Interview with Filmmaker Janell Burgess (CHAMELEON)

CHAMELEON was the winner of BEST SOUND & MUSIC at the May 2021 DANCE Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

“Chameleon” was originally choreographed in the early 90’s and was a full ensemble ballet. In 2019 I had 2 beautiful company members (Torri & Estelle who you see in the film) and we had been accepted in Pushfest San Francisco which was scheduled to be performed live prior to the Covid outbreak. Once Covid hit in 2020, the festival still wanted to produce an event, but online. Pushfest was really our first motivation to start converting our company’s dance works to film. I really credit Raissa Simpson Artistic Dir of San Francisco’s Push Dance Company for providing us the platform to create and put what was choreography for intended for the stage on film!

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

The in-studio rehearsal process was approximately 6 months because it was a re-creation of a cast of 8 dancers to only 2. We lost our filming location multiple times prior to the shoot and even had to push back shoot dates further due to performer scheduling issues. The final shoot location was really serendipitous – the house we filmed in came about from a friend of Estelle (our female dancer). We only had a few hours to shoot, so we took it! Fortunately, Cisco our composer had already been working on the music based on prior rehearsal videos. After filming we were really in a time crunch to premiere the work….we had it done in 10 days after our shoot.

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

Beautiful & Scenic

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

Sadly, because of the delicacy of the floor in the home we shot in, Estelle was unable to dance en pointe. If we had the opportunity to do it again, we would attempt to find another location she could have her pointe shoes on.

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

It was really moving….I felt so fulfilled knowing that people saw so much beauty in the work. Estelle (female dancer) was so touched by the feedback, she cried!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I had always known it was important for the preservation of the company’s work. Putting work on film also gives the opportunity to reach a broader audience that may not have the opportunity to see our work in a theater.

7. Do you have a favorite dancer?

I value a dancer that moves from a deep organic place

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

I love the platform and how it keeps track of your submissions, acceptances, and wins.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I love healthy food that makes my body feel good 🙂


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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