Love Song (Dance film)

Love Song (Dance film)

Drawing conceptually from the idea that vision and perception is altered through the camera and film lens, Love Song explores perception and deception in a relationship – from what we can’t see when blinded by love, to what we can only see when there’s fear or trust is betrayed. Love Song is a story of a relationship in constant flux; where a where a game of manipulation, deceit and revenge unfold.

Initially the idea began using the lens and forced perspective entirely to create a story around the idea of perception in a relationship, however with intermittent rehearsals spread over a longer time frame due to the constraints of COVID-19, through conversations with the dancers, the story narrative as seen through the lens became the most important part of this project.


Reuniting to work with Richard Causer and Anthony Trojman was a wonderful experience, and despite months or even years in between projects, it felt like time had barely passed working together. Furthermore, after this crazy year of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, the opportunity to create in a studio was something I will never take for granted. 

As the complexity of the story developed, using the split diopter lenses, tilt shift lens and forced perspective techniques became a secondary consideration. The precise focus required for these lenses was not exactly suited to dance and meant the dancer in the foreground had to remain almost still. but almost felt naïf, and I needed to find another way to implement them for storytelling purposes.


Furthermore, the use of found moments when filming such as in mirrors and reflections became more interesting than warping the scale of the images with the lens particularly as the story became more focused on the idea of deception.

The shoot was a very long four days which probably could have been a five or even six day shoot. Below are some stills from various scenes.

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VOID dance film completion

VOID dance film completion

The VOID dance film was a significantly tedious process due to a number of reasons including COVID 19, editing processes, and new collaborations and other technical factors. VOID was completed in December 2020.

I cut a a montage of VOID.



There is also this alternate edit which was a part of my process (see earlier blog)



VOID stills:

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‘Love Song’ rehearsals

It has been a huge week in the production stages of my next creative project for my Master of Fine Arts (Dance) at the VCA. Due to COVID 19, enforced restrictions saw some new collaborations, and allowed time for the idea to evolve. 

We commenced rehearsals in August at Mill Street Studios with some time in between rehearsals and filming in September/ October.

Just a little note to say thanks to everyone who was on board this project – from jumping in as extras at the bar, and discotheque, delivering missing props and cables, helping with the costumes and more. Sincere thanks to Amelia Le-Bherz – amazing makeup as always and stepping into many other roles to help, Matthew Overberg, and Saroj Chauhan stepping things up on this second collaboration. 

Most of all, heartfelt thanks to Richard Causer and Anthony Trojman for their collaboration and contribution to this story. Our long history of friendship and years working together enabled sharing so much in rehearsals as we reflected on our lives in a way you can only do with your oldest friends. We experienced a rollercoaster of emotions making this project with some physically gruelling and emotionally taxing scenes for Anthony and Richard, and I am so appreciative of their investment in this project. It is always an honour to work together, but more than ever, I am totally in awe of them both!

Here’s a few iPhone snaps from rehearsal and at some locations.

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VOID (dance film) multiples

VOID (dance film) multiples

As the idea of the multiple selves evolved making Void, I was exploring ways to create multiples of Erin O’Rourke’s character in Void.

Below demonstrates a part of my process, but also the easy way with the Kaleidoscope effect rather than the tedious and intricate way with Erin repeating the movement in a multiple times in multiple places, and then MANY layers of footage to wrangle.

I shelved this little edit because it was just a bit of an early idea dabbling and does not demonstrate the editing complexity as in the final version of Void (see the Void Montage as an example https://vimeo.com/492863659).

Nonetheless, it is still a bit interesting to see the body chopped up and mashing into itself and into the space, especially with so much visual repetition in the location.

It was a starting point in unpacking some visual ideas before doing things the correct way with all the duplicate shots and matte layers.

Void (Collide edit)

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Making ‘VOID’ (Dance film)

Following the creative development for VOID, I began to think of the project visually as a short dance film. Making a dance film entirely in one location was a counter point of view to Shift which was shot at numerous locations. Finding a location took a lot of time and research, but I found one suitable and organised permission to film there. There was just one problem: the Old Museum stair cases used in the creative development spiralled in the opposite direction to the shoot location. The direction of the spiral is determined from the bottom looking up, so our location stairs were clockwise stairs and the Old Museum stairs were anticlockwise. The building differed in age by 30 years, and I wondered that was the reason why they spiralled in different ways. I found this theory most interesting:

Why stairs were clockwise in Medieval towers:
https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/rest-of-the-world-news/this-is-why-staircases-in-medieval-castles-were-built-clockwise.html

I wondered why the Old Museum staircases were antilock-wise. It was not just one, but all of them in the building are. Perhaps there was a lot of left handed people that were going to be working at the museum?

We were fortunate to be granted an additional two days of rehearsal to work in the space and flip-flop the material before filming. It was important that Erin felt safe in the space and familiar with all the little details of the space. With so much visual repetition, it was easy to forget what level we were on, but every corner has slightly different details and it was important to be aware of all of these.

For this project I worked with a young cinematographer – a Griffith University masters film student, Saroj Chauhan. Amelia-Le-Bherz was on board again doing hair and make up. A small team of just four of us meant were could work quite quickly. On the second day, we also recorded sound capturing the interesting acoustics of the location and Erin’s vocals.

Below: Stills from footage of the two day shoot.

