Behind the Scenes at Alley Oop Films

Dana Genshaft and Brian Gibbs working with dancers Lizzy Powell and Lonnie Weeks

We shot Rebellion on Tuesday and Wednesday this week at Urban Art Farm in SF. Liz Miner got the group together – dancers Lizzy Powell and Lonnie Weeks; choreographers Liz Miner, Brian Gibbs and Dana Genshaft. I got to sit back and watch the three choreographers share ideas, watch each others’ stuff, tweak, adjust, make it work for Lizzy and Lonnie (who are Beeee-utiful!). We had a new backlit silk backdrop, and camera guys loved the silhouette shots we got.

Now, while Patrick the Fabulous edits that, we have both Nautilus (Jason Samuels Smith tapping) and Cantaloop (Nikki White and Sarah Wilson, cloned) coming out in the next week. It’s a flood of Alley Oop dance videos, so check them out on the website soon!  Cheers, Kate


Jason tapping on the "snare" box

Working on the Nautilus edit with editor, Patrick the Fabulous.  We shot Jason Samuels Smith dancing in Harlem Tap Studio in June.  He made four different “instruments” by tapping different rhythms on four different surfaces:  “Bass” was the big box made of hard wood; “Snare” was the box that we built on the sidewalk in front of the studio that day (thanks Laurent, 1st AC and Charles, sound recordist for your construction skills!) that had a pine veneer top; “Piano” was the flat piece of wood, and “Solo” was on the floor.  We also shot some cut aways of Jason dancing on a box covered with sand paper.  The size of the cavity inside the box, and the wood used changed the sounds of each of the instruments.  Jason chose the song (more on that in the behind the scenes interview we did with him, coming soon too), and and made up the different tap rhythms.  For shooting, he has an iPod in his pocket with ear buds in his ears because we have to get clean sound of the tapping with no music, of course.

Francisco, the DP did the lighting set-ups, and it was all pretty straightforward (as long as Jason didn’t collapse from heat exhaustion – NYC in June = sweat).  I handed the footage off to Patrick, who, for you film geeks, brings all his FCP, AE, PS, and other cool tricks to the editing process, and he’s making a sweet video.  Stay tuned.  Kate

Sarah Wilson and Nikki Trerise White in Cantaloop

What makes putting dance on screen exciting? I believe it’s those things that can only be seen on screen. I usually love watching documentary footage of live performances because I couldn’t be there in person, or because I can watch it over and over if I want to. But I always wish I had been there to see it live, getting drenched in the rich, multi-sensory experience of the art form, getting that sense of connection and closeness to the performers, and getting the kinetic charge of being among a live audience. Let’s face it. Watching a recording of a live performance can make it distant, two dimensional, and intellectual rather than experiential. It’s great for study, for catching what you missed, for seeing what’s going on, but I’m often left with that feeling that I missed the real party.

To me, dance on screen is a different kind of party, with a new friend invited – film. Wonderful, manipulate-able, two-dimensional, jump cutting, close-up-ing, chopping, blurring, swooping film. I think of a dance video as painting with moving images, creating a visual rhythm, and choreography with pictures. It can make choreographers and dance lovers stumble and sputter in distast. It’s not whole bodies moving in three-dimensional space, and so can sacrifice the very nature of what a dance is. But I embrace and relish the chance to manipulate, to layer, to cut and zoom, to go into space, or to inhabit an atom – in short, to create something that is not purely dance. It’s a film first, that puts dance out front.

Across the globe, there is much innovation in live dance performance, with video and other technologies, voice, props etc. expanding the tools of expression on stage. I see dance videos as a natural extension of that innovation, made by reversing the direction and taking dance into another medium. Dance on screen has been around as long as film has, but I believe the internet creates an opportunity to reach a new audience, (a big one) that will love to see more dance in short, entertaining pieces they can enjoy in their own time and share easily with friends on-line.

Michael Jackson did it. His videos are as much about dance as they are about music. I believe there is room for much, much more, and I’m excited to put more beautiful dancers on screen – chopped, zoomed, blurred or whatever else makes a dance video into its own, unique work of art.

See also Alley Oop Films’ brand new website, located here:

Welcome to Alley Oop Films new dance video, Where Do You Live?  Robin Cantrell and Mira Cook dance on the New York City skyline to an original song by Mira Cook.   It was almost all shot on green screen – behind the scenes video coming soon.  What we did shoot outside, we did in March, so we were VERY LUCKY it wasn’t snowing!

Watch for two more dance videos coming soon:  Cantaloop (Freeze Fantasia) featuring Nikki White and Sarah Wilson, and another hot video of Jason Samuels Smith hoofing to Nautilus.

The film is done! Took a while to finish and secure rights, but we did it! Sorry for the lack of blog posts while we were finishing up…

Please pass the video on to anyone you think might appreciate it and don’t forget to rate it and comment on it on YouTube.

If you’d like a bit of behind-the-scenes on this project, please check out the rest of this blog!


So we’re almost done with the rough cut of the video (should be about one more week), and I thought I’d celebrate by putting up a video we shot of Jason after we wrapped shooting back in December. He had a buddy who performs on Market St. and Jason decided to head over there and do some tap dancing. I’m going to embed the video here but you should head over to the actual video on YouTube!

Please enjoy the video, send it along to any friends who might be interested, comment on the video at YouTube, and subscribe to this blog!



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  • Chris Campos: Hey Tim.... Well done on this. It was very entertaining. Keep me updated on all you are doing! -Chris Campos