A man and a woman inhabit the same surreal location though not, apparently, at the same time. Marta Renzi directs this black-and-white meditation on memory and absence, joined by long-time collaborators Charles Caster-Dudzick (camera), as well as Aislinn MacMaster & David Thomson (performers). With a nod to the soundscore for Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker and the location of La Chambre by Joelle Bouvier and Regis Obadia.
Interview: Marta Renzi
ABOUT MARTA RENZI
Marta Renzi has made over 50 dances for her Project Co. and first aired her choreography on public television in 1981. She has received numerous choreographic fellowships, commissions and awards, including a NY Dance and Performance Award and a Dancing in the Streets award as "a fearless explorer." In 2005, she began self-producing dance/videos, which have been presented at festivals in the US, abroad and online.
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FULL IntervieW Transcript
Melissa Ramos: In your dance film, In Search of Lost Time, we see a man and a woman inhabiting the same surreal location, though not, apparently, at the same time. How did the idea for the visual story come about?
Marta Renzi: I have to be honest and say that they come about differently for each project. This one began with casting. I often just sort of think who might be available and be in there. In this case, I was ready to make something new and chose the dancers at the same time as I was making a plan for where we would shoot the two actors. Aislinn McMaster and David Thompson have both worked with me many times for many years, but neither at the same time. In fact, they first met in Aislinn's car. She picked David up at the train station and they rode up to Vermont together. So when they arrived at the set, they were you know, they had known each other for about two hours. And I knew I could count on some kind of chemistry between them. That wasn't romantic or sentimental, partly because they're not stereotypical types of people and also because both are not always heterosexual. I don't think David is ever heterosexual and Aislinn goes back and forth. So their go-to is not to create romance together. All of their movement was improvised by them on the spot. David has a lot of experience in many different kinds of performance on stage and screen, usually not as straightforward as my work, actually. And he was beautifully dumbfounded by what an artist Aislinn was because he'd never met her before, and because she is currently an ICU nurse - and during the quarantine, that's quite something: she has stories. And then when they left the project, they were, you know, close friends because besides all the chatting at night and meals together and living in a beautiful place together, there is that peculiar intimacy that happens on set when you're not speaking, but you're creating a world.
Melissa Ramos: The magic of dance films. Yeah. You spoke about; how you start off with the cast. And I'm just wondering, did you know that you wanted to have two dances for this piece or it?
Marta Renzi: For me, it's always low budget. So the fewer dancers, the better. Although I don't tend to like to work with soloists, so I can't exactly remember the very beginning of it. I guess as I get older, I'm not as interested in romance, you know, in making dances about boy meets girl as I was when I was younger. So I guess although I like the male and female pairing, maybe that was something of that attracted me about the possibility of this duet that wasn't going to be about romance. Does that make sense or sex or the typical relationship between a man and a woman. The stereotype relationship.
Melissa Ramos: Could you describe how you collaborate with both these dances and also the crew on this film?
Marta Renzi: Well, if you've seen my movies, and this one in particular, there is almost no group. I mean, in this case, it was me and Charles Caster-Dudzick, the camera person, and he and I both were also the art department. All of us were sort of the caterers. The credits always fly by because the only people who get paid are the dancers and the cinematographer. So. In this case, Charles and I have worked together since he was a teenager. I think he's maybe twenty eight now. So we work together almost 10 years and we collaborate really well, although in this case it was even more collaborative because he got interested in the fact that it would be black and white. And he was also interested in the fact that I wanted him to help art direct it. So we shot over the course of a few days in Vermont in a two-story cabin, which had some furniture in it. But we took the furniture out so that it would look like a, you know, an empty zone of some kind, keeping the white table and chairs. Those were part of the house decor. See this is part of the low budget approach. I wanted there to be a starry room, as if it might be outdoors. And since its low budget, I didn't hire a fabulous crew to make that. But we hoped Christmas lights through black fabric. You know, I couldn't afford velvet and I wasn't sure, if they might sort of stick on it, even if I could have so we sort of made this star floor and star walls as something that we figured we could do cheaply and fill the room with. And we did that when we first arrived, we were there, I think a day and a half before the dancers and sort of emptied the cabin, set it up. And they were delighted to walk into this place that we'd created.