I tried to exhaust the use of the stairs as much as possible and use them in as many ways as we were permitted. We explored filming each scene differently to make each section unique.

The idea of various selves also began to emerge and from a story perspective, the film is a shedding of former selves as new parts of the self come to the surface. Editing techniques were the major tool is sculpting this in the story through precise editing of many duplicate shots.

Traditionally when there’s two dancers in a location, the tendency is to focus on the relationship between the two dancers, however with one dancer, the focus on a relationship with another dancer is negated and the dancers relationship with the location becomes more significant in the sense of the story.

In October, we returned for an additional day of filming as there were some ideas emerging I wanted to explore further as well as get some pick up shots missed on the first day of filming. Here’s stills from the 3rd day of filming.

Day 4! After a number of weeks editing, I felt like there was a section of choreography missing from the perspective of the overarching story. Furthermore I had an idea to push some of the duplicate shots a bit further, so we returned for another day of rehearsal followed by a day of filming. Here’s a few stills from Day 4.

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VOID Creative Development

Dancer: Erin O’Rourke

In July I received a small stART grant through Metro Arts. After months of COVID-19 and writing for my MFA, I was craving creating something so the stART grant was perfect timing. Given so much of COVID-19 was spent with people staying home, or self-isolating, I wanted to explore a solo work in some confined spaces. I worked with recent QUT graduate Erin O’Rourke who I had seen in the QUT performances and graduation shows over the past three years and her work impressed me.

The creative development spanned one week, initially commencing rehearsals at Mill Street Studios and then to the Old Museum where we started working on the stairs.

The idea of a stairwell became interesting and I began researching stories of people who get trapped and even die in stairwells. However not focusing too much on the macabre death elements I liked the idea of a spiral staircase for all the metaphors it provides. I began to see the creative development manifesting as a short dance film and after the week of rehearsals decided to invest in making the second stage of the project.

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The votes are in!

On Friday the 24th of July 2020, I learned that my dance film ‘Shift’ took out the ‘Best of Fest’ (20-30 minute category) in the 48th Dance on Camera Festival NYC. I was absolutely thrilled!

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48th Dance on Camera Festival NYC

48th Dance on Camera Festival Lincoln Centre NYC: 
“Shift” by Claire Marshall: Judging Status = “SELECTED”

I’m thrilled to report that my dance film “Shift”has been accepted into the 48th Dance on Camera Festival Lincoln Centre NYC. Inaugurated in 1971, this prestigious festival is the longest running dance film festival, and has an incredibly history with the work it has programmed. 

You can read more about the festival here:

Shift was created as an experiment as a part of my Master of Fine Arts (Dance) at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne last year. This is the first time my work has ever been selected for programming by this festival. 

Due to COVID19 and regulations in NYC, the festival will be online this year so that means it will be viewable from Australia! My film screens Sunday morning of the 19th  of July (aka late at 2am on the Saturday).

Tickets go on sale on the 1st of July 2020. The schedule is here:

In the lead up to the screening, the festival requested an interview with dancers Lucy Hood, Richard Causer, cinematographer Kevin Holloway and myself as the choreographer and editor of the film. We were interviewed by Alicia Graf Mack – former dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey, and current Director of the Dance Division at The Juilliard School!! The interview was recorded by former Paul Taylor company dancer, Michael Trusnovec!! It was truly such an honour to meet Alicia and Paul.

Once again, thanks to the small team who worked on this film: Richard Causer, Lucy Hood, Kevin Holloway, and friends who let us film at their place/ business/ birthday parties, as well as Amelia Le-Bherz for doing make-up over the 4 day shoot. 

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Showreel

Someone recently pointed out that it is the year 2020 and my two showreels present work from 2000-2009. The “stage” and “screen” showreels were beautifully edited by Jane Wallace in 2009. That was before I had made a lot of work including Hey Scenester, Slowdive, Video Set, and Flaunt, and not to mention long before having commenced dabbling with dance film and even more daunting: editing my choreography.

My first dance film “Pulse” in 2012, was filmed with hand held DSLRs, thanks to Jane Wallace and my brother (filmmaker) Grant. Upon completion of the shoot, they informed me that it was time for me to learn to edit my own work. I was initially reluctant, however they patiently mentored me through editing Pulse. I had some struggles as it was engrained from years of making and seeing dance for the stage to want to frame the whole body, so learning to use mid-shots and close-ups took time. With more practice I eventually realised what an important tool editing was; not just for the sake of editing, but as an additional layer to the choreography.

As a choreographic tool, editing has changed processes by how I choreograph live work. When piecing work together, rehearsals are recorded and dropped into a time-line, replacing old forms of using Post-it notes!

My understanding of a showreel is to promote work and highlight the best parts. However, in making a showreel sometimes the editing drives a new story, carving micro narratives and, for dance, how the movement connects is an important factor. Each snippet of dance when cut together from various works (as existing stories) then essentially forms a ‘new dance’ in the edit with the music and cinematic elements all suggesting some sort of meaning or evoking emotion.

Needing to update my 2009 showreels, I assessed footage and decided to make a few showreels around the categories of my work as these have different audiences/ functions/ aesthetics.

Editing the dance film projects saw two different 5-minute reels emerge.

Dance film reel version 1:

Dance film reel version 2



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