First for the project…
It was January 1st 2011 in New York City when Anna Gerberich and myself did the first Ballerina Project of the year. Because it was winter in the city it was not a typical time for a project shoot. The majority of ballerinas shutter at the idea of shooting in the bone chilling weather. On the other hand Anna was enthusiastic to do a shoot for the project and prospect of freezing did not dissuade her.
For this shoot there would be several first. It would be the 1st of the year, it would be the first time Anna and myself worked together and it would also be the first time I would do a short film along side the still images.
Anna was introduced to me from her fellow company member Kate Behrendt that had shot with me on many occasions for the project. I trusted Kate’s word and she had always spoken very highly of Anna. Anna was a principle dancer in their company so Kate had always looked up to her. I had no worries that Anna would be great for the project.
As for shooting a short film that was where the majority of my concern was to be focused on. For some time I had believed that motion picture would eventually become the way for the project to branch out. It would pick up where the still images left off and help carry our viewers further. The preparation for the short film started about a month earlier with the creation of the music. I certainly couldn’t afford the usage rights to existing music so I contacted a musician friend Veronica Charnley to create a piece. (Veronica is a uber-talented vocalist and musician that I had met the year before. She is part of a band called Flotilla that recently moved to New York City from Canada. Click here to purchase music of Flotilla on Itunes) The advantage of creating music for this film was that I could work with Veronica on setting its mood and pace perfectly. On several occasions Veronica and myself met at Starbucks and discussed at length different ideas for the music. We talked about topics like making the music danceable and also the different themes and scenarios to base the music upon. One of the reoccurring themes was winter and the changing of seasons. Like most people going through a winter you cannot help but think of the warmth of spring. I guess it was pretty natural that we pondering this in December. After Veronica threw several songs at me we settle on one called “Winter Repose”.
One of the first things I did when I first met Anna for this shoot was to have her listen to the song that Veronica created. Not only would it inspire and set the stage for the short film but it would also be the inspiration for the still images. Luckily Anna loved the song and quickly started to imagine the mood and steps for the upcoming two days of shooting. We then jumped on a uptown 1 train to 157th Street to go to our first location at Fort Washington Park. On the way to the location we decided to use the subway stop at 157th Street for parts of the both the still and motion segments. I often feel that points along the way make for the best locations rather than just the destination.
The temperature was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit that day so it didn’t take too long before Anna was frozen. The one of the most difficult things to shoot in is in the cold. No matter how determined your subject is their body will quit working once it is too chilled. One of the memorable images of the day was taken while Anna sat frozen on a park bench at Fort Washington Park.
The next morning we had a early start around 6 am. It had rained for most of the night and had just started to let up around the time we started. The first location we went to that morning was the north end of Washington Square Park. Just as the fog started to left we began filming what would become the first scene of the short film. This location is where Fifth Avenue starts along its way up Manhattan.
Luckily for us it was much warmer than the day before and pretty warm for that time of year. It was around 55 degrees so it wasn’t nearly as cold as it appeared in the images. Right after we shot the movie footage we then ventured into the middle of the street to capture another memorable still image for the project. It was the perfect light and also the perfect moment that both Anna and I experienced. (See the lead image of the story.)
After we left Washington Square we walked over to the 6 Train at Astor Place. The subway station at Astor Place has a beautiful curve to the tracks and platform. This would be another beautiful location for us to do both motion and still images. Timed perfectly with the arrival of a 6 train this location would end up being the second scene in the short film. After shooting at the subway station for a bit we jumped onto a uptown train. When the trained emptied near the end of the 6 line we finished off the first shoot of the year for the Ballerina Project.
Being this was the first shoot that the project did both motion and still images it was a true learning experience. The one thing I did learn was that it would be difficult to do both on the same shoot. I personally feel it takes two different mind sets and time is needed to be dedicated to one or the other. I do plan on creating more short films for the project but I will need to figure out the best way to manage our scheduling and resources to do so.