Friday, May 27, 2011

Noir's process

Today, I feel like sharing what was my process that I did for my piece I did at Tribal Fest, Noir. I did the piece a few other times but, ultimately, I knew that it was going to be my Tribal Fest performance piece. ;) You can see the footage here: And go look it up before I divulge what the story is... so that you're not biased. ;)

I stumbled upon that piece by Vernian Process and fell madly in love with it, especially since it had some sampling from Sin City and I LOVE that movie. I also very much liked the film noir feel... which is obviously what he was going for. He said he wrote the piece after having seen Sin City. A man after my own heart!

I have to say that, while I was in the beginning stage of working on Noir, I found out that he had re-edited the piece. I don't like it as much. It's not as raw. Kind of too polished. That's my opinion. ;) You can hear the newer version here:

First Impressions
So I started out by wondering who I would really be: the femme fatale or the city? Sin City has this thread of the city as a femme fatale. So there was the option of actually doing both right there. However, the piece contains more sampling than just from Sin City and you can see them in the original video of the piece (you can see it here: ). So I decided to do some more digging.

I was actually not very familiar with film noir movies. I mean, I knew the term and had seen some neo-noir movies (discovered that it's actually my favorite type of movie!) but I had not seen the vintage ones. I started by looking at the list of movies cited on the video to see what I could find from Netflix. I actually requested the DVD for Sin City and have not even looked at it! Bad Celeste! It's still in our house. *headdesk* I ended up watching a few vintage film noir movies. Laura was definitely my favorite out of the bunch and a big inspiration for Noir.

I also did some internet searches to find out what aficionados say about films noirs and the stereotypical characters. That was also extremely helpful in pinpointing characteristics of the personae.

The Plot Thickens
I shared my discoveries with Jeff and Tempest. At one point, Jeff told me "If you want to go a less obvious route, try being the PI (private investigator) instead of the femme fatale." So that opened up a new possibility that I hadn't thought about. Interestingly, I was reluctant to play a male character. But I still explored the possibility.

One thing that was trumping me (yet was a very attractive portion of the piece) was the gun shots. I wasn't sure how to address those. And I most certainly didn't want to be too obvious/cheesy about it. At first, I was contemplating portraying having been shot but it couldn't be too deadly as there's still a good minute left after the gun shots. :p So I eventually decided that it was me/my character (male or female) would be shooting someone. (Btw, this reminds me that I need to write a blog about not separating you and the character... coming soon to this blog near you.)

One other thing was that I really enjoyed was the sassiness/sensuality of the music. I was really yearning to portray that in my piece so I knew that I needed to portray the femme fatale... but I also liked the idea of the PI. I believe that it was Tempest who told me about this dilemma "Why not do both?" And there we had it!

(For the record: if you watch my video and hear 'dark and sassy belly dancer' in my intro, that was NOT something just for that piece. That's a tag line that I've been given by Tempest regarding my dance and I use it routinely. ;))

The Full Plot
So the piece eventually gelled in to the following:
  • It starts out with a PI doing some investigating. I was trying to portray a more male energy there.
  • When I remove the hat, turns out that I am a femme fatale who was portraying a PI. Mwahahaha!
  • The part after that is the femme fatale remembering what she used to be. A sort of flash back. When she was carefree and drew men in. (Flash backs are a staple in film noir movies, btw.)
  • Right before the shots, she comes back to the present time and remembers how hurt she was by her lover... and shoots him.
  • The rest is more of a 'haha! I win!'
  • When I pick the hat back up, it's a tie back to the start of, yes, she was the PI in the beginning and indeed won! Oops! :p

Bottom Line
You may or may not get the whole story when you see the performance. It's really irrelevant whether you get it or not. The point is that this is how I got the attitude for the performance. The story also helped fashion the moves for this piece. It helped determine the costume as well! I went for a PI/femme fatale costuming as such:
  • the hat is slightly oversized as it's Jeff's hat and it represents the femme fatale having borrowed the guy's hat (okay, really, I didn't want to purchase a new hat but it fits... Tempest was the one who figured that one out when I was waffling about purchasing a new hat :p)
  • pinstripe pants b/c, well, it works for the era and helps represent the PI
  • the black skirt was both to flatter my legs and add a touch of feminity
  • the sweetheart neckline choli was to mimic the neckline of the era
  • the corset vest was to represent the PI's trench coat
  • the curly hair was to represent the hair of the era (and we discovered after one performance when I couldn't do the curly hair that it was really a must).
The rest of the costume was to bling it up.

Now, this was probably the most researched piece that I've ever done so far. But it did pay off for me. I'm not saying that everyone should research everything and think details that much... and I don't do that for all pieces either. But it's one example of how you can go about things.

In a way, I think that I needed to go to that level of detailed research b/c, while the music is awesome, it's also a little bare... it's not one piece that can carry me... I had to carry it. I couldn't have an off night and do that piece.

I strongly encourage (as I often do in this blog) to think through a number of details. It does make the piece more cohesive. It also gives you focus as you will know what you're doing and it's less stressful that way.

Also consider sharing your ideas with a friend or a significant other or whoever. They may throw a new idea at you (like Jeff suggesting the PI idea). Listen to the idea and play with it, even if your reaction is a knee-jerk. ;) You can always dismiss it if it doesn't work... but you don't know until you try.

And, again, find your own process. And realize that the process can change from piece to piece. And, believe me, this whole research was fun. So when we say 'enjoy the process', I very much enjoyed that process, for sure!


Gnomebody said...

As a fan of classic film noir myself, I thought you nailed it! Woot!

And Sin City - awesome flick!
Thanks for sharing your process!

Joshua said...

Hey, so glad my piece of music inspired you, like the film noir genre inspired me to write that piece. =D Cheers!