Filming in Paris: The creation of an Energetiks video
On a mild spring afternoon in Paris, Elysia Mangier, Energetiks Marketing Manager disembarks a twenty hour flight from Melbourne, Australia and weaves her way through lingering passengers and expectant friends and family gathered at the arrivals lounge of the Charles de Gaulle Airport. In less than a day she has traversed continents, traded languages, moved from Autumn to Spring, and, whilst Melbourne’s sky still remains cloaked in darkness, she steps outside into the Parisian mid-afternoon sunlight.
No stranger to the airport, Elysia has travelled extensively for dance; she’s a classically trained ballet dancer who turned her attention to Salsa, and before long was competing internationally as the seven-time Australian Salsa and Latin Champion and passing on her skills through teaching. This particular trip has a different purpose though – Elysia is here to oversee the realisation of a project that embodies what Energetiks believes in as a company – although the trip will contain more than enough dancing to keep even a world Salsa champion on her toes. The plan is to create a video that captures the essence of what it means to be a dancer, a pursuit that inspires such devotion that it encapsulates your life and permeates through every facet of your identity. For twenty eight years Energetiks has lived and breathed dance, and the company’s directors know as well as anyone what it’s like to get bitten by that bug. It’s not an easy thing to put into words (and unsurprisingly – talking clearly isn’t a dancers favourite form of expression). Emotion and dance are intrinsically linked, so if you really want to know how a dancer feels about dancing, watch them… and that’s why when it came to this project, Energetiks is keeping the medium of expression the same as in dance; visual.
Of course, to really make passion and dedication visible, you have to find someone who really feels it. That’s what brings us to Paris.
In the months of preparation and planning that preceded this week, Energetiks had one dancer in mind to entrust with the task of communicating the virtually inexpressible; Energetiks Ambassador Bianca Scudamore. The graceful Queensland-born dancer carries herself with the sort of unassumingly modest demeanor – even bashfully self-conscious when faced with a compliment – that you might think her simply incapable of the kind of sheer resilience, and ballsy determination it takes to push yourself to success in the dance industry. The fragility is deceptive though, at only sixteen Bianca is living on the other side of the world, away from all of her friends and family and the comfort of home, training full-time as a dance student at one of the most renowned ballet institutions in the world, all for the chance to pursue dancing to the highest possible standard.
It’s that courageous spirit that can’t quite be captured with words that made Bianca the perfect fit for the film, Elysia agrees; “Bianca is a perfect example of someone that has worked very hard to get where she is, that is passionate about her craft and yet incredibly humble with the talent she possesses. She is a great example to young aspiring dancers, who dream of pursuing their passion as a career. She’s still just at the beginning of her journey, so I find her story and her great attitude make her really approachable.”
Then there’s David Dang, the French Film director & photographer (you might recognise his directorial work for Kelly Rowland’s ‘Keep it between us’ music video) who’s become increasingly distinguishable for his cinematography and editing style, as well as his eye for creating serenely beautiful sequences of movement, and short films that manage to both augment reality and candidly depict it.
Despite no official qualifications (“I just spent a lot of time on the internet watching tutorials or videos so as to understand how they did this kind of shot etc... then I spent more time practicing.”), Dang’s work has kept him pretty busy of late – “In the past year I was in Jordan, Egypt, Spain, Tusinia, Morocco, US, Kazakhstan... I started filmmaking 6 years ago with buying my first camera, then the first videos that I made I uploaded online, because I wanted to get direct feedback from the community. Now I’ve worked for Orange, Siemens, Nikon, Lancôme, Canon, Mumm Champagne... but also with majors like Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music with artists such as Kelly Rowland for instance.” Energetiks reached out to Dang to direct the film after a recommendation by dance/fashion photographer Little Shao, who is himself somewhat of a celebrity amongst the dance world, admired for his knack of photographing dancers with the kind of intuition that only comes from having a background in dance. Energetiks collaborated with Shao in Paris in 2015 to create one of their most iconic shoots to date and have a great fondness for his work - so his opinion comes with high regard.
