Home : How To Jive video & DVD : Making the Movie
Making the movie, How To Jive
Sitting in my white Morris Minor convertible waiting at a red traffic light at Parliament Square, I was struck by a vision!
I saw myself able to walk into a party anywhere in the world and find a man who could partner dance with me - no matter what music was playing.
There was plenty of good dancing in London - where
we (some friends and I) had been busy promoting modern jive at clubs like Le Roc, Ceroc and Cosmopolitan Jive. But once you left the city there was a dearth of good modern jive dancing.
The only answer was to get it out into the provinces and to do that I needed a video so that other dance teachers could start up other clubs.
Not long after that inspired drive around Parliament Square I enrolled for Cranfield School of Management on an entrepreneurs training programme. I had no production company to back the project but Cranfield agreed to let me use their small film studio to shoot a pilot film (aided by superb dancer and good friend, Reza Hosseinpour).
I used the pilot to help me write the script and to help raise the finance. Fund raising was the most laborious part - taking over a year. But finally it was in place (or so I thought) and it was all systems go.
Making How To Jive was a baptism of fire - all those Hollywood films about the glamour and nightmare of making movies - well they are all true! Do you ever find incredible the long list of people who have to be thanked in film credits? Well virtually all of those people have to be paid too! Imagine how you'd feel if you owed them all money and some of your funding failed to materialise!!! Fortunately I had a bank manager who was one in a million. Though I did not quite make all the movie on my credit card - I came very close!
Fortunately for the production, I surrounded myself by a bunch of total professionals so that my movie making inexperience would not show on screen.
How To Jive would never have been made without the calm, empowering wisdom of Simon Heyworth. Simon had built Richard Branson's first sound studio at Virgin's Manor House HQ and worked with Mike Oldfield to produce 'Tubular Bells' (Virgin Record's first big hit). Then he had put music to wonderful films like 'Room With A View' and 'Legend'. Then he helped me (because his girlfriend was one of my best mates). Music is of course a potential stumbling block for any dance film.
Simon said to me "this film is not economically viable and you won't see a realistic return on all your time and effort, but it's a film that ought to be made - so go ahead and do it!"
Tim Conrad, the Director was also an inspired choice (a contact of Simon's). We chose him because his pop videos were wild and funky but his 'How To' titles were intelligent and easy to understand.
Simon de Lisle was the obvious choice of partner because he just makes the dance look so easy with his minimalist style. Michel Ange Lau was present on the set as consultant to check it all looked OK. I was given a brief by my co-producer not to look so 'balletic' and try and dance more 'chunky'. After all, the video had to stand up to the scrutiny of retro clubs as well as modern jive clubs. I tried my best but found trying to achieve this change of style rather awesome.
In retrospect, I do realise that I was too much of a perfectionist. We could have had a handful of dancers instead of over fifty and we could have shot in one location instead of five. We could have made do with a couple of Lindy Hoppers instead of sending a cameraman down to Lyon, France to film the best Lindy Hop display team in the world (the Jiving Lindy Hoppers). But when you have a vision and you only have one shot at it - you just don't feel like taking shortcuts.
Looking back - I have no regrets and I believe the video has made the dance more available to dance teachers outside London. This is partly because it gave a prod to the London clubs. It prompted them not to sit on their laurels but to go and set up clubs elsewhere. Not long after the video was launched the Ceroc club set up a franchise operation which has since spread throughout the UK and has become probably the biggest modern jive club in the world. There is nothing like a bit of competition to keep people on their toes and keep them offering a good service!
My hope is that the How To Jive video will encourage the production of many more videos and the start up of many more clubs - and of course - the appearance of many more dance partners for me to dance with!