Episode 8: The New Freedomland Dancers

(For a better viewing experience click on the HQ button once the video starts.  Looks a lot better in full-screen…)

[Lots of thank you’s this week.  HUGE thanks to Justin Walvoord for saying, “What the hell are you getting me into?” then doing it anyway, and committing like crazy.  I love that.  Also giant thanks to wunderkind photographer C. Bay Milin for helming the camera this week, and getting some gorgeous shots.  Check out his site!  Big thanks to Rachel Duvall for telling me about the NY Dance Parade and suggesting it as a location, and to all of the folks there who were nice enough to dance with us.  Whew.]

First off, apologies for not having a written entry in the last week.  I was a bit overwhelmed.  That’s no excuse, though, because realistically, I’ve been pretty overwhelmed since I began this project, and should probably plan to be overwhelmed for the next forty-two weeks.

Second, I hope this episode didn’t offend you, as that certainly wasn’t my intention.  Truly.

All that being said, this was by far the most fun I’ve had during shooting.  The whole thing was a blast.  From showing up to the parade not knowing who we were going to be dancing with, to the moment where we took a deep breath and decided we were going to have to remain in character for the duration of the parade, to provocatively dancing in short-shorts at the NYPD, to running into my old friend Pinkman… it was just a great day.  The true highlights, though, were just when someone would be open and dance with me.  The character, Lon, is certainly an outsider where he comes from, and I definitely felt like an outsider when I showed up at this parade.  Those moments of acceptance and exchange with strangers really were beautiful to me.

The idea for this episode really came from my friend Rachel Duvall, who was entering the parade with her bevy of NIA dancers and told me about the parade.  What a great backdrop for an episode.  Basic ideas came quickly.  I knew I wanted to work physically, primarily, for this one.  The first images I got where how I wanted him to move.  Then I got how he dressed.  Then how he spoke.  Then I started coming up with his back-story:

Lon Zelig

His mom was German and his dad was Swiss, but from the age of 5 he was raised in Palo Alto, California.  His parents both taught sciences at Stanford.  It was his dream to go to Stanford.  He didn’t get in…


It bears mentioning just how awesome Justin Walvoord was.  I called him up about this less than a week before the shoot, and he just rolled with it.  He and I were classmates at the Denver Center/NTC, and I knew I could count on him to bring a lot to the table, which he did.  One of the toughest things about this whole experience was having to cut out so much of his great stuff.  I don’t mind butchering my own stuff, but I still have pangs of guilt when I do it to someone else.

That’s another thing: we had more footage for this one than for any other episode, and there was SO much fun stuff.  Justin and I did a to-camera interview that had some really nice moments in it, and I ended up killing every bit of it.  That was especially tough because you got to see a lot more of our relationship, which is where the gold is, but I was already swimming in footage, and I’ve done several episodes with to-camera interviews already; I wanted this one to be all about the action.  I mined what I could of the dancing to try to show our relationship through the action, but I’m currently too tired to be able to determine if I pulled it off or not.

The gods of guerrilla video-making were kind to us this week.  We weren’t stopped, or even questioned (perhaps the only advantage of having a cheapo video camera), and we got GIFTS!  Being interviewed by Pan Desi (which is actually a gigantic network) was one of those happy accidents that could never be planned for.  That interview was so much fun, actually, that I considered just using the uncut version of it as this week’s episode and calling it a day, but I had too much other fun stuff (I may try to release that as a bonus thing later on).  And PINKMAN, of all people, who I knew from the Bay Area, just randomly being there, and Bay capturing that moment just perfectly… that’s the kind of stuff you live for when you’re doing a project like this.

Annnnd I’m spent.  I’ll work on being more consistent in my blogginess.  In the meantime, I hope to hear what you think.  If you’re enjoying this project, please do tell people about it, and send ’em a link!


BR  5.20.09  4.19.am

~ by 50in50 on May 20, 2009.

18 Responses to “Episode 8: The New Freedomland Dancers”

  1. Brilliance in improvisation. I’m truly enjoying every episode…this one is definitely among your best! Great work, Brent.


  2. Awesome!! So fun! I am biased about this because I was actually there, so I know what an amazing day it was. Nice work with the character. So open, so sweet.

    And you danced with 5 Rhythms!?! Great people. I’ll have to take you to a class some night. http://www.gabrielleroth.com/

    I would love to see the other footage. Maybe in the bonus features when 50in50 comes out on DVD. ;-)

    p.s. thanks for the shout out.

    • Yes! The 5 Rhythms folks were AWESOME. They were really open to dancing with some rando guy in a blonde wig and short-shorts. I never told them I was doing a project or a character (which I feel a little guilty about), but they seemed incredibly nice, so I’m hoping they wouldn’t have minded.

  3. least self conscious feeling– maybe you felt it but not about the little camera following you and that’s who i see through. so that was a super treat.

  4. You, my friend, are a madman.

  5. Your best one yet! Bravo!! I can’t believe Pinkman was there. Beautiful.

  6. I really really hope that you get the recognition you deserve for this project. Its new, innovation, and GOOD…this episode was one of my favorites. Thank you Brent for making my weekday better.

  7. Brilliant! I think that leaving the to-camera interview out was a good decision if only because the dancing perhaps gave more insight into the character than any words could.

  8. OH MY GOD! I love it!

  9. There is not only one viewer in Germany…;) so great job. The cringe factor was quite high sometimes but it definitely cheered up my mood. Even if I don´t think that Lon is a common firstname for a guy with a German mom I felt a little bit more close to him ;). Thanks and I´m really looking forward to new episodes.

  10. Despite that fact that this character didn’t talk a lot to the camera, there was something oddly compelling about him, and I’d like to see some more footage of him, from the dance parade to maybe some more development…but bringing a character back might be breaking the rules of your project…
    Really nice job on this one.

  11. i can’t believe pinkman was there! what a hilarious coincidence. keep on dancing!

  12. I’m chomping at the bit for the to-camera (with Justin) and Pan Desi interviews!!

    This and the last episode are my absolute favorites. You, SirLon Steak Cake, are a one man wonder parade.

  13. How great is this, thanks really enjoyed!!

  14. I dated you?

  15. I watched this before I went to work this morning. I was having a hard time getting myself up and awake, but this put a smile on my face. I’m a big fan!

  16. legendary!

  17. I just rewatched this. Laughing out loud!!! Perhaps what is most remarkable to me is how utterly you fit in with everyone around you. However quirky you may seem, there are plenty of other folks dancing with you that ain’t acting. Ah, New York, how I do miss thee…kind of!!!

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