In the opening scenes of my dance film, Lost Dreamer, the protagonist is seen running through the woods. She is both distraught and determined. When I was writing the script and creating the film, I always imagined her running away from something. When the film was shown at the March 15, 2023 meeting of See Chicago Dance’s Screendance Club, an attendee noted that she thought the protagonist was running toward something. At first I thought that this might have been a failure on my part, that I hadn’t been clear enough in my intention; but upon further reflection, I began to see how the responder came to this conclusion. This insight offered me a way to see the film from a different angle, and I enjoyed reinterpreting something that I viewed from a relatively singular viewpoint for many months. This illustrated one of the things I treasure most about art—everyone sees a different piece, and that by discussing these differences, we can understand each other and ourselves in a deeper way.
The dualism of someone running away or running toward something is an apt metaphor for both this film and the process of creating it. Although I have extensive experience in creating live dance performances, I had virtually no experience with film before this project. The more I delved into this new world, the more I learned about the possibilities that film can offer, but I also experienced how this vastness could bring me to a standstill, not knowing which direction to take. I tend to favor abstraction, yet I wanted to work with a more pronounced narrative arc for this project.
Writing a detailed script was very helpful to streamline the story for the short film, and it was essential for organizing a shot list and filming schedule. While the seeming rigidity of this process initially challenged my more improvisational proclivities, I grew to appreciate its inherent organizational aspects. Once I was ready to start filming, I had my two days of shooting outlined—one outdoors in the woods, one indoors in front of a green screen—and both days went as planned.
Then came the editing. The outdoor footage fulfilled my expectations, and the editing was fairly straightforward and relatively easy to do within the limits of my editing skills. The green screen footage, however, proved to be much more challenging to work with, and it soon became clear that I would need a lot more time to deepen my editing knowledge and to experiment with the footage to create the film according to my original intentions and script. A two-part project sprung out of this realization. By using only the outdoor footage, the first part of Lost Dreamer was created, featuring a revamped narrative arc.
Interestingly, I was still able to incorporate most of the thematic elements present in the original script—the depiction of unease and fear, a gradual acceptance and transformation, the importance of dreams and memory, and drawing attention to the natural world as a place both magical and tangible. Another attendee of the Screendance Club viewing noted that she was impressed by the amount of editing/throwing away of footage I was willing to do, and that it proved the point of “less is more”. This was heartening to hear given that I had to be quite ruthless in the editing process in order to create both the narrative coherence and pacing I hoped to produce within the structure of a short film.
Many attendees also made reference to the effective music and sound score of Lost Dreamer. Working with composer Lia Kohl was one of the most inspiring aspects of this project. Lia was able to incorporate and enhance the sounds of the woods and of the protagonist, giving the film a humanistic, realistic quality. Overlaying that with layers of musical instrumentation, she created a score that complemented the emotional arc of the story and heightened its magical quality, creating an almost fairy-tale-like environment.
In the end, the distinction between running away and running toward is not all thatimportant, rather the willingness to (re)find one’s place in the world and to create a pathforward is what keeps us inspired.