Stephen Tannos joins the Inspired Film Festival
Never has the role of film been so important to dance. During the pandemic it became positively essential. But even long before the pandemic, film had established itself as vital tool – for recording, auditioning, marketing and, increasingly, as an artform in itself.
“Look at the way the world has gone,” dancer/choreographer/filmmaker Stephen Tannos says. “Everything is on our phones, and through the internet or social media. That's how people get discovered now, through the internet. For dancers, and especially choreographers, the best thing you can do for your work is give it the best opportunity for as many people to see it as possible. It is so important to have a good video. Your work needs to be slick, to have a clear point of view, to be confident.”
Stephen Tannos found himself behind rather than in front of the camera a long time ago, when he was a choreographer on the So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) TV series. A multifaceted artist, he had often dabbled in video as part of his creative output but SYTYCD proved to be a major leap in that direction. Now an experienced dance filmmaker, he is one of a line-up of expert guests at the Inspired Dance Youth Film Festival (IDYFF), to be held in Sydney from July 9 to 11.
The Inspired festival was first held last year, but in a smaller online format because of the pandemic. This year, however, it takes a big leap forward, with an expanded program that includes the IDYFF followed by the Inspired Dance Film Festival in 5-7 November, 2021, for filmmakers over 18 years old.
The Youth Festival includes masterclasses, filmmaking workshops, discussion panels and multiple film screenings over two three-day events. Students will work with the leading industry professionals and a professional camera team to create a dance film to be presented at a red-carpet Gala Screening and Awards Presentation on 11 July at Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter.
One of the main aims of Inspired, says Tannos, besides learning the basics of making a film, is to encourage collaboration. The festival will be an opportunity for dancers and choreographers to meet with filmmakers and give them the confidence to work together. Collaboration is key to success, he says. A film is a team effort, with each person trusting in the expertise of the other. “Good risk-taking and really good creative choices comes from having people around you . . . finding people who can help you bring your work to life and make it better.”
The evolution of the entire SYTYCD series is an example of what Tannos is talking about. In the early episodes, the filming of the dance routines was poor, with TV crews lacking understanding of the angles, positions and effects required by the choreographers. By the fourth series, however, the TV crew had learnt to listen to the dancers and choreographers while the choreographers had learnt to create with the camera in mind. The increase in trust resulted in some sensational dance television.
Tannos initially took part in the show as a contestant (coming in the top 20 in 2009) and was invited back as a choreographer. “Generally what happened on that show was that if you are doing a routine you'd choreograph it, and the camera director would come in and take over. I said – not in a cocky way – I think I know what I want for this, I would like to do it.” Luckily for Tannos, the camera director was happy to step back and let Tannos take over. “And that was really a jump off point for me.”
“I've worked on about 10 different TV shows – some that have tanked and some that have been successful – and the difference between them is that you can tell there's a trust and a synergy going around, and everyone is there because they are best at what they do. And if we all band together without ego, we get the best product.”
Other guest teachers at the Youth Festival are Dein Perry (tap), Sarah Boulter (contemporary) Amy Campbell (jazz/ musical theatre and resident director for the Australian production of Hamilton) and SmartFone Flick Fest director Angela Blake.
Submissions for the Youth Dance Film Festival closed on June 7. Submissions for the Inspired Dance Film Festival are open now (close August 29). Tickets to the IDYFF are now on sale.
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