Student’s vision comes to life with Dance Alabama! Film Festival

By Kaylee Kemp | 01/29/2017 6:47pm
The Crimson White

Student Natalie Brown has two passions: performance on stage and screen. Now both are coming to life in Tuscaloosa through the upcoming Dance Alabama Film Festival.

A junior majoring in telecommunications and film, Brown, with the help of faculty and other students, is introducing The University of Alabama’s first combination of the two arts.

Brown, also an ex-dance major, pushed for the festival when the University’s Dance Collection, similar to Dance Alabama, was no longer pursued.

“When the idea of a dance film festival came into the conversation, I really took the lead,” Brown said. “When I have an idea it does not get left in the dust.”

Brown saw her change in major as the perfect time to start a project such as this one.

“I honestly didn’t want to be in front of a camera,” Brown said. “I’ve always really liked photography but I still identify as a dancer before anything else. I would rather just showcase dance.”

With that in mind, Brown and a crew of about 60 to 70 students immersed themselves in all things dance and film.

“It’s the ideas of students,” Brown said. “It was faculty-advised but the fire is from the students.”

Brown emphasized all the work that faculty has contributed. Brown said Rebecca Salzer, assistant professor of theatre and dance, is a huge part of the inspiration behind the festival.

“This festival came out of student enthusiasm for the prospect of creating dance films and for doing so collaboratively,” Salzer said. “When Natalie Brown first approached me with the idea for the festival, I was skeptical that enough students would be willing to commit themselves to working on projects this demanding in the time allotted. But, as is so often the case with students at UA, I have been blown away by the creativity, dedication, and collaborative abilities of the students involved.”

Brown said she looks forward to sharing her passion with the rest of the University of Alabama. Brown added that dance is an underrated topic.

“I think that dance film is a very foreign subject to the University of Alabama, and I think it’s a very foreign subject to the film program,” Brown said. “Even music videos are a foreign subject to the film program.”

The festival also serves as a learning experience for students.

“Film festival was such an enlightening and inspiring process,” said Alexia Acebo, a junior double majoring in dance and psychology. “In my film I acted as a choreographer, dancer and director – a huge feat to overcome but so fulfilling in the end. It’s amazing to see hours of work and preparation become a tangible thing that people can see for years to come.”

The festival provides an opportunity for an array of artistic students to gain experience.

“The dancers need experience dancing in front of a camera, I need experience filming dancers and I know other people need experience filming dancers and I know the music people need experience composing the film,” Brown said.

Students get a chance to express their creativity participating in a project like this. With a lot of freshmen and sophomores participating in the festival, Brown hopes the festival will continue even after she graduates.

“We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores participating, which I think is awesome that the first time they come to college they get to do something like this,” Brown said. “This is kind of defining a big part of their college experience, which I think is awesome and a really good way to establish a creative space.”

Brown discussed the process that the filmmakers and dancers go through to edit a combo. Initially, the filmmakers started with a treatment that laid out the entirety of their project. Then a rough cut was due in November followed by a final due in mid-December.

“The shoot was pretty intensive,” Brown said. “We gave them a month to do it. We pretty much got going right away and it took the entire semester. “

There are about 10 films and each is different from the last.

“There’s a different director and choreographer for each film. None of them have anything to do with each other,” Brown said. “They are all fully student ideas. There’s some that are narrative and there’s some that are very experimental.”

The filmmakers and editors weren’t confined to a stage. Each film takes place somewhere different with a different story line.

“Some people filmed in a field,” Brown said. “Someone filmed in a record store. Someone filmed on a playground. We filmed in a living room and on the front steps of someone’s house. We filmed in front of a bar too.”

Dance film faces its own obstacles as well. Brown added that she even had a student lose all of their footage.

“A huge obstacle was getting the rights to music to use, so then we said why don’t we get the music students to make their own so we can bring them into this,” Brown said. “Then they get their experience too.”

Though she said she’s eager to be finally finished with the project, Brown is excited to share the Dance Film Festival with The University of Alabama. The festival takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at the Ferguson Student Center Theater.

“It would not have happened if so many students hadn’t been interested in doing it, and we’ve actually got a lot of really cool films to show on Wednesday,” Brown said.