DANCING MAN, 23min., USA
Directed by Robert Steven Mack, Clarisse Gamblin
David, a young and quixotic dancer, is confronted with the decision of whether to stay at a Midwestern ballet company with his new love interest Gabrielle or follow a promising choreographer to New York to chase his pipe dream of dancing in Golden Age musicals. Featuring vibrant cinematography, an elegant score by Yi-Chen Chiang, and toe-tapping choreography by Chris Lingner, Dancing Man showcases dancers from IU Ballet Theatre and Indianapolis Ballet in this colorful and bittersweet dramedy about conflicting passions.
Get to know filmmaker Robert Steven Mack:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
This film takes an audience inside the ballet world, pays homage to the classic Hollywood musicals we love, yet tells a very personal story about chasing greener pastures and the anxiety we face making life-altering decisions that are ultimately for the better. I have been making dance films since I was a freshman in college. And all my previous works have been leading up to this one.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
From pre-production to post-Production, it took me through 1 and a half years. That time coincided with the two years I spent in graduate school at Indiana University Bloomington.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
Melodious and wistful.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
It was challenging producing a film as a full time MPA student and to also be directing and acting in it. I had just finished undergrad and continued dancing full-time with the IU Jacobs Ballet Department and guest performed at several ballet companies in Indiana and California over my breaks. The second year of my MPA program, during which Dancing Man was in post-production, I was dancing full time with Indianapolis ballet. Moreover, my team was quite scattered around the country and my co-director Clarisse Gamblin was studying in England at the time. We had to work virtually during pre-production. The whole thing required a learning curve. You have to choose the right people to listen to and make tough choices when it doesn't work out. Also, you have to follow your conscience. A lot of people told me they knew better - the film had to be shorter, cut the dance sequences down, cut the comedy, etc. I listened to their advice, but at the end of the day you have to trust your gut instincts and lean on the original vision.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I'm so happy people had the reaction they did. They mentioned things I personally am proud of with this film - such as the comedic touches, the dancing and the beautiful color palette.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I don't remember ever not wanting to make films. I have wanted to make films ever since I was old enough to watch them.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Like any film buff, I have too many to name. A couple that served up inspiration for Dancing Man are An American in Paris and Midnight in Paris. John Ford's The Searchers is a great example of subtle and complex storytelling.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Well, I have had great experiences with Wildsound, starting with the in-person screening at the LA Feedback Film Festival just before the pandemic hit. I loved interacting with the audience, answering questions and being able to invite friends and family to a real movie theater to watch my first film, Shift, which won Best Film at that festival. During the pandemic, my first solo directed film Chisel won Best Performances at the Black and White Feedback Festival. Wildsound did a good job of adapting to the times and continuing to spotlight filmmakers during the pandemic.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
It's very easy to use. You just have to do your research and identify festivals that you think are quality and a good fit.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Rouladen with Spätzle. Or French cuisine, Italian, sushi...It's like choosing a great film to watch; it depends on my mood.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I am working with IU Jacobs on a promotional film for their new Nutcracker production. I'm also writing another film to be set in Bloomington. I can't say much about it now, but it will hopefully be realized in Spring. I am also working with Clarisse on expanding Dancing Man to a feature length film.