Tag Archive for 'dance film'

World Ballet Day

I was the lucky director and producer of the National Ballet of Canada’s segment of World Ballet Day.

Jacqueries: The Technician

Who By Fire

Who By Fire premiered February 4th 2013 as part of the 2013 Dance On Camera Film Festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Full info is here.

Behind-the-scenes / Concept Videos

Study #1
Study #2
Study #3
Study #4
Study #WellThatMostlyWorkedLetsGoForIt

Production Credits

Director & Choregrapher: Jacob Niedzwiecki
Director of Photography: James Sainthill
Music: ‘Who By Fire’, performed by Buck 65 ft. Jenn Grant, written by Leonard Cohen, used with the kind permission of Warner Music and Sony/ATV.


Gerald Situ, Adrian Anh Nguyen, Mateo Galindo Torres, Bradley Powell, Marissa Parzei, Tyler Gledhill, Sarah Koekkoek, Luke Garwood, Michael Caldwell, Shannon Litzenberger, Jones Henry, Louis Laberge-Côté, Martine Lusignan, John Ottmann, Johanna Bergfelt.


Simon Jackson, Jenna Savella, Ji Hong Sayo.


Production Manager: Pamela Steele
Production Designer: Yannik Larivée
Camera Operators: Rafael Giuliano, Ian McConachie, Simon Jackson Still Photographers: Dean Buscher, Holly Thomas
Hair: Alex Creighton
Makeup: Molly Adey
Production Assistants: Michael Brathwaite, Thaba Niedzwiecki, Margie Niedzwiecki


Witz Education
Canada’s National Ballet School
The National Ballet of Canada
John McLaughlin and Kate Arthur.

Beta testers

Ryan Booth, Krista Dowson, Robert Stephen, James Leja, Sonia Rodriguez, Dylan Tedaldi, Aarik Wells.

Special Thanks

Mentors, advisors, and all-round generous people: Rich Terfry, Phil Strong & John Oswald, Danny Hui, Craig McKay, Brad Copeland, Nick Blasko, Shan Du, Melissa Luu, Khoa Nguyen, Emma Niedzwiecki, Linnea Swan, Aeschylus Poulos, Jeff Morris, and Marc Kirschner.

Who By Fire was made with the generous assistance of MuchFACT.

Eye For Film Reviews Helioscape

The UK website Eye For Film offers a review of Helioscape’s premiere at DANCE:FILM 09 in Edinburgh.

This is a beautifully composed work. Beautifully danced. Beautifully photographed. But what I particularly liked was there was neither an absence of cinematic technical innovation nor an excess of it.

Thanks to Chris for the thoughtful review.

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 dancemedia.com. 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.

Help Us Do Something Crazy

More information about the contest.

48 Hours — Let’s Do A Thing

Entered the DFA’s Choreograph/Shoot/Edit in 48 Hours contest. Video is online.(0)

Helioscape (2008)

Helioscape on iTunes!

Helioscape is set for release on iTunes as part of TenduTV’s first ‘Essential Dance Films’ compilation. Below is a trailer for the film.

Watch in HD.

Superposition (2007)

Superposition (IMDB) is an adventurous exploration of the territory that lies between live and recorded performance. The film records three complete performances of a dance solo, each through a coloured filter—red, green, and blue—and then superimposes them to reveal the subtle variations and surprising correspondences inherent to live performance. Visually striking and conceptually daring, Superposition exposes the paradox of precision in live performance.

The film features the National Ballet of Canada’s Marissa Parzei and an original score by Dustin Peters. It was shot in front of a live audience in May 2006 and premiered in competition at the 2007 Worldwide Short Film Festival. It is currently distributed non-exclusively by Movieola through Ouat Media.


Okay, that’s the copy. Here’s the skinny: the film was a complete miracle. From concept to wrap was maybe five weeks. Dustin Peters composed an incredible six-hand piano score; I set the piece on Marissa in about a week; we organized a live shoot and all the pieces fell into place.

Then editing. We used six completely different cameras and three recording media (SVHS, miniDV, miniDVD). I learned how to colour-grade and conform footage by the same method monkeys use to teach their children to swim: throw them in the deepest part of the river and cross your fingers. I was dancing with the National Ballet at the time, and I started editing just as we went into a long rehearsal process for Sleeping Beauty. I‘d come home from the show around midnight, work until 3am, then be at class the next day at 11. I was actually grateful; facing Beauty without something else to work on might have done me in.