DIRECTED by: Talia Shea Levin
While waiting alone in a bus station, uncertain and insecure, one woman fights the urge to isolate herself and instead connects to the strangers around her to build a community.
What was a unique challenge you faced in making this film?
The first dance film that co-creator Alexis Floyd and I worked on together involved just her and one other dancer. On E T A, we got ambitious and brought together a company of eight amazing women to create the community that is at the thematic center of the film. It was challenging in a short run time to give each dancer the screen time they deserved, and that we needed for them to meet the viewer as individuals. It was a true team effort throughout the process to make sure we were honoring these micro-stories while maintaining the through line of Alexis, the lead dancer’s, journey.
Where did the inspiration for this film come from?
We set out to build every piece of a dance film from the ground up – using a strong central concept as the basis for both an original song (composed and performed by Alexis) and a story that would then be tied together by choreography (also by Alexis!) and filmmaking. In early brainstorm sessions we explored the experience of waiting – in line, for the bus, for your life to change – and not knowing what, if anything would happen next. How much time do we waste while waiting? We wanted to find a way to evoke our desire to connect and create with others experiencing similar states of being; connectivity as a path through uncertainty.
Who are your top influences?
From Talia: Florence Welch and Vincent Haycock’s ‘The Odyssey’ was a huge influence on me for this project. There’s such a complex emotional journey in that film communicated through just gesture and immersive camera movement. I also love to pore over fine art and photography references while honing in on the visual style of a film, to take a step outside of my primary medium and see what might pop up. The works of Vanessa Beecroft and also Deborah Turbeville taught me a lot about bodies in space – how they can be menacing one minute and comforting in the next.
From Alexis: Choreographically and storytelling-wise, I was largely inspired by the work of director Wendy Morgan and choreographer ‘King Charles’ in the music video “Happy (Feat. Derek Martin)”, produced by C2C. The detailed, beat-by-beat craftsmanship allows for a clear, complex, and complete narrative to beautifully emerge from the fabric of the music, without the use of any dialogue. Musically, I’m very inspired by the catalog of Janelle Monae: she has crafted a supremely unique and revolutionary use of orchestral arrangement, electrical charge, and a myriad of vocal performance styles to communicate both large-scale ideas about our society, as well as deeply intimate and personal contemplations of the human experience, particularly for women of color.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
We hope people take away the idea of community as a weapon against isolation. E T A is a reminder to step outside our own doubts and insecurities and see the chances for powerful human connection all around us.
What’s your personal takeaway from this production?
Movement on screen is a potent tool and one that is underutilized in film today. A film does not have to be dance-based for it to take advantage of the emotional power even the smallest gesture can hold. Since E T A, I’ve tried to find unexpected ways to incorporate physical storytelling into every new project.