Production is currently underway for a new short film by IU graduate student Robert Mack. The film, titled “Dancing Man,” is currently in post production, and the team hopes the film will be screened at respected festivals and eventually be available online.
“Dancing Man” follows a young male ballet dancer, David, who, demotivated by his current ballet career, finds himself lost in a fantasy world heavily inspired by classic Hollywood movie musicals. However David is soon torn between the girl he loves and the chance for his dream career when a new choreographer presents him with the opportunity.
Mack is co-directing the film as well as acting as David. The film features many dream ballet sequences as Mack said he was inspired by his love of the classic films with actors Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly.
“The dream ballet is something they used to do a lot in Hollywood,” Mack said. “It was purposely stagey, it was stylized, it was a way to not necessarily progress the narrative, but a way to get inside the character’s head.”
Related: [Kristin Hahn and Tim Fort to discuss storytelling through film]
To accomplish these impressive dance numbers, Mack enlisted the help of IU alumnus Chris Lingner, a Tony Award Nominee and the founding dancer of the Indianapolis Ballet. However it was filming these fantastic sequences that proved complex, Mack said.
“Taking a cue from the classic Hollywood musical,” Mack said. “Most of the dancing is in long takes, the challenge with that is you have to do it over and over because there’s more that can go wrong, and it puts more pressure on the performers too.”
Despite the complexity of the production, IU sophomore Zoe Gallagher, playing David’s friend Ally, said she had nothing but praise for the entire team.
“Everyone is super knowledgeable, super skilled, and super focused,” Gallagher said. “They've all just been really great and fun to work with.”
What drew Gallagher to audition for the film was its depiction of the difficulty of choice, as David must decide between his future as a dancer and the girl he finds himself in love with.
“As artists we want to follow our passion,” Gallagher said. “But as humans, we want to follow our hearts, and it was that decision that just really resonated with me.”
IU alumna Clarisse Gamblin, the movie’s screenwriter and co-director, said she drew on her past experience as a ballet dancer to not only properly convey this complicated decision but also to help with her directing.
With the shooting schedule coming to an end and the post-production work beginning, Gamblin said she hopes audiences will find an appreciation for the art of dance after seeing the film.
“Ballet can seem quite inaccessible to a lot of people,” Gamblin said. “By putting it on film, we’re making it available to so many who might never normally seek it out, hopefully they might fall in love with a form of art they might not have experienced before.”
Mack said he hopes his newest collaborative process will raise awareness for the arts and those who dedicate their lives to bringing them to life in a time where safety restrictions still make it difficult to put on shows in theaters and companies worldwide.
“People are less likely to seek out live entertainment, and the performing arts continue to take hits from changing habits that were exacerbated by the pandemic,” Mack said. “Films like these help keep music and ballet alive in new ways.”