Marta Miller who danced with me many times in the past, now has this residency in Vermont called Certain Bird. And it has a big, beautiful dance studio which we didn't use, and this cabin, which we did for our site, and then another great house with lots of beds and a big old kitchen. So we all spent I think Charles and I were there one night before them. I think the dancers were there two days and half a day after with us. And that was that. And, you know, we went to Mass Moca, this great museum nearby. I think we went to the movies one night. We shot during the day. And each night we got to watch the rushes on the big TV, which was really helpful and fun.
Melissa Ramos: Yeah. When you look back at the whole process, how does it make you feel that you've created this in such a low budget and going through all the challenges and coming up with ideas and creative sort of ways to find solutions to things?
Marta Renzi: Well, you know, as I was doing the dishes tonight, I was thinking about the most recent wonderful piece I saw, which is I don't know if you've seen it. It's called Artificial Things. And it's by StopGap. I highly recommend it. And it's available, you know, during the pandemic online. And I was thinking of how much I liked it and thought how wonderful it is that I don't know if it's a big budget production, but certainly more than mine. And it was also developed from original stage work. So there's that. I don't mean that it's about money even, but it's about a long term gestation of a project and I thought, "Marta, are you ever going to do that?" (laughs). And, you know, I don't think I am. When I was younger, I applied for grants. I did stuff like that. Nowadays, life is too short. And the way I always roll is to do it for as little money as possible and not as quickly as possible, but no longer than it needs to take. And, you know, there's something to be said for it. I think it would be healthy for me maybe to try the longer gestation. But there's a lot to be said for intensive, joyful spontaneity, which in all humility is what happens when we make something together. Me and my team make something together.
Melissa Ramos: Wonderful. We are going through this pandemic and I'm seeing quite a lot of people dancing in their living rooms and expressing themselves in some way for you. What does dance mean to you and why do you dance?
Marta Renzi: You know, I don't in fact dance a whole lot anymore. And that's, of course, a big change. I just got myself some great bluetooth earphones, so I'm now sewing masks like everybody. And I dance for the first time in quite a long time. I sort of boogie while I'm ironing the masks or whatever, but I haven't been a dancer in the last I mean, less and less every year, I'm afraid to say. So the dancers more and more now develop the movement. So there's that answer to that why do I dance? Because there's fabulous music playing and I can't stop myself. Why do I think we dance? You know, it's one of the things that I keep being frustrated with when I watch a lot of dancing is that I don't understand why a lot of people are dancing. To me, it looks like a habit or a personal investigation that I can't understand. Or just the pleasure that a young body takes and being young. So there's a lot of that, which is not the kind of dancing. The reason for dancing that interests me. So why I think we dance is. I guess I even want to answer that. Why I make stories, why the people move in, the stories I make. And stories already tells you something about what I'm working on, I guess, is different in each situation like this one, they were remembering her magnum opus. I sort of liked that the dancing they did was for her for this old woman whom they loved. And they were either dancing for her to critique them like any just sort of professional dancer would. But more often they were trying to show their love or cheer her up. And if I can't find why people are dancing, then it's really hard for me to understand why we're making up movement and this project that I was just telling you about during the quarantine. These two young dancers, Jenny and Leah, who danced with me for years but haven't worked with me or with each other in years, one of them isn't even a dancer anymore. They want to make something about their relationship and they're both hungry to be creative, of course, at home. And they send me footage. And sometimes I understand what they're up to. And sometimes I think they're just noodling around. And I'm trying to help us all understand. From my point of view, what kind of dancing makes sense? I mean, sure, any kind of dancing can be done. There's nothing wrong with it. But in the context of, not even of the pandemic, but of if they want it to be about their relationship, then and they do. That's why they invited me to work on this project with them. Then a whole lot of just aimless noodling around doesn't further anything. I guess I do love pure movement as long as I trust that there's of that, that I understand the motivation for it. You know, if it's curiosity, then I need to understand to feel that in the exploration of the dancer or if it's feeling deliciously young and beautiful, then I need to really feel that it shouldn't be a given and feel may not even be the right word, but why we dance. It's a good question, it shouldn't be a given. We should be figuring it out every time we dance, you know? I mean, why am I doing this? Am I true to it? Am I you know. Yeah, I am true to my own motivation? And is it different for each different context or for each listener, or am I just noodling the way I always noodle because it's the only way I know how to speak?