Tuesday, Paris Day 2
The day after her arrival in Paris, Elysia meets with Dang - in typical Parisian fashion - in a cafe in the charmingly-medieval district of Marais. Here they discuss the film and shooting schedule in depth, and talk about the mood they’re aiming to create. By now the excitement about all the hours of planning, and finally being so close to realisation is sinking in - and the meeting leaves Elysia confident that Dang's going to achieve the kind of inspirational message Energetiks is trying to create. “My goal is to show the audience an honest portrait of Bianca and inspire people to achieve their dreams, thanks to her story. I also want to show that even if it looks easy to her because she is talented, nothing is possible without hard work and sacrifices.” David explains. Later in the day Elysia also meets with Bianca, and talks her through the concept of the film and everything discussed with Dang. Bianca is a mixture of nerves and excitement.
Wednesday, Paris Day 3
The following morning marks the first day of the filming process, Elysia meets Bianca at a dance studio where they start to develop the choreography; it’s crucial that Bianca sticks to a set routine so that David and his assistants are able to learn the pattern of her movements and choreograph how the camera will manoeuvre around her.
Four hours later Bianca has learned and perfected a three minute routine down to the smallest detail, and David and his crew observe her performing the piece several times, paying particular attention to where she finishes each movement, and how much the steps travel. Little Shao also stops by to see how the rehearsals are going and say hello to Bianca, who he photographed for Energetiks the previous year.
Thursday, Paris Day 4
On Thursday morning the weather seems resolved to defy the expectations of Spring, and by noon Paris has relapsed into an icy-cold European winter which doesn’t bode well for the Energetiks crew. Today’s agenda is a location photoshoot ...outside. Not to be deterred though, Elysia and Bianca make their way to the idyllic Parc Monceau, a public park dating back to the 1770’s and located in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris. The sky is a deceptively clear blue, but the air is as icy as a Snow Queen’s palace. Bianca spends the day darting in and out of the sanctuary of a thick jacket the crew keep at the ready for between shots, and manages to still pull off looking angelic and not frost-bitten in every frame. Nevertheless, by the end of the day everyone is tired, famished and ready for the embrace of a warm bed. It’s been a rewarding day.
Friday, Paris Day 5
Friday is another busy day, first up, it's time to record Bianca's voiceover to overlay the film. Theteam heads to the Production Company Head Quarters in Paris's 17th Arrondissement, where they spend the next two hours laying down Bianca's lines. Bianca is just recovering from a cold, so it takes a few extra takes and several glasses of water to make sure her voice is crystal clear on the audio track.
After this, it's time for filming to begin.
“When I am creating, I am driven by emotions and also the message. The music and the story bring me images that I am trying to capture when I am filming.”
~ David Dang
Bianca gets her hair and make-up done and warms up thoroughly, marking through Wednesday's choreography in the studio location where filming will take place - the 'Elephant Paname, Centre D'art et de Dance' in the 2nd Arrondissement. Now it's time for David and crew to capture the visual atmosphere of the film and navigate their way around Bianca and the choreography - it’s almost a strange pas de deux between dancer and camera - the cameraman has the same objective as a pas de deux partner; it’s all about showing off the beauty of the female dancer. The restrictions of creating a variation with a Steadicam in mind proved challenging though - Bianca had her work cut out for her, as she put it: "Trying to look relaxed and natural dancing whilst being chased by a cameraman with a huge transformer looking structure attached to his body!!" she laughs, "There were some close calls." - a dancer's audience isn’t usually so intimately up close and personal, but Elysia is impressed by everyone's commitment to achieving that initial vision - "Richard on steady-cam was incredible, he was working harder than Bianca, running laps of the studio over many different takes!"
As a filmmaker, Dang has his own influences, people that have helped shape him into the director he is today and impacted the aesthetic qualities of his work; “My inspiration comes from films that I've watched, I particularly like the work of Sofia Coppola, Christopher Nolan, Michel Gondry and Denis Villeneuve. They have very different styles, but I enjoy how unique there work all is. I also find my inspiration in photography and live performances, I think that every artform is linked - and I'm driven to capture the emotions I want the film to give.”
