Behind the Scenes: Hip Hop Theatre Shoot


Alice Underwood

Artists 4 Artists 2016 Film from Alice Underwood Films on Vimeo.End Output 3-5 minute film capturing the highlights from the 3 day intensive workshop which celebrated the range of Hip-Hop Theatre work in the UK, looking at established, mid-career and early-career artists.

Experience level of main team members Mid-Level

Budget Low

Length of shoot Filmed over three days, including 2 evenings and a full day and evening.

Number of crew: One

Key bits of kit

Main Camera: Sony a7sii

2nd camera: Canon 6D

Audio: Sennheiser EW 100 G2 Radio Mic; Rode Video Mic Pro

Support: Manfrotto Monopod with Fluid Head

HIP HOP FILMThe Brief The 3 day Artists 4 Artists event was set up to get varying levels of creatives in one place to discuss the industry, share work and experience. Primarily the film needed to explain what was involved in the 3 days, as there were many different workshops, panel discussions and performances, so generally to give an overview. However a more important message needed to come through that highlighted the fact that this collective is there to give advice, help develop people’s careers and support aspiring dance artists, hopefully inspiring others to get involved.

The team Myself as the shooter and the editor.

The Shoot The shoot consisted of 2 evenings of filming and a full day and evening. In the evenings I was filming the shows, so they had a full audience with roughly 3-6 pieces being shown, which lasted around 2.30hours. The full day of shooting covered some workshops where early career artists showed some work in progress and feedback was given from the rest of the group. There was also a panel discussion with 8 professionals in the hip-hop theatre industry talking about their own experiences and how they got to where they are today. Overall I was very much a ‘fly on the wall’ whist filming. I didn’t know quite what was going on in term of what people were showing and who was going to talk, so I had to be pretty flexible with how to film it. I film hand held a lot of the time as that’s what I feel most comfortable doing, and especially with dance it suits my style and the unpredictability of what someone is going to do, but I used the monopod for the discussions and evening performances. During the full day shoot I also picked up a good amount of interviews with a range of people from the group.

Hip Hop FilmChallenges/ what I would do differently There are always quite a lot of challenges with this kind of shoot as it is quite unpredictable what kind of content you will be filming, the lighting states and with only one body and a few things going on at the same time it can feel like a mad rush. However one of the biggest challenges that I faced was filming the performances. Maybe ‘challenges’ is the wrong word, ‘restrictions’ would probably be better. For the performances I had to pick where best to film from, that was inconspicuous and not disruptive to the audience. I didn’t want to sit right at the back as I knew I would miss the action and close up and intimate shots, so I decided to sit right at the front in the corner, cramped in with my camera and monopod so I could get some great b-roll of each performance. I did get some great footage but it was very limiting as all the footage was from the same angle and pretty much static. If there was the budget I would have taken a second shooter with me to get a different angle and perspective of the pieces, as the theatre was too small even to set up a second tripod with the camera on wide.

Lighting is also a challenge with this type of event. Me being a one man band who has to travel on the trains and tubes to get to these jobs means I can’t take lighting (not that I have lights anyway, that will have to wait for some more savings), but it means for interviews I have to hunt about for a good place with enough light, and sometimes it just isn’t right, so I have to make do with what the venue has and the available rooms and space. Generally it worked well for this film, although I wasn’t happy with one of the interviews as it was incredibly rushed and there just wasn’t enough space. Filming it late at night also meant no chance for natural light. Filming dance shows leaves a lot of unknowns too when it comes to lighting. Many pieces can be very dark, fine for the audiences eye to see it well, but not so great for a camera, and lighting can be sporadic and hard to keep up with depending on what the choreographer wanted for the piece, and having not seen the piece previously it can be a challenge.

Hip Hop FilmAudio Doing interviews normally works well as long as there isn’t too much going on in the background. The panel discussion was harder to capture, and with me only having a limited amount of audio knowledge and equipment meant that I lost a bit of audio quality from this as I had to film it using my Rode Video Mic Pro, which actually ended up recording pretty clear audio. Also, I quite like the different sound styles of audio, and in the end I thought it all fit in nicely to convey the different atmospheres that occurred during the day.

What would have been nice to have? It would have been nice to have the budget for a second shooter, to get varying angles and perspectives of what went on during the performances…. And while we’re wishing maybe throw in someone who could nail audio for the panel discussion, that would have been useful.

What I enjoyed most There was one performance piece that was not in the theatre space, it was an immersive piece that meant the audience went into a different room and could move around and watch the piece as they wished. This also meant I could move around and going in hand held for it allowed me to be a bit more creative with how I captured this one. Being able to move around, follow the dancers in a way that I am pretty much moving with them is my favourite way of filming, so I was glad I got to do that a bit.

The edit is also one of my favourite parts of any project. I love being able to sit down and work my way through all the footage, piecing together a story and pairing it up with some great dance footage. I like fast edits, so I never try and stay on a shot for too long, and working with some great music scores to create a final product which hopefully influences people and gets people thinking and engaged is what I aim for…. Hopefully!

Behind the Scenes: Hip Hop Theatre Shoot