FRIDAY 15th SEPTEMBER — My JetBlakInk™ SplishSplashy video production team, were scheduled to video record the debut performance from a new prospect; traditional African dancer Mbulelo Ndabeni, and his highly anticipated performance titled: Nay Triple Bill, held at Rich Mix in Shoreditch East London.
This was the first productive works from the newly formed N’da dance company, and was a collaboration alongside; AkomaAsa dance Academy, a dance school which my daughter attends, Yamella Maat a female collective of drummers, and Artistry Youth Dance… Big Tingz!
We’ve filmed and photographed a lot of AkomaAsa events this year, the usual two-camera job, sometimes three… my boys taking care of shooting the video, while I snap the action for the photographs.
We know the set-up well, which helps, and I’ve even left them to film AkomaAsa dance performances on their own, while I’ve gone off to another venue, to shoot at the same time on the other side of London. There’s always a conundrum when filming new ventures though; what to bring? I didn’t get a chance to fully check out the venue, but I remembered that I filmed there before some years prior, and it is a proper fully-kitted out stage with lights and everything. So the question I now ask myself: do I film with DSLRs or DVCAMs? (dedicated digital video camera) Each system has it’s benefit and draw-backs, so the deciding factor has to be selecting the right trade-offs to benefit the job.
DSLRs are easy to transport, give the best image quality, and operate better in low light compared to my DVCAMs. The drawbacks are; they lack range, overheat and are prone to suddenly shut down if used for long periods… also the battery life on them is pants.
DVCAMs are the exact opposite! They are huge and heavy, super-reliable, you can shoot from waaaay back of any auditorium and still get those tight close-up shots, but, they are cumbersome to transport around. It didn’t help when I discovered that the Rich Mix had no parking, so we were going to have to use public transport.
With all that in mind, I still ended up choosing the reliability of those huge and heavy DVCAMs over the DSLRs. Time to start lugging; Yikes!
After packing two cameras, two tripods onto two separate wheelie trolleys like Noah going on vacation, (I also sneaked on one DSLR) we set off for the nearest London underground station, and a world of adventure that awaited. Luckily, the trip travelling from Brixton, South London over to East London was quite uneventful, thanks largely in part to the fact that it wasn’t rush hour!
It’s usually a bloody nightmare down underground at the best of times, what with carriages crammed to over-capacity, and people packed like sardines in a tin, faces unceremoniously pressed up against the glass for the duration! The Central Line is notorious for this; I give Thanks that it wasn’t today (smile)
On arriving at the venue, the stage manager instructed that we couldn’t place any tripods at the front, or sides of the stage; only right at the back in the lighting gantry… Good job I brought the DVCAMs; I thought to myself smiling that knowing smile you do when you get something right; yesssss!
What we were about to film, I’d only seen bits of in a practice session the day before in New Cross, and what I had seen in that session, I have to admit had quite scared me. Not scared: lets run to the hills and not look back scared!… Not AmityVille Horror scared!… more like, gentle unfamiliarity fear!
The little bit of Bro. Mbulelo’s jarring performance at rehearsal which I saw, I can only describe as something from another world… I was properly intrigued… Ahem!
So here we were today at Rich Mix the following day, JetBlakInk™ Productions, armed with primed DVCAMs revved up, and ready to roll, on a performance, albeit not really knowing WHAT to expect! This isn’t the proper way to do video though, as someone ones told me: “proper preparation prevents poor performance!” That said; it was now or never.
The stage set in darkness and this weird audio music track that sounds like something out of the 70’s cult Sci-Fi series UFO ramps up, and automatically puts you on edge. Mbulelo is seated on a bench on stage, facing away and you can just make him out in what is now very dim lighting. It’s all very eerie. He begins to move, and then convulse, shake and struggle… frantic stretching and repetitive sharp pulling movements, somewhat reminiscent of the birth process of a beautiful butterfly from a chrysalis.
He suddenly jumps onto the bench and his body begins to oscillate and gyrate even more in the atmospheric stage lighting provided; a combination guaranteed to send the willies up grown people, which it does… Mbulelo jumps down and crawls under the bench; moves the entire bench along while still underneath it, by somehow pawing his way across the stage. Manages to stand the bench on end, and stick his head out the other end, by which time you really DO WANT TO RUN!… but your arms and legs are immobilised by sheer intrigue… that, and the fact that you don’t want anyone in the auditorium to laugh at you and call you a wuss!
Mbulelo grabs the bench, hugs the bench, loves the bench… I even think he kisses it couple times. Then all of a sudden he drops the bench and it hits the stage with a loud BANG! which of course makes everyone jump! All that stuff I said earlier about it not being like Amityville… I take it back!
I looked to my left where my son codename: SniperSniper™ was positioned filming next to me on Camera One; at the same time that he looked to his right at me on Camera Two… Our eyes met, piercing gazes exchanged notes to no avail. His eyes were huge round saucers,
the look of a bemused young man in full non-verbal-question mode.
Unfortunately I as his father, had no answers, and could only stare back at him devoid of response… I imagine my eyes were the same round wide saucers as his. We both simultaneously and apprehensively turned back to our rolling Canons, as if by remote control, and continued filming in silence…
On reflection the bench to me represented; the System that we grow up on and in. We cannot move without that System being around us, but at some point some of us will try to shake it. We try to kick that System of control, but we have been programmed to love it, even though it might not be good for us; and so letting it go is a real struggle, as represented in the piece. This ties in to the rebirth notion when I mentioned the chrysalis and butterfly. It probably had absolutely nothing to do with that, but that is what I see now thinking about it.
This is not intended to be a review of the show that we filmed, just another log update from the wonderful world of the Life and Times of a MultipleMediaManager™. At some point though, and once I fully get my thoughts together, I may get around to doing just that.
A few days after filming the event, and I’m still thinking about it. The affect on me has been very strong. It’s taken me to a place I’ve never been, and a spiritual level that must be travelled whilst still on this mortal coil of an existence that we call life. I talked to my son about it later, and we both agreed with one thing… How the Blazes do you put something like that together? We have much to learn.
Well done Bro. Mbulelo, the team, and all involved…