Melissa Ramos: Yeah, absolutely. And it's good to question. And I think feeling is actually a good word because I feel like movement is a very... It's you can't put words to it sometimes. And I feel like sometimes people find it hard to articulate what they're trying to say, but it's very much a feeling situation by moment. Yeah.
Marta Renzi: You know, I saw the documentary about Alice Guy Blache. I don't know if you've seen it, but I highly recommend it.
Melissa Ramos: Yes, I saw it was amazing. Thank you for recommending that.
Marta Renzi: Didn't you love the that in her studio? There was this big, you know, not fancy banner that said 'be natural'. I mean, easier said than done. But I think that's part of what, although this is quite a surreal piece we're talking about In Search of Lost Time. To me be natural means. Don't be mannered. Be direct, be like nature to, I suppose, be natural means. Anyway, I thought, oh, no wonder I like this filmmaker. Look what her motto is. Be natural
Melissa Ramos: Yeah, absolutely. And that's pretty much like your work. I like the visceral experience between the viewer and your film because so fluidly the memory of the experience endures an as a powerful fragment. Why is it important for you to heighten this fluid nature of body memory narrative?
Marta Renzi: So this was what I was saying before about how each dance is different. This is definitely whatever body memory narrative means In Search of Lost Time is one. And in this case, as I was saying, it's somewhat surreal, more often in my work, the situation is naturalistic, realistic, it's a party, or two lovers meeting somewhere. It's a sort of archaic ritual in nature. And I don't assume that all movement vocabularies exist in all locations. I try and find the one that makes sense in this context, as I told you in Her Magnum Opus. It seemed to work for me that the reason they were dancing was out of love for her. I know that sounds really corny, but certainly at the end when she's dying, they do a dance on the porch to sort of, you know, embrace her from afar. The perfect quarantine dance. And so whatever the movement is, yeah, the movement was kind of generally folksy, but the reason for it is what made the vocabulary come alive. And the reason for it was as a gift. So in the case of In Search of Lost Time, the reason they're moving is to remember. Sort of two layers were the instructions to the actors: you're both remembering and embodying the memory. So you're alive in the past. In your memory. I mean, that's a nice project that keeps you from just noodling around. They noodled sometimes because you have to when you're improvising. But it's enough of an intention that I think they had plenty to chew on.
Melissa Ramos: That's really interesting. Did you articulate this to your audiences or was it something else like how did you.
Marta Renzi: Oh, no, totally. I mean, there's no point in there's you know, there's enough mystery in the world. Making things mysterious for them. I mean, I don't think I needed to tell them very much at all. And this is why I cast these two, because they both can get to a heightened state with a minimum of information. And this was a heightened state I knew would appeal to each of them. And I knew that for each of them in the present in the actuality of. Improvising, each of them was going to be very curious and attracted to the imagination and the movement of the other person. So there was that kind of chemistry, you know, the kind of not the romance, but the chemistry of- in silence - “do you understand the world the way I do?” And they did.
That sounds flaky, but if people also see it, they'll know, I think they'll know what I mean. It's kind of fun to watch it once, as if you don't know anything. But it probably would be fun to watch it and think about how they're communicating, not just how the characters are communicating, because that's the first viewing, but how for dancers or actors, how the performers are communicating tempo or speciality or whatever, so that they can play off each other as if they were communicating.
Melissa Ramos: I felt like they... It was so strange when I first watched it, I was feeling like that they know each other, but they this seems like they knew each other in the past or something. And they seem to be...
Marta Renzi: Bingo.
