Move over, movie theater chains. While several films open in theaters this weekend, there’s one you won’t find at AMC or other traditional movie joints. Reaching a following across the globe, the locally made independent feature film Ctrl+Alt+Dance will have its world premiere this weekend at Memorial Hall.
When an unemployed security software specialist takes an adventure with dance, the definition of courage is surely illustrated — and that’s what audiences can expect to explore. Inspired by the Lindy Hop Movement, producer Brian Crone and producer/director Gex Williams have worked side by side on this low budget independent film that has flourished and received widespread recognition in the dance community. Filled with swing dancing, passion and an unfolding romance, it’s the perfect flick for Valentine’s Day.
Gex Williams has worked on multiple professional film projects and served as the producer and Artistic director of SAC Family Theater in Lexington, Ky. CityBeat caught up with Williams and discussed the inspiration behind the film and the experience of starting out as a small independent project.
CityBeat: Are you and Brian Crone both originally from the Cincinnati area?
Gex Williams: Yes, we both grew up in the Northern Kentucky area but we knew each other growing up. We went to high school together and made some feature films.
CB: How did your film Ctrl+Alt+Dance come about?
GW: I became an avid swing dancer in high school through college. I was aware of this film community throughout the world and no other movies catered to this kind of dance, so I was like, “Hey, I want to make a movie.” I actually wrote the initial script in 2011 but wanted to sit on it to get other projects under by belt.
CB: What was your initial inspiration for the film?
GW: In 2011 I wrote the script, sat on it, and decided to move forward with it. It has a phenomenal story and [Brian and I] reworked a ton of it in early 2013 as we wrote a fresh script together on this draft. The film had dancing, but we needed a story to carry it along. We knew we didn’t have the budget to hire a huge actor and to be solid in the entertaining experience for the audience members. And then we ended the film in summer in 2013 two years from the initial start of pre-production. It went full force in the beginning of 2014 and we’ve been cranking on it ever since. We’re really happy. With an independent film it’s very hard on a low budget and we had phenomenal team members and people.
CB: After a few offers to shoot the film across the country, why was it important for you to film it here in Cincinnati?
GW: There were a few producers who were interested in shooting it out there, but it was really important for us to shoot it in Cincinnati because we love it so much and we’ve traveled some for business and we loved going back to Cincinnati. It’s a great place to come home to and what it offers. The city holds phenomenal landmarks and has a variety of locations.
CB: What were some of your favorite spots to film?
GW: One of my favorite shots of the film was a beautiful shot at Roebling Bridge set up on the Kentucky side, and you see this beautiful river flowing underneath the city and is lit up. And we had other phenomenal locations like Memorial Hall, which is gorgeous on the inside.
CB: What are some prominent themes in Ctrl+Alt+Dance?
GW: Action overcoming fear. We really wanted to communicate that. We [Brian and I] started our own business after college, a full-time gig and there was fear in our own selves and others. We wanted to tell a story about this and the dance was a catalyst to show how that takes place in the film. It’s a great story and a really cute romance. The dancing is amazing and we encourage people to feel good about it and hopefully inspire them to take risks in doing that.
CB: I see that you had difficulty getting into large chain theaters. Tell me about your experience with that in regard to the film.
GW: I can’t fault them because it is different for an independent film to get the mass distribution that an A-list film would get because they don’t have the budget to hire famous actors like Morgan Freeman. For large theaters, it’s a risk to put their movie in there that they won’t have people to support it. It’s so cool that that we have it in countries like Russia and China and were blessed that it was quite strong. We aced that challenge and we knew we had a strong following so we wanted people to see it. So we ended up contacting theaters ourselves and said we’d like to run a campaign in your city so people buy tickets for a one-night premiere showing. A lot of theaters responded.
CB: With a following in more than 80 different countries, how did word of the film spread so quickly all before the world premiere next weekend?
GW: It’s never been showed, but Cincinnati will be the world premiere. Because the Lindy Hop Swing Movement is huge around the world in countries like Spain and London and it’s really quite astounding that a lot of them they really tuned in. Our main actors, their acting is amazing, they’re international dance champions. People were aware of them and interest grew. We worked hard and wanted this film to benefit the community all over the world and we contacted local groups and wanted the proceeds to go back to local communities. We felt so blessed by the support we received and reached a considerable percentage to help others.
CB: What were your initial expectations for the film? Did you expect it to reach the magnitude it did?
GW: We’re blessed in something that is not at all normal for a normal independent project. A lot of projects start out with a grandiose idea and get small and less feasible and it’s a reality check. It’s difficult. And we’ve been so blessed with the talented people and how it blossomed from day one. We said we’re going to do this no matter what. We had talent and it’s grown and we hope it will continue to grow.
CB: Once it started gaining success, did you get any opportunities later on from corporate theaters?
GW: We are just at the beginning of our public awareness. We’ve had interest from larger producers and we’re definitely exploring our options to get a wider distribution of it.
CB: What are your hopes for the film after the big world premiere at Memorial Hall?
