I'm going to start at the very beginning.. (because that's a very good place to start)
I was driving to teach my regular class in Montrose and in my spotify radio of jazz music, when you're smiling by louie prima came on I started to choreograph in my head, like i've always done since I was a kid. The only thing that changed between this project and any other imaginary project i've thought of, is I asked for help.
The first person I told this idea to was Riley Roberts. And she said "yes. done." And that is one of my absolute favorite things about Riley. Riley is a doer, she is a creator, and i'm constantly inspired by the things she creates. After meeting her in 2019 she became a huge creative ally to me in my life. I struggle often with getting ideas out of my head, and Riley was the help that made this project a reality.
The next person was Cristina. Just like Riley, Cristina is the first person I want to have in the room with me when I create anything. She brings perspective and wisdom to the room and it makes me feel so supported and inspired. I feel like a better dancer and choreographer when she is there with me and I'm so grateful for her ability to clear my clutter, be my outside eye, and no how to help me fix the idea i'm too stubborn to give up.
This idea like most rattled around in my head just like so many ideas do. Until February 14th, the day I met Dylon. The class that day was with Jillian Meyers and love was flying through the room. I love watching people in class, I love scanning the room and seeing who calls my attention. And I kid you not, I felt like my eyes full on popped out of my head cartoon style when I saw Dylon. I was immediately drawn to his performance, his SMILE (its so beautiful you guys) and his story-telling through just his face. I had been looking for my musical theater male match and it felt like cupid had set up this meeting. I had never seen him in LA, I grabbed Riley's arm and said WHO IS THAT? Then after class I think I grabbed his arm and said WHO ARE YOU?! I somewhat aggressively asked if he would be interested in being in a project and he agreed.
Up to this point this project was so small. It was the 4 of us in small studio spaces, starting a project that was just going to become an on the cheap concept video filmed by the promise of a free lunch. Cut to Dana Wilson.
One day, In early January 2020 after class at ML (that studio factors into this story more than I thought) I asked Dana Wilson if I could be her assistant. And to my surprise, she agreed. We started working together under the agreement that I could ask her anything, and that she wanted to help me along with me assisting her. One day on a whim I asked if she could be an extra set of eyes for a project I was working on, if she would be willing to watch some rehearsal footage and give notes. This is the part of the story where Dana Wilson goes above and beyond.
Dana said, "would you be comfortable with me funding some of this project, directing it and producing it?" And that question changed the entire life of this project. Dana has been saying to me lately, "people come into your life to show you what you're capable of." Smiling for me has been the epitome of that. Because of Dana's trust, generosity, expertize, and time this project is what it is. I am so grateful for her belief and direction of this entire experience.
There is so much I want to say about this project. There is so many moments that made this experience so magical even before we got on set. Production meetings with Joe and Dana over french toast, watching Dana and Joe GEEK out HARD over mutual lord of the rings love. Learning how to double cartwheel with Dylon in RDC. Making a shot list in the hub and eating peanut butter cups to survive. Scrambling to find a location and me very anxiously scanning peerspace while at a party. Every idea that was encouraged and nurtured including but not limited to, "should we add a hat? what if we had a pie in the face? For the looney tunes section can we be tighter?" and many many giggles.
Then the shoot day. It was bliss. There is something about being on a set that is exhilarating, you never see the sun, you eat more snacks than you ever normally do, and impromptu choreography and dance parties to the Thong Song are wildly encouraged. I remember sitting on the concrete floor staring into the fake window Joe Oliver and Ricky made and thinking "this is it, this is what you've dreamed of." And it truly did feel like a dream come true. Everyone on set was incredible. Heather, thank you for dealing with SO much sweat, and so much bangage. Oliver thank you for being supreme BTS photo capture and becoming on camera talent with no objection. Ricky thank you for being so kind and warm all day and being so efficient and magical. Thank you Joe for being smart and strategic. Getting to watch you work and watch your joy with that tumble dry rig is a memory i'll never forget. Thank you Emily Jo for being the MOST DOWN for ironing curtains, and walking to get food and being so so so incredibly helpful. Thank you Kelsey Guy for costuming Dylon while I was out of town and freaking NAILING it. Thank you Dion Lack for being SO accommodating and welcoming us into your space (EVERYONE GO SHOOT AT LTE STUDIOS). Maddie thank you for coming into this world and helping with everything. Dana thank you for encouraging us all to touch our toes and for calling action from a scorpion. Cristina thank you for your body doubling and for laughing so loud I could hear you through anything. Riley thank you for being SUPREME curtain ironer and always being there to help anyone with anything.
We shot this March 10th, COVID Quarantine happened March 14th. In the process Dana, Dylon and I talked at length on what this project was saying. When your smiling is a very upbeat happy happy song, and we want this project to bring joy. Not the joy that is brought by naivety, but that is brought on by empowerment. When the depression comes, when the dark ages come, there is a renaissance, a rebirth brought on by artists and leaders and people who can see light. Smiling has been "done" for awhile, it had tentative release dates pushed back by many valid reasons. I wanted to like my reasons for sharing, and I am so glad I waited.
I am so grateful to have had the time to learn. I am also grateful for the platform to share. I am grateful the internet is varied. I am grateful we can share important works, both politically and more based in entertainment. I am grateful smiling exists. I am grateful to have had the time and resources to make it. I am grateful that it will not be my last project, and that next time I can be better.