Everything To Dance For (12) is the kind of movie I love - for starters it's a dance movie, covering not only dances like the samba with Dance God Brendan Cole, but also female empowering bellydancing, and heartbreaking ballet, plus some more that I just can't say without giving the story away.
It was a flash of lightning type movie - one minute I was sitting in bed worrying over the state of the British film industry, the next I was planning an ultra low budget dance movie.
And it brought me together with some of the most amazing, talented people I have ever met.
There's Sasha Jackson, who was 15 when I opened her resume and just stopped. Who was about 10 times too beautiful to play the Ellie that I had imagined, but who took the part anyway and made it her own. Sasha Jackson who showed me how vulnerable and brave she was every time she took on another dance style to learn, who learnt to be a killer belly dancer in just a few weeks and surprised everyone, Sasha Jackson who kept turning round and showing me how mature and intelligent she was every time I hit a roadblock, whether it was with the movie or in life. Sasha Jackson who kept going when it turned out the surface was gravel and it was hurting her feet, when she was completely exhausted. Sasha Jackson who is now rocking the world from LA, has had by all accounts an amazing time on One Tree Hill and is shooting on location right now.
And Sasha's mum - who became my unofficial assistant on the movie - as we traded inspiring messages, shared hugs and kept each other going.
There's Sally Reeve, who juggled casting and rehearsals whilst having a difficult pregnancy, and performed her socks off, between bouts of her new baby crying - and who finally let us use her own house to finish the movie. Sally Reeve who has since worked with Jane Campion and Dame Judie Dench, to name just a few.
And Brendan Cole, who surprised me in the first place by actually agreeing to do the movie, who kept pushing the boundaries on the choreography to make their samba one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Brendan Cole, who was the person who really turned the development around for me - when I was having a really hard time deciding on cinematographers he understood why I wanted to shoot it myself, keep the shots as pure as possible, and he didn't even hesitate to support me. Brendan Cole, who kept making us laugh every time - doing hand stands by the side of the fountains or fooling around with the supermarket checkout ladies who fell in love with him. Brendan Cole who yes, did lose his temper with me one time when we had a misunderstanding, but who mended the fences too.
There were so many amazing dancers, singers, actors, musicians and above all teachers - Ivania Elena, Binnur Izmirli, Melody Woodhead, Nicola Quilter and our fantastic photographer Boyarde Messenger who all believed in the heart of the movie, who told me the stories about how they had been bullied, and embraced the character and her journey. Even Camilla Dallerup, who choreographed the rumba, and who it was an honour to work with.
And there's Travis Oliver, whose headshot was the first one I looked at and thought yes... but he was on tour! And Travis Oliver, who finally walked into the room after all the rest had come, auditioned and been found wanting, who filled the room with testosterone, performed some of the worst dancing I have ever seen, and who got the part in a word. Travis Oliver who we all fell in love with straight away, who made us all happy just by being on the call sheet and who reduced every female member of the crew to giggling schoolgirls (especially me). Travis Oliver who took every comedy scene and made it hysterical, and who like everyone else, rose above the difficulties of the shoot and behaved like a star.
From the camera's sound pack breaking down halfway through the shoot, to being filmed by the BBC Strictly Come Dancing crew on our very first day of shooting, to the long hard slog to find a supermarket location, which eventually my sister-in-law sorted for us (and got to dance with Brendan Cole as a result) to realising that Sasha's skirt was waaaay short, to Travis' rabbit in headlights look the first time he danced with Sasha, to finding our movie splashed all over the front pages of the tabloids, to our last day of shooting with Travis and Sally when we all just felt like crying, to our premiere in Leicester Square (well just off) and the invites to a Hollywood premiere that we turned down because it was our night and we wanted to be together; it was an amazing journey to make this film.
I had the time of my life, and I'm not sure I could every have a better group of people to work and play with again.
“Everything To Dance For is great! It makes me want to dance right along with it. The joy of the cast and crew comes shining through. It's also a voice of encouragement for those who believe success is impossible."
Susan Jeffers, PhD, author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
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(c) Pearl Howie 2017. All rights reserved.