Melissa Ramos: Yeah, and that was the instant thing I got. And I was like, but I don't know where I am. I don't know where they are. And that's makes me go what's happening, what's happening. And that's what drew me to it. It's interesting because when I watch In Search of Lost Time, what interests me is how it seems to open up spaces in some way. And the past is very present, as I would be when I watch a live performance.
Marta Renzi: Well, again, this is because it is live. They're improvising, I mean, there was I don't think they repeated anything and we shot longer sequences than I usually do because, I mean, I don't know how long that would be, like maybe two minutes at a time, which is a lot when you're shooting, because it was important that they have a chance to really explore. And some of it was not going to be usable or the camera was not going to be in the right place. But they really were improvising. And I was touched when Aislinn and she still remembers this opportunity that it was to walk into a place. I mean, I guess it's like walking into a wonderful forest and going, oh, this is where I get to dance. But the fact that it was, you know, Marta made, Charles made, I think made it even more special. And it was a cabin she knew from the past, you know, the original cabin she had probably slept in residences before. But the way we transformed it meant, I don't know, it's like going into a magic world for her. When dancers are inspired … you can't invent when dancers are really inspired, and she said she was. David a little more blasé, but I think he was inspired by her.
Melissa Ramos: Bringing into cinematic techniques in filmmaking. It's a particular skill to have. And when you're filming something that is spontaneous and improvised, how do you work with that in terms of capturing it?
Marta Renzi: You know, in this case, I had one thing that I thought was going to be really fabulous, for example, that we did a million times and it was not fabulous. Probably the fact that we had to do it a million times was going to be proof. But we were the camera was looking through the not a door that's ajar, but when the door is ajar, looking through the slit, that's created, a very tiny aperture. And I thought it was going to be so cool, but we couldn't get what I wanted. So when I get fancy, when I get too fancy - I mean, “be natural” - When I get too fancy, it just gets in the way. But I have now learned, because I make them fast and I learn a lot and then I make the next one, but I've learned. How to be sort of the choreographer or let's in this case, let's say director, because I really didn't create a stitch of movement, but the movement coach, I guess I would say slow or too fast. So movement coach for sure. And the director in terms of, you know, working with the cinematographer. But I'm also quite conscious of being the editor. And that's to me where the choreography still exists for me is in the edit. I mean, it does for any editor, I think. But for me it's like my way to revisit. The choreography and at the same time, while I'm directing or movement coaching, I'm thinking how to create material that's going to be useful in the edit. In sometimes in a kind of strategic hack way, but other times, just to give myself plenty of material to play with. And this is what I'm trying to develop remotely. For example, in this quarantine project, which is kind of fun and, you know, they don't have a camera person with them, each of these dancers. And we're trying to figure out how to get shots at different shots, sizes, cutaways, how can we create the stuff that is easy to create on set with people who aren't themselves cinematographers and who have to probably leave the cell phone in one position for anyone take? Hmm. So it's a new kind of challenge for me who wants to be sort of, you know, coach or choreographer, a camera person and then editor. But mostly what I am is editing. And that's what these girls really need from me is the editing, because one of them, as I say, has quite a good eye. And she's already delivering footage that, you know, is like - on a cell phone - cinematic. But she has no idea how to edit. I mean, she just would be flummoxed by the editing. So that's fun for me: that we can all throw stuff into the pot, but then I'm going to be the one to stir it.
Melissa Ramos: Interesting. And I guess with editing sound plays a role, a key role in editing as well. Do you also consider talking about sound in the process with these two girls.
Marta Renzi: It's been a very long learning curve for me, because I for one thing, because I just had to learn how to edit picture and how to see with a different kind of eye. So I just put sound aside for lots of projects. And it costs more to gather real good ambient sound, but in the last, I don't know, eight projects, maybe five projects, I've become much more conscious that either I should make that my role or lately I've actually hired a sound editor and the last two projects I've been I've decided, even low budget that I need to afford that because it makes such a huge difference to not have, you know, some version of my crummy ambient sound. And I think when I work with the sound editor, even more, we can be more daring. I don't think he knows just how open-ended I'm willing to be. Because I'm loving now how sound can be the final surprise. It's like I stir the pot, but then someone else puts it in the bowl and that's a distinct pleasure. In the case of In Search of Lost Time, I think it's probably the only time I designed the sound myself.
