Love in Vain: The Exclusive Making-Of Post

So my entry for the Dance Films Association’s 48 Hour Challenge got in on time and on budget. I owe a huge thank-you to everybody who contributed to said budget; I will be contacting everyone who made a donation to check if I can include their name in this post.

The film was made possible by the incredible team of people who jumped onboard this particular crazy train. Robert Stephen and Cristina Tucciarone were fantastic in the studio and in performance; I have to thank Robert—who has just been deservedly promoted to second soloist at the National Ballet of Canada—especially for putting attractive flesh on the bones of a very quickly-set piece of choreography. Elena Lobsanova (also now a second soloist) acted as rehearsal director and did wonders clarifying character in the choreography as the paint dried. Jeff Morris acted as my technical Yoda, and managed to remind me of various applicable laws of physics in time for me to figure out how to bend rather than break them. Pam Steele combined Stalin’s logistical talents with the grace and kindness of…well, not Josef Stalin. The miraculous John Webster got me thinking about the blues and shared much of his incredible collection of music. None of my work would be possible without Ryan Fontaine.

Two days is forty-eight hours. That’s a six-day work week, if you don’t sleep. And I didn’t, much. Friday night from midnight to three I bought and read newspapers, blogs, and tabloids; I came across the Sheela Ward Friendship Club, a syndicated classified column, in the Sun and the Globe and it hooked me immediately.

NY. 112-089. Correctional Institute Inmate. Tall, handsome Black gentleman. Romantic, compassionate, understanding, soon released. In search of a special lady for LTR. Age 40-60, race not important, a warm heart is.

TX. 112-088. Gentleman, financially secure looking for poor woman for wife. 50-55, very healthy, 5′ tall, under 140lbs, non-smoker.

IL. 112-094. Correctional institute inmate. I’m lonely, 28, handsome. Seeking a nice lady to write. Prefer if your over weight, unattractive, and older than I. Non greedy of course. Smile.

OH. 112-091. Correctional Institute Inmate. Smile. Promise, honesty, a lot of mail and smiles, a real friend, someone you can believe in. Implicitly on your time, allow me to earn your trust.

FL. 112-098. Correctional Institute Inmate. SWM 32. Good-hearted badboy. Been in twelve years. Shed a thousand tears. Love play, lots to say. Enjoy writing, studying, thinking, and laughing. Please respond.

The connection to the blues and specifically to Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” (the recording of which is in the public domain) happened almost automatically when I read the above ads. I slept for two hours and then literally shot from dawn to midnight (with some rehearsal time in the middle in a studio donated by the National Ballet of Canada). Saturday, I got a couple hours sleep and then hunkered down and edited.

The one disappointing part of the experience was the upload near midnight Saturday to I don’t know if their site was getting hammered with other entries, but it was sluggish and kept dropping the upstream connection. I’m sure there are promotional considerations involved, but I would suggest that the DFA use proven infrastructure like YouTube in future events.

I’m very happy with the finished film. Good music goes a long way, and this was: as Robert said, none of us got even remotely tired of it despite it playing on repeat for about twelve hours. Much of the tone emerged during editing as I watched Robert’s performance. I storyboarded the piece pretty carefully (if illegibly) and ended up sticking pretty closely to the plan in the editing.

Crucifixion Checklist

This is one of the many lists I scrawled before the shoot. You might think I was heading out to crucify someone; if you can’t read the chicken-scratch, it reads, “BRING: staple gun, hammer/driver, screws, dance stuff, advil, hacksaw, cell numbers, MUSIC.” I think that says it all.

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