The Making of the F*ck Love Dance Film

We wanted our first project to incorporate dance, since we met while both on the Breakfree hip hop dance team in college. But, what exactly did we want to create? What vibe would it have? To start, we looked to one of our mutual dance idols, Keone and Mari, since they had just released a series of short dance films that combined choreography with creative cinematography.

[Keone]: What if a beautiful photo could dance? My recent studies in photography have inspired me to allow photography and choreography to work cohesively with one another, which sometimes can be the opposite in dance videos. Framing was absolutely key to the storytelling which, for once, sort of made the dancing a secondary priority. It may not be a video for everyone, but there were opportunities to closely mold movement to camera and we were very happy to try something new.

Through Breakfree, both of us already had experience with choreographing and performing for the stage. But, like Keone and Mari, we now wanted to learn more about what it was like to mold movement to camera.

The process

Song — we’re not diehard Iggy Azalea fans by any means, but we both happened to really liked the fierce, sassy tone of her song F*ck Love. We especially liked the choice because it would challenge us to bring out the more confident, sexy aspects of our personalities.

Routine and practice — over the course of a few months, we would meet about once a week, usually after 10p, at PMT Dance Studio in Union Square to brainstorm, storyboard, and choreograph. These late night rehearsals stemmed from studio space limitations, but eventually turned out to be best given that our creativity tended to flow most easily and deliriously then.

Practice…
…makes perfect.
Late nights in the dance studio, delirious and giddy.

The location

After a few months, we finally had a cohesive combo of choreography, and could move on to the next step: framing it in the context of the camera.

Initially, we planned on filming in front of various street murals around NYC, with a special highlight on the Bowery Houston Mural. We attempted this three or four times, realizing that hopping around from wildly distant walls around the entire city was rather ambitious for our first take.

Not to mention, Bowery Houston Mural was stuck on one mural called Baby Hulk. We were not fans of Baby Hulk. Baby Hulk disturbed us. Instead, we wanted a backdrop similar to the other murals that the wall had previously housed, with fun, interesting, geometric splashes of color.

Original Image: geyserofawesome.com

We eventually found a few murals that fit our vision, but they didn’t have enough space we needed for the right shots. Our dance was spatial, so these narrow crowded pedestrian sidewalks didn’t give us enough space to capture the choreography properly in the frame of the camera.

But, as fate would have it, on one of our yearly sunny beach outings, we stumbled upon the Coney Island Art Walls exhibit. This was it.

Original image: thelastsuppernewyork.com
Original Image: bedfordandbowery.com

Perfect! Great! Good! Fantastic! We had found our location. But, as fate would also ironically have it, we found out that Coney Art Walls was shutting down for the season on the exact weekend we planned to film.

Panic.

Luckily, we are snakepeople who live in the age of social media and after an unofficial multi-pronged campaign to Coney Island Art Walls that included Facebook messages, tweets, and Instagram comments, they finally divulged a secret. The walls would still be secretly open on Saturday for a school tour, and we could come in afterwards from 2–7p before it closed for good. Hallelujah! All this location scouting was taking up hours of our time.

The shoot

It was a chilly Saturday in October 2015 when we made our way down to the Coney Art Walls, which was completely empty. Thanks to our tip from their social media editor, we had the whole place to experiment with, sans the hassle of visitors and tourists crowding the space. Odds now in our favor.

It was a race against sunset to get all of the right shots, literally running from wall-to-wall to film multiple takes of each shot in our list. Major thanks to Alex for nearly numbing his hands holding the camera, we forgot he didn’t have the luxury of generating dance heat like us…

Rule #1: Check the weather
Rule #2: Always thank yer crew

The edit

Since the onset, the ultimate goal for this project was more than just dance and choreography, it was about creating an experience for film.

Raw footage is one thing, but editing is what really transformed our piece.

Takeaways:

  1. It is very important to storyboard before shooting. That sets the foundation for making sure you capture all the right shots during your limited time on set. Do multiple takes of the same shot so that you have a bit of legroom to go back and experiment with cuts and speeds in the post-process edit.
  2. Using professional tools like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut isn’t always necessary, especially if you’re new to the medium and experimenting for the first time. In our case, the tools alone wouldn’t have made our final video better, it was going through the exercise of conceptualizing shots, cuts, and choreography that was key. The software would have only given us the luxury of special effects, which we didn’t want to get into until our next project. We did this whole thing in iMovie for free!

The launch

For the sake of irony, we decided to upload our video on Valentine’s Day. We’re actually both sappy romantics, but still liked the idea of going against the public sentiment for this one. Thou shall not f*ck with that love sh*t.