Chance Procedures (1/4)  

Part 1/4 of project writeup, on short dance film “Suspect Number 4”

It was pitched to me as a 3 minute dance film based on Cluedo using ‘chance procedures’. The last part worried me slightly, as it suggested a lack of intel before we even started shooting and visions of disorganisation started to occur in my mind. These were quickly dispelled after a quick reality check set in with the realisation that this is pretty much the way I usually work! Annie and Adam from C-12 Dance Theatre had won a commission from East London Dance to create a short dance film based around Annie’s concept. The project is based on ‘chance procedures’, in recognition of choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was renowned for this and his risk taking choreographic processes. This infiltrated its way through everything, choosing the performers themselves, what characters they would play, the choreography, the weapons, the rooms, and ultimately the shooting and narrative as well. It’s a crazy way of working, but I love a good creative challenge! 7 talented performers were chosen from those that applied from a hat, and spent a day with Annie choreographing their individual dances after playing the game Cluedo to decide characters, weapons and who did what to who and where they did it (steady now). Their individual dances would revolve around the aftermath of a murder at a dinner party, reflecting their individual feelings, guilt or connection to their murder weapon in their room, which would later be adapted to their surroundings on the shoot.

This rehearsal was the day before the shoot and I was unable to attend, so in order to prepare we looked at various visual references to help establish a style for the piece. Inspired by Hitchcock thrillers, murder mystery and ideas of voyeurism and surveillance, I wanted to shoot in a reportage way which is what I am accustomed to, a bit documentary. The obvious Hitchcock reference looked at is with the film “Rear Window” which is all told from Jimmy Stewart’s character’s viewpoint from his sedentary position from a top floor apartment window (he has broken his leg). He watches the world outside his apartment unfurl through the eye of his photography lens. The framing of the shots intrigued me, such as this one *points left* where the subject is seen in the distance across the way through their window, through the branches of the trees and through Jimmy Stewart’s window (and probably through his own camera lens), giving a depth ridden and multi layered shot.

Shooting into mirrors, reflective surfaces, through windows and objects and from differing viewpoints high and low would give it an alternative view, playing into this idea of voyeurism and surveillance. Looking at an exhibition from the Tate Modern last year called “Exposed — Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera” it argued that the difference between Voyeurism and Surveillance is the distance between the subjects. Voyeurism is more personal, an invasion of personal space in a more subjective light, moving around to capture what the viewer wants to see. Surveillance is from a fixed position somewhere usually up high, it’s more objective capturing events as they happen without imposing any unique standpoint on it. I hoped to bring these two positions to my shooting, switching between the objective which provides a more clinical documentary overview of events, with the more subjective voyeuristic view almost editorialising events however sinister they became. Ready for shooting off the cuff and adapting to whichever of our great locations we had in store, I prepped my equipment including my trusty Nikon D7000 and prepared for anything to happen!

If you haven’t seen Rear Window, shame on you! Here is the trailer

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