Interview with Filmmakers Dustyn Martincich & Andrew Roddewig (THE THE NTH)

TO THE NTH played to rave reviews at the October 2021 EXPERIMENTAL Film Festival.

DM- Dustyn Martincich- co-choreographer; film coordinator
AR- Andrew Roddewig- film director; editor

1. What motivated you to make this film?

DM- Jess, Andrew, and I have collaborated on several projects in the past, mostly in Chicago, and mostly for live performers and audiences. COVID put added challenges on the live performing arts, and when thinking about how to create new work, having to mask, maintain social distance, and convert live performance to a filmed one, I reached out to Jess and Andrew for inspiration and collaboration. I floating the quote by Al Bartlett to them as a starting point. We were in three different locations, and I really wanted a sense of community through distance in addition to investing in an opportunity to do something new, learn something new, continue to challenge ourselves to evolve despite the many challenges.

AR- I don’t do purely creative pursuits often, because I tend to get consumed by the work and that can have a ripple effect on the rest of my life, so I do it sparingly. However, I was in a place where I had a lot of feelings about the world; pandemic, global warming, civil unrest and just didn’t have a good way to process that. Then Dustyn called and asked if I wanted to “Make some art” and she laid out some basic parameters on theme and logistica and I thought this could be a great place to explore my own feelings and work with some amazing people. What I love about working with Dustyn and Jess, and now Stephen, is that the process is the point. Yes we have a finished piece that we love, but we also take real joy in the journey; exploring with everyone the themes, the disciplines and learning about their craft along the way.

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

DM- Jess and I began our collective brainstorming in Summer 2020. Andrew came in on the process in Fall 2020, as did the dancers. Stephen entered the process in December 2020/January 2021 and really created a finished quality to the work by composing this incredible score based on the film footage, our source music inspiration, and our research and prompts exploring the exponential function.

AR- Oh jeez, like six months? It developed, there were stages of it. I made some proof of concepts for the effects, and how the black and white would look. Jess and Dustyn did rehearsals and I watched those, then we revised. The piece really evolved over multiple stages. ( if you want I can pull up some of the early visual tests) But really it didn’t feel finished until Stephen joined us. I actually can’t watch the piece very often because his score floods me with emotion. It’s haunting and beautiful at the same time. It’s just so rich and powerful it can overwhelm, in a wonderful way.

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

DM- Exponential exploration

AR- Exponential Existentialism.

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

DM- For me, trust. In live performance I’m in the room where it happens, I can edit and adjust and fix every little step of the way until the performance. In film, you have to let go more. Allow the camera and the editor to be collaborators as well. With Jess and I, creating phrasework wasn’t a problem in separate spaces, but composition was tricky, I would imagine especially for Jess.

AR-Language. I am not a choreographer ( Jess and Dustyn tease me that I am but I’m not) so there was a learning curve in the language that is used to describe dance. I’ve done some documenting dance before so I have a feel for it but this was the first time I was influencing the choreography through edits. With a live performance you do your best to capture, and look away from mistakes. But in this piece I was taking all of these separate performances and making decisions about when, where and what. I am so grateful to Jess and Dustyn for trusting me with their work. We discussed it alot and I think the final piece is actually version eight or nine, but they really gave me a lot of freedom to explore. I had to learn their vocabulary first, and really understand what their work was and how they built phrases and movements and where they were coming from.

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

DM- Gratitude! I was really thrilled that folks enjoyed it and that the film effects and editing and sonic elements really made this a work of collaborative screendance.

AR- The feedback was so wonderful, being a cynic I want to know where the bad feedback is, but it was really special to hear from people who appreciate this work. Thank you for that, it was so special and I think other festivals should look towards this as an example of how to encourage community over distance.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

DM- ooh. I don’t even know if I ever said that. But I LOVE collaboration and live for opportunities to connect with other amazing artists and audiences sharing my medium (movement) and seeing how it translates.

AR- I can’t recall a time where I didn’t want to make films, or TV and Commercials. I’ve just always loved capturing scenes, moments and performances. I like the medium a lot. I make commercials professionally and have also done sketches, short films and series. My family often teases me because as a child I used to explain my favorite commercials at dinner. My dad still remembers me spending ten minutes explaining this Lexus Marble commercial. The ad is only 30 seconds but I explained to him in detail every shot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AktHnnA9QIM

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

DM- feature films and animated shorts. I’m really caught by great writing, scoring, and shots that offer the audience an opportunity to use their interpretation and imagination to translate meaning.

AR- It’s a tie between Big Lebowski or Mad Max: Road Warrior. Let’s say Mad Max: Road Warrior if we had to choose. It’s brilliant and still holds up. Normally I don’t like action movies but that movie is on a different level, and Fury Road was also amazing. So I guess that is three, but Road Warrior has the most views for sure.

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

DM- all new for me! I love the ease in getting a chance to see the kinds of festivals that are out there and the kind of work that is being lifted up and shared.

AR- FilmFreeway is nice, I think it’s much better than submitting directly one at a time.

9. What is your favorite meal?

DM- any sit-down meal shared with family and friends that isn’t rushed.

AR- Pizza, Chicago tavern style cut into a New York style slice.

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

DM- I’d love to work more with film. I’m not sure how to connect with others yet. I’m returning to live performance in staging dance and theatre as it becomes safe. Jess and I are looking forward to reimagining to the nth into a live venue in DC this coming March.

AR- My day job is making car commercials, I am aware of the irony. For pleasure, I am starting an audio project. I am working with another long-time collaborator. We are in very early stages but the basic premise is; Studs Terkel’s “Working” meets Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a bit of a comedic piece with heart, and also dragons.

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