Melissa Ramos: I love the sound bite. I love it.
Marta Renzi: It's kind of great. is inspired by I told you, I think Tarkovsky Stalker, which I think it's a famous scene where he's going on a sort of railroad track, our protagonist. And there's this. Industrial, wonderful industrial sound and a beautiful score behind it, so I just did the industrial sounds, but not the beautiful score. I brought that material. I guess there's often some kind of sound on the set for dancers. If it's not the song we're eventually going to use, it might be just one to jazz them up. But this was a different experience because, of course, it was a sound to evoke this peculiar place. And it wasn't the finished sound score, but it was a lot of these cool, scary, spooky sounds that I'm sure they responded to. The first time that the sound, I think it's the first and last so far time that the sound score, which was not music brought, made the world more clear for the performers. It's a good thing for me to think about for the next one.
Melissa Ramos: That's very interesting because not many people bring live sound in the space or creating that sort of atmosphere.
Marta Renzi: I haven't ever done it before and I haven't done it since. But I think it was actually when I think about it, it was part of the world they walked into. I was a little shy about sharing it with them. But, you know, when I saw there because it was, I like what it ended up being, these unrelated sounds that were surprising and evocative.
Melissa Ramos: But they sounded so natural as well for the space that you created.
Marta Renzi: Yeah, I guess the right word, fitting.
Melissa Ramos: And what's your process in working with the cinematographer?
Marta Renzi: It depends upon the cinematographer in my experience with them. This guy, as I told you, he's wonderful, enthusiastic, willing to be spontaneous, but himself is kind of specific and rigorous.
I should have you, there's a great picture of him. It was raining outside one of the days and he's in a yellow slicker up on a ladder, putting I guess we put a diffusion light, but it was just a clear plastic over a window, so some light would come in, but we wouldn't see the trees outside or whatever. And you know, Charles, partly because he's young, I guess, and partly because he likes a good project, is willing to be the person on the ladder. I'm the person handing him the staple gun and it's just the two of us. So how I work with a cinematographer is. I try to make their job easier and clearer. And other than that, I try to create a situation where they and the dancer understand enough what's going on, that I can let them do the first pass and only interfere if we’re not communicating. I don't know if that makes sense.
Melissa Ramos: It makes sense.
Marta Renzi: I guess I trust them. You know, Charles, it's easy to trust and it's easy to critique. I worked with the person I had never met for the first time, and he was wonderful. And that was a real risk, but he said to me, he asked some smart questions in advance. He said, how do you get what you want, something like that. And I said, well, I've discovered that wherever I'm sitting is where the shot is. So, you know, if I haven't made it clear, just go where if I'm on the ground, if I'm standing over to the right, go where I am, if we haven't discussed otherwise and then we can talk you. He's done commercial photography. And I think it was fun for him to do this kind of creative project because often now when he's cinematographer, he can barely do anything, not even sometimes pull focus, but because he's on these shoots where there's a different person for every different aspect of shooting. So for him, it was fun, I think, to be able to be that creative. And for me, if they're not creative, I get really frustrated.
Melissa Ramos: Not creative, like not questioning or trying to...
Marta Renzi: If they have … you know, … I still don't understand or quite care about the eyeline. But, you know, if it's a person who's all about what you can and can't do and doesn't have a sense of ... I guess play is the word. I mean, I do count on them to save me from myself sometimes, and a good cinematographer will help deliver material [no comma] I didn't know I needed...Because these are so quick, we have to problem-solve. If the light is if we're outdoors, then the light has changed. We have to problem solve, you know, from minute to minute. And I guess the other thing I think I mean by being creative is they have to trust themselves and they have to trust me. And that's important. I don't know why that. Why is that creative? I guess. I just mean, if you don't if there isn't trust, then it's just boring.