"Initially I was a little nervous and apprehensive because I’d never done anything like it before but all the crew were really friendly and funny and made me feel relaxed."
~ Bianca Scudamore
Saturday, Paris Day 6
There's a sense of heightened anticipation as Saturday morning comes around, after a whirlwind week, today is the final day of filming. All of the dancing scenes have been filmed, leaving today free to capture the more personal moments, little intimate snippets of life outside the studio for a dancer living away from home; exploring, dreaming, thinking about friends and family.
The team meet at the apartment, and once make-up and hair has been done, filming begins.
After the final indoor scene has been shot, the crew head out to Montmartre, in the 18th Arrondissement of Paris and wander through the nearby streets - following as Bianca explores, her own camera in hand. It's an amusing sight, a girl with a camera roaming around Paris, closely shadowed by some bigger men, with bigger cameras. But whilst the scene might be a little comically conspicuous to passers by, the footage captured on camera is even more arresting. It's fitting that Montmartre is the last filming destination: this district that Parisians view with the same sentiment New Yorkers reserve for the Village. Informally known as the 'artist's enclave' of Paris (ever since the 1800's when it became home to the likes of Degas, Picasso, numerous iconic composers, and the now legendary Moulin Rouge), the modest crew of creatives of assorted disciplines gather together as the day winds up. When the very last frame is shot, and the equipment has been packed away and hefted onto shoulders, a ballet dancer, two steadicam operators, one director, a make-up and hair artist and a Salsa Dancer-come-Marketing Manager of Energetiks say their goodbyes and head home. The following morning Elysia will depart Paris and fly back to Melbourne to await the film's completion, along with the rest of the Energetiks team.
There were definitely challenges, and it's been an epic, exciting, demanding, cold, beautiful, remarkable, exhausting week, but everyone leaves with the knowledge that something special was accomplished.
"It was great to work with Energetiks because we were working together with one goal. I had a lot of freedom, they respected my vision and I did my creation in the best way possible."
~ David Dang
Looking back on the highlights of the trip, Elysia says "Working in Paris for the week was always going to be a treat! We also got to work with an incredible team over there who really managed to capture the feeling of dance. It was also wonderful seeing Bianca dance again – witnessing her amazing progress on her own dance journey was inspiring and a feel-good moment for me that Energetiks is supporting wonderful people in our industry."
Several weeks pass, and then the day arrives; back home in Melbourne the team are gathered around a corner desk at Energetiks Head Office. Everyone is quiet, watching the screen attentively. Elysia reaches out and presses play on a 2:03 minute summarisation of months of work and a company’s everlasting commitment to the dancer’s way of life... a little video, called simply, ‘Passion’.
"Energetiks is like home, it’s a brand I know I can trust and rely on. Perfectly cut leotards that are comfortable and flattering, high quality stockings that I get months of wear out of and pointe shoes that feel like they were custom made just for me."
~ Bianca Scudamore
Sometimes the greatest privilege is to enjoy the beauty of something just as it is; like when a dancer lands that final fouette on-stage and takes a last elegant curtsey, after a two hour performance. Their body straining to keep their breathing even and maintain that illusion of ease for those few final seconds. Because yes, it is remarkable something so challenging can be accomplished - but it’s even more remarkable that if you give it your all, time and time again, if you never stop working, stop pushing, stop fighting ...eventually, the hardest thing you’ve ever done, can for a second, seem like the most effortless thing in the world. But only when somebody is prepared to work hard enough, and long enough and tirelessly enough to make it possible.
Elysia knows Energetiks has built a legacy to be proud of, through a commitment to quality and a passion for what they do, as well as honouring their origins; “We’ve always been renowned for our beautiful Australian made products” But the future holds new, exciting aspirations;
“We’re really focused on Energetiks becoming the place for inspiration, the educator, the supporter, the passion behind dancers. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in dance, or if you’re a professional in your genre, we’re working really hard to create opportunities and experiences for our community, and backing it up with our incredible products. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of the brand.”
Article by Elly Ford