When one thing, first, makes all the difference...
Interview with Director Erin Brown Thomas
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I was lucky enough to be chosen for the San Francisco Dance Film Festival's (SFDFF) annual CoLabratory workshop. They pair professional filmmakers with professional choreographers and unleash us to make screen dance films under 5 minutes. We have just over a week from the time we meet to the time we deliver the final product.
The concept for But First... emerged when choreographer Mike Esperanza and I asked dancer Erin Love to lay down on some steps. We turned our iPhones sideways and realized that we could make it look like she was leaning against a wall if she engaged her stomach muscles the right way. This is the opening of our film.
We knew we wanted to make a film where one character was on a different orientation than the others, so we could visually play with perspective. While brainstorming a reason for this, Mike suggested that our leading lady might "just need her morning coffee." This simple answer resonated deeply with us (especially on a marathon filmmaking week) and thus But First... was born.
We filmed in Akron Ohio and rehearsed at The National Center for Choreography at Akron University (NCCAkron). They partnered with SFDFF to bring CoLab to life in 2019!
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The positive comments about the film are always "how did you do that?"
So, if you like wondering such things, then you're in for a treat. I would also add that there is a bit of unexpected humor in the film.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
If I tell you this, I give away LITERALLY the only plot of the film.
It's only 5 minutes, so I suggest following the San Francisco Dance Film Festival on Vimeo so that when we release in November, you can just watch it for yourself!
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
We had just over a week to make the film. Three days into the workshop we had our full idea fleshed out. At this point, Mike worked with dancers on choreography while I went to the locations with cinematographer Tyler Clark. Mike and I sent videos back and forth to each other throughout the day so that we maintained the unity of vision between the choreographed and avant-guard elements of the film.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Again, people always want to know how we did some of the shots. I would say filmmakers specifically resonate with the film because they enjoy the cinematography.
I've had a lot of interest from commercial producers and brands. I'm totally down to make more content like this and hope to do so more and more.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
PTA is one of my heroes and so when his film ANIMA came out months after we released BUT FIRST into the world, I was really thrilled that people reached out to me and suggested a comparison between the two films.
I think overall the experience of creating this film has increased my confidence as a filmmaker - both in working with a rushed schedule and also in creating something with an original tone.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope more people check out Mike Esperanza and Tyler Clark. They were fantastic collaborators (as was the whole cast and crew) and they greatly deserve recognition for the beauty of this final product.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We plan to release in the late fall, so anyone who can amplify the film's online presence is welcomed to reach out!
Additionally, I'm looking for more commercial work involving expressive content like this. I'm always down to work with BOLD brands who want to create weird beautiful stories!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Screendance is an overlooked genre in the United States. I'd love to see domestic festivals embrace more of this content, and especially create awarded categories for it.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What unconventional ways can we approach a film's score and soundtrack?
(we created our music out of objects found in a coffee shop!)
Would you like to add anything else?
I'm deeply grateful for SFDFF and NCCAkron for choosing me for this experience. I hope to collaborate with everyone again!
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I have an art-house feature I produced (Shedding) which is premiering at Sidewalk Film Festival.
I have a short dramedy (Feeling Flush) which will be premiering in early 2020.
Finally, I'm currently going out for financing on my Bluecat Semi-finalist dramedy screenplay Italy'99 which is loosely inspired by my TRUE story of being left behind in Italy on a high school class field trip.
Interview: August 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
When one thing, first, makes all the difference...
Director: Erin Brown Thomas
Producer: Linday Gauthier, Christy Bolingbroke
Writer: Mike Esperanza, Erin Brown Thomas
About the writer, director and producer:
ERIN BROWN THOMAS' films have screened in over 75 festivals worldwide. Her whimsical and poignant comedic short Rekindled was acquired by Facebook after playing 12 Oscar Qualifying festivals winning 16 awards. Erin recently filmed her fifth aerial-arts driven film Human, under her viral-hit production company Versatile Assassins. Her newest short Feeling Flush, an LGBTQ+ dramedy, will premiere this winter. Erin produced the 2019 art-house feature Shedding premiering at Sidewalk Film Festival. Also a skilled editor, Erin cut Tokyo Project for EP Lena Dunham and Emmy-winning director Richard Shepard. The short premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and is currently on HBO.
Born in Manila, Philippines and raised in Southern California, MIKE ESPERANZA has established himself as a sought after teacher and choreographer. Mike's approach to visual construction has influenced a unique movement orchestration on stage described as "captivating visuals of impeccable lines and shapes”.
CHRISTY BOLINGBROKE, Executive/Artistic Director of the National Center for Choreography at The University of Akron (NCCAkron), was named one of the “Most Influential People in Dance Today” (DANCE Magazine, July 2017). Previously, she served as the Deputy Director for Advancement at ODC in San Francisco and the Director of Marketing with the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn. Bolingbroke carries a B.A. in Dance from UCLA and an M.A. in Curatorial Practice in Performance from Wesleyan University and is an Associate Consultant with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland.
LINDSAY GAUTHIER is a San Francisco based filmmaker. She began her work as a professional dancer and photographer before delving into dance and documentary filmmaking. Her films have screened nationally and internationally, including in New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Vancouver. Gauthier is passionate about progressing the field of dance film through her own creative work as well as through her support of other artists’ development.
Key cast: Erin Nicole Love, Sarah Housepian, Tiffanie Carson
Looking for: distributors, film festival directors
Facebook: Erin Brown Thomas
Hashtags used: #SFDFF #BUTFIRSTCOFFEE #BUTFIRST #ERINBROWNTHOMAS #MIKEESPERANZA #BARREDANCE
Made in association with: San Francisco Dance Film Festival, The National Center For Choreography at Akron University
Funders: San Francisco Dance Film Festival, The National Center For Choreography at Akron University, Akron Civic Commons, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Knight Foudnation
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Sidewalk Film Festival