I have noticed that on every project there's a moment when I'm practically in tears, because the thing that I didn't quite understand that I was heading for is happening, you know, I mean, I planned as much as I can. I tell the participants as much as I can. I'm hopeful that I know what the hell we're doing. But there's a moment in every project where I go. This is what I had in mind. That's the exciting part for me. It could be different at different moments. Like I remember there was one I was working with college kids. The weather was cold and I felt bad that they were outdoors, dancing, and I was running - because I'm the P.A. - to get the boombox or something like that. And when I came back and saw them at a distance, I saw that they were happy. It was cold. The weather was gorgeous, cold, but they were happy. And I saw them doing what one of the characters in it would have seen them doing. So I was in it, and outside of it, at the same time. I was in it as one of the characters, sort of, I was outside of it as a viewer and I was further outside of it as the person who brought this all to happen, and that's when that happens, I sort of go, oh, you know, we really are, we didn't know what it was, but now we do because we're doing it. We understand it.
Melissa Ramos: Wow, that's beautiful.
Marta Renzi: It's like a birthday party.
Melissa Ramos: It's like a next level of an epiphany.
Marta Renzi: Yeah.
Melissa Ramos: You're actually doing. It is just the magic. That's so memorable to when you look back.
Marta Renzi: And then I was working with a bunch of, you know, with a bunch of other college kids and I said, OK, this is the place where I cry.” I think it was again,
it was sort of a mysterious, they were supposed to be embodying something kind of what's the word, intimate and sexy, but not necessarily in a typical way. And they were creating movement material. And I could see that whatever it was I had told them, they were deeply in it. And that was the moment. I don't even think we were shooting. It was rehearsing then. And I saw that these young people who I hadn't met before and who didn't really know me, were digging into the project. And reaping the benefits and it was all going to be. I mean, I think that's part of it's like, oh, this is the moment where I go. This was a thing worth doing. We're doing it. Everything's going to be fine. (laughs)
Melissa Ramos: It's remarkable how 10 seconds of images with no introduction or conclusion can evoke an emotional response. And one of the most interesting parts of your work is what you leave out for audiences to traverse through with curiosity. Why is that and where did this come from?
Marta Renzi: Well, I don't like seeing a movie or reading a book or even hearing a joke. Where it's all laid out so clearly that I can, you know, at the beginning, I can hear the middle in the end already. So I'm pretty comfortable. I mean, I ask a lot of questions when I watched or read anything. And I expect the audience to do that as well. And I hope that what I'm setting up is a situation where they can enter with it, as long as they're willing to be comfortable not knowing, asking questions, knowing a little more, asking questions again. I think I deliver enough different kind of material that they can be comfortable one minute and curious or mystified the next, but they trust in general that they're the one responsible.
In this long piece of mine. It's 80, no, it's 60 minutes: Her Magnum Opus. It's asking a lot of the audience. There's no characters names. There's no dialogue. And I know it's asking a lot of some audiences and it's funny when they come up afterwards, if they like it at all, to hear them, especially the men, it seems, talk about how they had to sort of let go of their expectations. And I guess their sense of time and their sense that things were going to be laid out for them and if they didn't, they probably didn't come back to say hello. But if they did, they found themselves really rewarded. And there's, you know, nothing nicer than that.
Melissa Ramos: Oh, wow. It's a very interactive process then.
Marta Renzi: Well, it is. That doesn't necessarily mean I get a lot of hits on YouTube. A lot of the stuff that people love and sometimes I do, too, I'm sure is just so on the nail that. That I don't even need to watch it. I mean, there's no place for me except to admire or something like that.
Melissa Ramos: When you experience a dance video, what makes a dance video distinctly intriguing for you?
Marta Renzi: Well, first I'll tell you what doesn't, which is slow motion. I think there's way too much slow motion in dance film and I think it's cheating. It's like practically pornographic. I understand the attraction, but I think we can be bigger than that. So okay, that's what doesn't attract me. I almost I mean, I get mesmerized the way everyone does when I watch a slow motion dance film, you know, like an underwater slow-motion dance film, the hair moving. And I think, you know, what is that? Why do we want to sort of drool like this? Is that what dancing is about? Is that what we want to experience more of? I guess there's a place for it. But anyway. However, did you see this piece, and The Great Ghosts that show? Did you see it?