GW: We’ve been working hard to deliver the film in a way for people to access. We wanted to work hard to continue to pave a way and find a way to show this film to anyone who wants to see it. We’ll be talking to distribution companies for a possibility of larger scale so we have the resources to get it out there.
Ctrl+Alt+Dance premieres Feb. 13 and 14 at Memorial Hall. More info here.
The 2009 Cincy Fringe Festival wraps up tonight. Starting today at 2 p.m., 18 different productions are presenting their final shows and both Film Fringe and Visual Fringe are wrapping up at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
Rick Pender reports that ticket sales have already surpassed Fringe organizers' goals, and today's beautiful weather should bring out a final wave of good attendance.
Reviews of all 18 of today's shows are posted on CityBeat's Fringe micro-site, including The Secrets Project, which opened last night at New Stage Collective and presents its second and final performance tonight at 7:30. In fact, CityBeat writers have reviewed all 31 Fringe shows, with most reviews being posted the morning after their debut performances.
Check out CityBeat's extensive coverage of the 2009 Cincy Fringe Festival. As of noon Saturday we've posted reviews of 21 productions, with more coming every day until all 31 shows have been reviewed.
It's Free Dance Week at the Cincinnati Ballet. Get your groove on at The Otto M. Budig Academy in Over-the-Rhine or in Blue Ash. All classes are free: ballet, pointe, creative dance, jazz and Rhythm and Motion, a workout class.
Performance and Time Arts (PTA), a project of Contemporary Dance Theater, is the longest-running performance art showcase in the city, but until this weekend it has never been host to a single production. One Way Road on a Two Way Street, an original multi-act examination by an all-female cast of unrequited love and its ramifications, debuts Friday and Saturday at the College Hill Town Hall. Producer, flugelist (yes, someone who plays the flugelhorn), dancer and choreographer Shakira Rae Adams reveals that the theme is derived from personal experience. “A certain woman has sparked this creation — someone very close to my heart,” she says.Acts include spoken word, dance, live and recorded music, visual media and theater. A post-performance reception offers pastry treats from Oliver’s Desserts.
Adams, born in Findlay, Ohio, is an outgoing personality with a contagious smile who describes herself as an “outside-the-box nerd.” Her life so far has included pre-med and nursing studies, work as a doula (a person trained to assist in childbirth) and a trip to West Africa, from which she brought back the African dance techniques she uses to teach her own choreography. Oh, and she also designed and teaches a class on the dissection of the human body for kids 5-14.
“I found dance through jazz dance, and it’s help me keep my sanity,” Adams says. “I think music and science and dance all go together. Anyhow, it’s worked for me. I hope One Way Road on a Two Way Street inspires people to be more honest and open with their emotions, not to be locked down like the society we live in.”ONE WAY ROAD ON A TWO WAY STREET takes place at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Contemporary Dance Theater Studios at College Hill Town Hall. More info: http://cdt-dance.org/1502pta
Merce Cunningham — one of the giants of 20th-century dance and choreography — died on Sunday at age 90 in Manhattan.
Cunningham had a friendship with Cincinnati art dealer Carl Solway, whose show of his drawings, Merce Cunningham in His 90th Year, is on display at Carl Solway Gallery through Aug. 15.
The 2009 Cincy Fringe Festival heads into its second week with high expectations.
"I've heard from a number of patrons that this is the strongest field of shows they've ever seen in at the Fringe, and we agree," Managing Director Eric Vosmeier reports. "Our attendance numbers are up, though it's difficult to say how much just yet."
Check out CityBeat's extensive coverage of the 2009 Cincy Fringe Festival. As of noon we've posted reviews of 12 productions, with more coming every day until all 31 shows have been reviewed.
Cincinnati Ballet will be spreading their wish to inspire hope and enchantment in the community by broadcasting the 2 p.m. performance of Peter Pan on Nov. 8 to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital live from the Aronoff Center. Patients and their families who might otherwise miss the magic will now be able to experience the spectacular tale of the flying boy who never grows up — straight from their hospital room.
The Ballet recently came together again with The Cure Starts Now, a cancer research and awareness foundation they’ve been working with since 2009, to bring oncology patients at Children’s the third year of “Ballerina for a Day.” In this behind-the-scenes event, children and their families were offered a chance to see the background of the ballet world with makeovers, crafts, dancing and costumes. With the show streaming right to the comfort and safety of their rooms, they can now complete the full circle of the ballet experience by enjoying a live show.
Cincinnati Ballet has also invited Leah Still — the dance-loving daughter of Devon Still battling stage 4 neuroblastoma and who has brought a plethora of attention to organizations like The Cure Starts Now — to perform in the show with a walk-on role. If her parents and doctor give the go ahead, this would mark 4-year-old Leah’s debut in a professional stage performance.
This wondrous benefit for dozens of children marks an incredible collaboration by various members of the regional community. Unions have waived fees, Children’s has cooperated in arranging the broadcast and camera operators have donated the use of their time, talent and gear in order for this to be possible, according to Victoria Morgan, artistic director and CEO of Cincinnati Ballet.
Peter Pan hits the stage Nov. 7-9, with performances 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Look out for an interview with composer and music director Carmon DeLeone in next week’s issue.