A Year of Opportunity for the San Francisco Dance Film Festival

By Erin Malley

September 1, 2013, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

If you’ve ever wanted to saturate yourself in screendance – dance choreographed specifically for the camera—now is your moment. This year’s San Francisco Dance Film Festival (SFDFF) will offer what is probably the highest quality screendance currently playing the festival circuit in the world. A dance film festival of this scale is a first for the Bay Area, and not to be missed.

Pictured: The Flying Steps Photo courtesy of the artist
Pictured: The Flying Steps
Photo courtesy of the artist

Although it’s just the fourth year for the SFDFF, it’s a big one. In collaboration with the San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Film Society, SFDFF is partnering with the world-renowned European Media Arts Organization IMZ (the International Music + Media Centre). It’s also an auspicious year for IMZ; not only is it their 25th anniversary, it is also the first time they have partnered with a US organization for their world renowned Dance Screen festival and competition.

Opportunity abounds at the San Francisco Dance Film Festival. Local filmmakers participating in the festival will be able to meet, network with and pitch ideas and projects to European broadcasters and distributors. And for attendees, this year’s festival offers the opportunity to view 70 films—both long and short form—from around the world, particularly films from Europe and the UK.

The four-day event kicks off at the Roxie Theater on Thursday, September 12, and continues on at the Delancey Screening Room from Friday, September 13 – Sunday, September 15. And although film is most certainly the centerpiece of the festival, other offerings make it possible to live and breathe screendance for all four days.

Following the opening night screening, professionals from the fields of dance, music, filmmaking, technology/media, education and media arts will convene in a series of panel discussions. These conversations serve as a wonderful way to connect with professionals, and enter into discourse on current topics in the field of screendance.

Pictured: Sarah VanPattern Photo by: Austin Forbord
Pictured: Sarah VanPattern
Photo by: Austin Forbord

Panel topics will range from the evolution of dance on screen; the influence of science and technology on dance; dance film curriculum in the university setting; and the dynamics involved in creating and distributing the growing art of screendance – areas like music rights and distribution, that can be quite useful to everyone involved with dance for camera. These panel presentations will take place during the daytimes on Friday, September 13 and Saturday, September 14. Set your alarms early and bring a notepad because it’s possible to partake in four panels per day, beginning at 9:30am. Happily, the early morning scheduling of the panels will leave you with plenty of time in the evenings for screendance shorts – “the heart of the festival,” according to director Greta Schoenberg.

Schoenberg continues, “These diverse programs are popular with audiences and allow us to support more filmmakers by packing nearly 50 films into four days.” The program, comprised of shorts from numerous local and international directors, was preselected by representatives from SFDFF, San Francisco Ballet, SFFS, local panelists and invited guests prior to being sent to IMZ for final selection in their Dance Screen competition. “Each film was viewed a minimum of three times, and in some cases received many more viewings. The first priority of the festival is to screen good film with good dance content. I’m pleased that IMZ selected a lot of the local work submitted; it shows that there is a growing amount of high-quality work coming out of San Francisco.” Locally featured short films are: Reflections, created by Lenora Lee in collaboration with Olivia Ting; Sidewalk by Lindsay Gauthier; and films Aloft and Lion by Kate Duhamel.

The collaboration with IMZ’s Dance Screen also allows for 20 full-length filmed productions to be screened on public viewing stations at the Museum of Performance + Design (MP+D). Some highlights include Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake in 3D; 40M Under, choreographer Alexander Ekman’s first lengthy film project featuring the Cullberg Ballet; and Budding Stars, which profiles the aspiring students at the Paris Opera Ballet.
All 70 films–the 50 shorts plus the 20 long-form films available at viewing stations at MP+D—will compete in the Dance Screen 2013 competition. Dance Screen is one of the oldest and most established competitions in the world, and is typically held in conjunction with European Dance Film and media festivals. Award Jury members for the festival competition include the BalletBoyz, with founders Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, hailed as pioneers for reaching a wider audience through their celebrated stage and television work; Ellen Bromberg, choreographer, filmmaker, curator and educator; Lynette Kessler, producer and founder of Dance Camera West Dance Media Festival; and Muriel Maffre, former dancer with Hamburg Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo and San Francisco Ballet and current director of MP+D. Awards will be presented on closing night, and include the dance screen cash prize of $5,000 for the best overall film and $2,000 for the best student film.

Another new opportunity to arise this year in conjunction with the SFDFF is the Co-Laboratory Project, a unique collaborative project created with the intent to support the development of more dance films in the Bay Area. The Co-Laboratory project, brainchild of SFDFF Managing Director Judy Flannery, pairs three choreographers with three filmmakers. In this inaugural year, choreographer Amy Seiwert will collaborate with filmmakers John Haptas & Kris Samuelson; choreographer Yaelisa with director John Korty; and choreographer KT Nelson with director Chris Mason. These pairs of artists will create works in one week at the Djerassi Ranch, and the works will premiere on the closing night of the festival. Schoenberg hopes that the program will continue annually as a part of the festival, as a way to create more opportunity for established artists to give their work increased visibility.

The SFDFF is a young festival, and has grown exponentially in the past four years. Created initially as a way to provide much-needed opportunity for local dance filmmakers, it has branched out internationally, offering us all an international perspective on screendance. It truly is a year to celebrate, so let’s take the opportunity and show support for the 2013 SFDFF.

The complete lineup of films is now on the San Francisco Dance Film Festival website. Festival passes, which include access to all films, panels, parties and viewing stations ($300); student discounts; and individual tickets are also available via the SFDFF website: sfdancefilmfest.org


Erin Malley is a choreographer, performer, video designer and filmmaker in the Bay Area. She has recently collaborated with Mary Armentrout, Daria Kaufman, and Lindsey Derry, and is currently under the mentorship of Cari Ann Shim Sham and Ian Winters. Erin received her BFA in Dance and French from Western Michigan University. She blogs regularly about her work at erinmalley.tumblr.com

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