Melissa Ramos: Yeah, I watched it. It was so beautiful.
Marta Renzi: I mean, that was for one thing, as I said, you know, when I said you need to know why they're moving. We always knew why they were moving the way they did, because there was some relationship to gravity that was creating the composition. And sometimes I don't. There was no actual slow motion, but you had a sense of the relationship of time and space and gravity in the most fabulous way. That's a rare piece for me where I know why they're moving and time stops or time is in their control. I didn't love the voiceover, but I could be very forgiving. And I thought that also the way it related to the space, the way the costume is related to the space was so strong and simple. Anyway, I thought it was pretty brilliant. Artificial Things that I saw, there was a truth to that, too, it's with Stop Gap, which is an enabled and disabled company. I don't know what they call it, maybe mixed ability. I'm not sure how they describe it, but each of the performers was so, - I suppose you could say "be natural” - but also so true and in some way with sort of layers of mysteriousness, the young woman who's in a wheelchair, but I don't know the performers name, she has such a wonderful look on her face of sort of delight, but not vapid. Anyway, the partnering and the presentation of everybody in that piece was I thought, no noodling, no noodle. You know, why they were moving in relationship to each other in relationship to the camera, in relationship to gravity. So, yes, what I mean, and I care that one was not so brilliantly shot. I mean, I love Sophie Fiennes who directed it. I love what she makes, but it was not so wildly cinematic. I think the choice of the space was the largest contribution to this. To making it special, and then it was fairly straight ahead, cinematography and editing, I would have said, but it didn't matter because the the core of the piece was so extraordinary. So I don't know that I answer the digital landscape. Those are the things I've seen lately that. You know, I wish I'd made and that moved me.
Melissa Ramos: Fascinating. I feel like what draws you more than that natural sort of truth to things, rather masking it with, you know, layers of effects or special things, you prefer to see it as it is like when you look at it.
Marta Renzi: And yet and yet both of them were quite metaphorical. You know, I don't quite understand why Artificial Things was called Artificial Things, but they certainly are working with the juxtaposition of the man's solo, I mean, if people haven't seen it, this isn't very helpful. This isn't very helpful. But there's a sort of a salesman type who's, I think, a down's syndrome performer in the first long scene. And just the juxtaposition of his condition with his behaviour, with the sort of derelict mall that he's in, are such a gorgeous metaphor. And the Great Ghosts one, you know, that the metaphor of. A human striving or, you know, this kind of persian building of classical purity that, you know, it's where it is, what it's about and what it aspires to. It's just so much more than noodling around.
Melissa Ramos: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. You are a pioneer influence in the dance film form with over 15 years experience selected by over one hundred international festivals and serving for a decade as a board of Director of Dance Films Association in New York, I'm going to ask you, where do you hope or see dance films going in the future?
Marta Renzi: I couldn't say actually because there are a lot of different threads. You know, the new there's is a noodling thread and it doesn't interest me very much, but there are these other like two pieces I just talked about. There's also a sort of, what's the word? Storytelling or ... I mean, the Great Ghosts is not really storytelling. A narrative isn't quite right either. I don't know what's the word? I suppose it's sort of dance theater, but maybe it's it's screen dance theater, this is where it's going or where I'd like it to go. I think where it's going is in some interesting ways. Anybody can shoot, anybody can edit. Now, with quarantine, I think there's anybody can composite and make those great sort of universal stories or do the exquisite corpse sort of thing where one person begins and the rest continue. You've seen all those dance ones, I'm sure the opera, ballet etc. And I think there's something nice about that. The greater and greater accessibility. And I think the more accessible it is, probably the less there will be noodling in a funny way, I think, once it becomes accessible, regular people with regular reasons for dancing enter the picture. And I'm for that, you know, the I'm an I'm a dance filmmaker because it was cheap enough, you know, that's how I started it, because I could. Get access to a camera and edit on my computer and learn how to do so at the local community college, and it's more and more and more accessible. And I think that's probably. Good for all of us at the same time as maybe this is a good comeuppance for, you know, mainstream filmmaking that they're having to sort of go, did we really need those hundreds of people to create these blockbuster things? They'll probably go right back to it.
