The big wedding broadcast during the Grammy Awards last weekend was a momentous occasion. The cultural significance of the event was deeply felt by all of us in the stadium that night and by the millions who were watching. I was humbled to be a part of it. Music has always been a catalyst for political change and I hope to hear more voices knocking down the remaining barriers to marriage equality.
I had the good fortune of meeting Jocelyn Alice of the Calgary-based songwriting duo jocelyn & lisa at an LA music event last year. Jocelyn asked if I’d like to remix a new song that they had just finished recording called “Open Wide.” Between Jocelyn’s soulful vocals and Lisa’s solid piano work, I thought it was beautiful and intimate. I wanted to create a tightly restrained remix that highlighted Jocelyn’s voice and the lyrics while slowly building up and exploding into something fierce. I held back on adding any unnecessary elements and went for a pure emotional ride.
Right about the time when I was finishing up the remix, I met filmmaker Emmeline Kim and choreographer Ania Catherine through my work with the Downtown Film Festival LA. They told me they were looking for a new song to shoot a short film music video. After listening to my remix, they fell in love with jocelyn & lisa and their inspiration for the video concept soon flowed. You can read Emmeline and Ania’s artist statements for the video here.
The short film music video became an official selection of the 2014 BFI London LGBT Film Festival, the 2014 Ontario London Lesbian Film Festival and the 2014 InsideOut Toronto LGBT Film Festival. We’re developing plans for releasing the “Open Wide” remix to a wider audience. It has been an honor working and collaborating with these four amazingly talented young women on this unique and passionate project. I can’t wait to see what they cook up next.
Here’s the video by Emmeline & Ania set to my remix, as well as the original version of “Open Wide” by jocelyn & lisa:
In early February 2012, I heard about a short filmmaking competition called Silicon Valley ArtShots where local filmmakers paired up with local artists and were given two weeks to create a 90-second micro-documentary capturing the spirit of the artist and their work. Always up for a new challenge, I approached my friend, Dalia Rawson, to see if she would be willing to share her personal story and be the subject of my short film.
Dalia Rawson is the School Principal of the Ballet San Jose School and is also the founder and artistic director of the award-winning Rawson Project Contemporary Ballet. From her years as an elite ballet dancer in training to her current work as a choreographer and dance instructor, Dalia has an incredible life story of overcoming obstacles and living life through dance.
After a week of following her with my camera through her long days of rehearsals, classes and workshops, I invited Dalia to my home studio to interview her for the film’s voiceover. I approached the project as I would a radio piece, editing her interview into a short narrative to fit within the 90-second time constraint. With a background score and the audio story complete, I assembled video clips from the week of shooting and stitched together the puzzle pieces into the final product.
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/36997714 w=948]
At the Silicon Valley ArtShots finale, my short film was awarded Best Overall, Best Presentation of the Artist and Most Inspiring by the judge’s panel. All of the Silicon Valley ArtShots films were screened during the San Jose ArtWalk in April and aired in rotation on CreaTV. My short film was also an official selection of the Silicon Valley Film Festival and screened at the Intel Theatre in November.
None of this would have been possible without the cooperation of the students and parents of the Ballet San Jose School and the members of The Rawson Project. Thanks to Nick Masculino of Less Than Three Productions for lending me his camera lenses, and thanks to my brother, Brandon Smith, for the lessons on color correction. But most importantly, thanks to Dalia and her brother, Cliff, for sharing such a personal story and letting me into their workspace and their home with a camera.
After seeing Nhan Ho’s contemporary choreography at sjDANCEco‘s ChoreoProject Awards last year, I knew I had to collaborate with him. Nhan had recently moved back home to San Jose from New York to start his own dance company, the Nhan Ho Project. He was putting together his company’s debut show at the Santa Clara Convention Theatre. We hit it off and I got him over to my studio to talk about music. One of the pieces Nhan was developing, Wilt, was a duet about a couple separated by death. He wanted slow and somber music with a steady tempo, piano and strings, something along the lines of The Cinematic Orchestra. I composed a first draft of the music and attended a rehearsal with Nhan and Jenni Bregman to see how it worked and to gather more feedback. Only a few adjustments to the mix were needed.
I couldn’t make it to the premiere due to a conference in Los Angeles, but I was able to attend an encore performance a few weeks later at De Anza College in Cupertino, captured beautifully in the video below thanks to John JP Parenica of 2nd20 Productions. Thanks to Nhan and Jenni for the intense collaboration.