2 weeks pre, 1 day prod, 6 weeks post. We only had one true rehearsal for this piece…. Which is CRAZY but when it’s right, it’s right.

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

E: Electric
C: Sizzlefest

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

E: For me, it was other peoples’ opinions. I learned the valuable lesson of being extremely particular with who’s eyes you let into the process before it’s finished.

C: Money. Two unemployed dancers self funding a passion project during a pandemic… yikes. The trust muscle was strengthened immensely.

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

Our hearts burst 20 times and we’ve never smiled so big. We were overjoyed to hear the positive feedback. We made this film with no expectations and not knowing who would see it, and it’s incredibly gratifying to hear how people are responding. To bring a moment in time of levity to peoples’ lives was all we really hoped to do.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

E: I think this project (Smokestack) was what began my filmmaking journey. Someone once told me that film and dance are some of the few mediums that can capture time, and when it is done beautifully, there is endless potential to impact viewers.

C: About 3 years ago I transitioned from a performance career that mostly existed on stages and in unconventional spaces to a performance/choreography path in Film+TV. There was a particular movie job where I was on the choreography team that developed a scripted dramedy into a musical finale. As dancers, our experience in film/tv is pretty insular — we RARELY get to glimpse the script or have any context for the work we are doing. We go in, film our thing, and then hope it doesn’t get left on the cutting room floor. However in this experience we had five juicy months to workshop in a room with writers, actors, producers, and an incredible DP——we all know that a STELLAR DP for shooting dance is a must. I was able to have a voice in the creative process in a way that I never had, and study the craft of individuals from each department. It was then that I caught the bug to be a filmmaker… although fear would prevent me from making any real moves — until now!

7. Do you have a favorite dancer?

E: I feel crazy for just discovering Cyd Charisse (thanks Charissa), and I won’t ever compare her to anyone else.

C: Cyd is the ONE. Also Jermaine Spivey—you can catch his incredible work with the contemporary dance company, KIDD PIVOT, or jamming out with Robyn at the Governor’s Ball Music Festival.

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

E: Mission Impossible or The Parent Trap with Lohan.

C: Devil Wears Prada or Austin Powers… I wish we had more profound answers to this question but the films I come back to time and time again are the feel good flicks.

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

We are truly amazed and so grateful for FilmFreeway. It has made this submission process incredibly easy and uniform as first time filmmakers.

10. What is your favorite meal?

E: Sourdough toast and eggs.

C: Sushi

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

Possibly…

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