Melissa Ramos: What's something you believed earlier in your dance filmmaking career? But think differently now.
Marta Renzi: I have a very short answer for this.
Melissa Ramos: Yeah, that's all good.
Marta Renzi: I believe that if I could just learn the right way to be a filmmaker, I'd be more successful. But I was never interested in the right way, and I'm still not. I can think, oh, if only I'd gone to film school, then I'd know what everyone else knows. But I don't think that would have served me.
Melissa Ramos: No, no. You wouldn't be able to have this sort of sensibility. You would have been taught who had the most influence on you growing up?
Marta Renzi: I mean, really, my mother, of course, I should probably say, ambitious, critical, a feminist. I was born in nineteen fifty-four and she was, you know, in her way a feminist. But my in terms of my dance-influenced my first dance teacher, same little town. She was sort of my second mother. Her name was Joy and Dewey and later Biniky. And there's that award in her honor even though she was really it was let this be a lesson to you. There's an award in her honor because she married a rich man. But she was an extraordinary model for me of a completely ambitious like my mother and a feminist like my mother, but very free thinking, unlike my mother and taught instead of really I never learned techniques. She sort of taught it. I learned creativity and improvisation and composition and responsibility for making my own world. She was a very curious, sexy mother of four who was dropped into small town. College town and kept returning to New York to learn chants, procedures and follow, and a Helprin then brought everything back to these little kids growing up. You know, eventually, I was a teenager and, you know, I learned about the Judson Church from her. She was a model of someone who didn't condescend to children, I guess, is what it is, what she learned is what she taught us and she didn't worry about what the curriculum, what she made, lesson plans and all that. I can see her handwriting, but she assumed that what she needed to learn would be of interest to us as well.
Melissa Ramos: Yeah, it's great. I love that. What were the two biggest turning points in your life?
Marta Renzi: Leaving that small town and two mothers first for college, but essentially for New York. And and that was when I moved to New York in 1976, which was a great time to be there. The city was a mess, but the dance world was thriving. And then I left. The next big turning point was leaving the city to come to Nyack, where I've lived since 1981, and find out what aspects of the New York community mattered to me and which don't. And to raise children and live in nature, more in nature, you know, has sustained me.
Melissa Ramos: Sounds like a dance. What was the best advice you've ever received.
Marta Renzi: If the answers are getting shorter and shorter? The best advice, huh? I think I have received this and I certainly would give it: trust yourself.
Melissa Ramos: Short and sweet, the perfect ending.
Marta Renzi: You know, when I was a teenager, now I'm going to make a short question longer. I don't even know where I discovered it, except so I went to I graduated from high school, you know, after the Vietnam War, 1971. I graduated from high school. So it was in the ether, I guess. But my yearbook. You know, little motto or whatever was: "if you do not get it from yourself, where will you go for it?” Well, good for you, you little hippie. That's a good thing to launch from the little town to the big city, if you do not get it from yourself from yourself. Where will you go for it?
Melissa Ramos: Oh, that's such a great quote.
Marta Renzi: It's apparently. But I don't even know what this is, Melissa. The Zenrin Kushu. Well, I'm sure I read it in some, you know, bread baking hippie book of the time.
Melissa Ramos: Oh, you live in the best times and places like, you know, now still. But like, oh, what would I give to be in New York in the 70s and going through all the different set of changes in life and all your experiences being a dancer and now, you know, teaching, the craft. It's great.
The reason they're moving is to remember. Sort of two layers were the instructions to the actors you're both remembering and embodying the memory. So you're alive in the past, in your memory.
Acknowledgement of Country
Dance Cinema operates on Gadigal country. We acknowledge the Gadigal as the traditional custodians of the Eora Nation & pay our respects to Elders past & present.
Dance Cinema operates on Gadigal country. We acknowledge the Gadigal as the traditional custodians of the Eora Nation & pay our respects to Elders past & present.