Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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September 21, 2010 , , , , , , , ,

Starting October 15th 2010, every month a documentary project that is a work in progress will be chosen and featured in the “Being Made” category of this blog.  Filmmakers from any where in the world who are making documentaries and want their film to be featured in this blog, please click on “BEING MADE” for more info. Yes we will help fulfill one creative wish towards the completion of that chosen film.

I am honored to feature “TRASH DANCE” a work in progress, directed by ANDY GARRISON. An inspiring film about dance, creativity, and dirty work. 16 trash trucks, 24 performers on a abandoned airstrip Austin, TX

Steve Mims

Trash Dance is a collaboration between choreographer Allison Orr and employees of Austin’s Department of Solid Waste Services to make a dance performance. Through the course of the film, not only do we see the making of the “Trash Dance” but also learn more about the lives of several Solid Waste Services employees and  their choreographer Allison. The film is currently in its editing phase. To get updates about the film or to help support this phase, please go to

Andy Garrison is very passionate about the stories he tells. When asked about why he makes documentary films and specifically about the making of Trash Dance, this is what he had to say. (Please scroll down to read about the actual performance on the magical rainy evening)

I started the project because I liked the way that Orr treated everyday life as art.  In some ways this was an extension for me of what I saw happening at Project Row Houses as depicted in my previous film, THIRD WARD TX.  In innercity Houston the whole neighborhood was part of the art; it wasn’t just something hanging on the wall behind a velvet rope.

It was a treat to get to know a few of the people at Solid Waste Services a little better, including but not exclusively Don Anderson, Shiron Hill, Virginia Alexander, Ivory Jackson, Orange Jefferson, Anthony Phillips, Chris Guerrero, Lee Houston, Greg Karo, Gerald Watson, Jennifer Salcedo, Tony Dudley, and Jason Smith.

I believe this view of art is a political statement that empowers the people who act on it.  It recognizes the power of imagination and creativity in everyone and encourages people to bravely go out and try things.  When you seize the opportunity to create you are affirming yourself and the people and ideas you love.  You are affirming your common bonds with other people.  When you tell your own story or paint your own picture or whatever way you make something, you are responsible for your own vision and you begin to shape and control your own vision of yourself.

This is inherently subversive to dominant political power.  It is not automatically progressive, but it is a key component of political free will.  It is also fun.  This is a hugely important part of the story and the reason why I make media—for pleasure.  The pleasure is sometimes the joy of discovery, the fun of curiosity explored, the feeling of being capable, the satisfactions of inquisitiveness and creation.  It can also be the pleasure of revealing something important, or trying to right a wrong.  I am an advocate of the pursuit of happiness as a political act.  The pursuit may not always be fun–it may be difficult and challenging–but that pursuit is important and the basis of free thought and free will.

Andy Garrison and Deb Lewis

I also sought out Orr as a documentary subject because of how she works and because I wanted to be shooting people in motion. I had felt constrained in how I shot THIRD WARD TX and looked forward to having a reason to move the camera.  I had no idea she was about to start a new project at Solid Waste Services.

I did not know who would emerge as primary participants—who the performers (hence, my subjects) would be—or what the finished performance would look like.  From September to June I rode out on garbage pick-up routes with Orr or alone, usually as a one-person crew, meeting people, watching the work, watching Orr watch the work, and talking with her about her process.  It wasn’t until June that she had shaped some ideas of performances and began to get volunteers to physically try things out and offer new ideas.

After weeks of trying out different ideas, Orr and her collaborators planned to have a daylong rehearsal on Friday September 11 and then a performance the evening of September 12.  This meant there would be very little time to experiment with how to shoot the piece.  It was a one-time deal.  I assembled a crew of 10 camera people each shooting a Sony EX-1 or Ex-3 (I had shot the preceding year on an EX-1).  These were friends–grad students and professionals.  I also asked former students to record sound.  We had a two-channel feed from the board, we set up a surround system to record ambience, we had ten, small, flash-card audio recorders with lavaliere microphones, mounted on performers, and each of the cameras would also be recording two tracks of audio.  Thus there were lots of perspective choices for both sound and picture.

The day of the scheduled rehearsal the five-year drought and 99 days of 100-degree heat came to a soggy end. It began raining on Wednesday and continued to rain heavily and lightly but almost constantly.  The performers (and the crew) rehearsed in the rain on Friday.  Orr did not know if she would even be able to mount the show.  On Saturday afternoon at 3:00, she decided to go ahead with the performance as scheduled, rain or shine.


The evening was spectacular. It looked amazing in the rain.  Even the row of lights I had set out on the back perimeter to serve as markers for compositing frames later in postproduction, looked like beautiful set decorations.  Most important was the feeling in the audience and between the audience and the performers.  There were literally people crying at moments and laughing at other moments. It was everything you would have hoped for in a dance performance—surprise, delight, stimulation, and an emotional openness that came through the movement.

I cannot wait to see the rough cut of the film. To learn more about the project and to support it, please visit its kickstarter page at


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