From Vision to Reality: The Making of ‘This is not a film about tango’
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From Vision to Reality: The Making of ‘This is not a film about tango’

Blog on This is not a film about tango on Catching Fireworks website

I am always talking about the importance of having and articulating a vision.  This blog is an illustration of what can happen when you have a simple idea and tell people about it.

It started when I was at Creatives Hub on 28 May (2014).  This is a great initiative to support people with their creative ideas, whether as part of their business, a sideline or something to keep their souls alive (or all three).  As part of a mini hub with 5 other people, I put forward an idea for a project which had been sitting at the very back of my mind for a while; to create a film to demonstrate what I felt was the essence of coaching by using my own creative practice, dancing the Argentine Tango.  As I explained the concept, the reaction was so encouraging and enthusiastic that I realised that I was now going to have to do something about it.  (And the great thing about the mini hub is that you keep them updated with developments and they support you and hold you to account.)  

The coaching and the tango were no problem as I knew about both of those.  There was only one tiny potential problem with the whole idea.  

I had never made a film before.  

I mean, I hadn’t even shot a piece of shakey video on my iPhone on a night out, let alone looked at a film script, directed anyone or even appeared in front of a camera.  Oh well, I thought, there will be plenty of obstacles before we get to that stage, so we will worry about that later.

I started scribbling down ideas in my notebook, about the words, the images to go with the words, what tango is, what coaching is.  Out of the brainstorming came some good stuff which I typed into a document to carry around, read, think about and start adding ideas of images to.

I had to think about how to approach Richard, the person with whom I wanted to dance, as he usually didn’t like appearing in film.  I had to ask in such a way that he had the opportunity to say "no", graciously.  At a tango event, I started telling him about the project.  He asked who the dancers would be; I said one of them would be me.  He asked who I would be dancing with.  I took a deep breath but before I could offer him an invitation to be involved, he said that he would be honoured to dance with me.  I was delighted and gobsmacked in equal measure.  We pencilled several dates in the diary for potential filming.

I took this list of dates to Liz, who runs the fabulous Tango Club, my spiritual home.  I told her about the idea, who else was involved so far and asked if I could possibly film at the club, a gorgeous loft space near London Bridge.  She graciously said yes.

I had a dance partner, a venue and a script which I had created using a template I had found on the internet.  As this was as close as I had ever got to making a film, I desperately needed expert help.  Who did I know?  Through the KindredHQ network, a co-working group where freelancers meet up in spaces around London to work together, talk and share ideas, I had met Andy Fairweather who makes corporate videos through Vidshorts.  I saw we were both going to be at a meeting the following week.  I emailed him - please could I pick his brains when we met up?  He said yes.

We met and I tentatively showed him my script, the first person to have seen it.  I wanted to know if a cameraman would understand the script as it was.  Andy looked it over, gave me some great feedback and suggested that, although it was clear, it would be helpful to have a storyboard, so my idea of each shot and the cameraman’s, would be in sync.  He asked who my cameraman was.  I said I didn’t have one.  He said he would love to be involved.  Yes!!  It all fell into place and suddenly I was a film producer.  Gulp!

I went away and created the storyboard.  And the production schedule.  And the shooting script.  Oh my, the things you can learn with a few hours careful Googling and dragging out memories from a lifetime of watching films!

A few weeks later, Andy, Richard and I met at The Tango Club where I became a film director.  It may have been my first time, but I felt like Scorsese!  We had a fabulously productive day combining tango, coaching ideas and Andy’s technical expertise.  We watched the ‘rushes’ as we went and logged the shots to make editing easier.  Richard and I improvised every step of our dancing and Andy brilliantly demonstrated how to film dance when there is no choreography.  We had three creative perfectionists in a room and I have rarely enjoyed myself more!  And, in my one non-negotiable of the day, we filmed the dance segment in one take with us in shown in full shot, just as Fred Astaire said it should be done.  And at the end of the day, I said, "It's a wrap!"  (Well, I felt I had to.)

A couple of weeks later, I went to Andy's studio where he had created a rough cut from our shooting notes.  We spent the day creating “the director’s cut” (how great is that?!), and to record the VO (voice over) - another first for me.  Steven Spielberg can sleep soundly in his bed (as can Meryl Streep!), but we have ended up with a debut film, This is Not a Film about Tango, which I love.  All the elements came together and the film was ‘released’ on 30 September, 4 months after I gave voice to the initial idea.  

So be careful what you wish for - it may just take on a life of its' own!

My incredibly grateful thanks to everyone who has worked on and supported me in the making of This is not a film about tango:

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