When I chatted on the phone with Ryan, we talked about your shared interest of making this a documentary piece. I definitely feel like we are on the right track there. But the more Ryan and I chatted, the more we saw the structure of this piece as an opportunity to do something more unique and less conventional in our approach. A cinematic “hybrid documentary” that bridges the gap between non-fiction, narrative, and dance film.

I see this piece as having 3 key elements:

Firstly, a telling if your own story, and how your career and achievements are shaping the vision for your own life and the mission of the academy into the future. This provides the backbone of the piece, the narrative that will ground us and return us to the pursuit of our question. I want to seriously focus on insight into yourself and the academy that has yet to be talked about or discovered.

Secondly, the narrative of a principal dancer who would be cast in a key role in The Nutcracker in a normal year. I see this as someone who is likely in the midst of asking themselves the same question we are attempting to answer. With the obstacles created through something like COVID, I think it is essential to see the raw story from the very type of performer the academy hopes to develop and educate. We will weave in and out of their trials and tribulations, dramatizing key moments in the processes of The Nutcracker production, from the auditions to the final performance. Along the way, I want to parallel their experience and change with that of the academy and yourself. I want the answers to show this young dancer the way. To inform their decision to keep pursuing their dream, even if the growth and challenges they have endured continue to be difficult and wrought with sacrifice.

And finally, the actual performance of dance as the 3rd element. I see this as the device that weaves everything together, from transitions between sequences, to what we use to transcend the inexplainable. This is something that I see as staying rather malleable when it comes to how it fits in the edit, but the prospect of collaborating on how we use this device to create moments in the film that feel abstract, exceptional, and strikingly unique is very exciting to me.

I want to remain open as to how we see these elements cut together to find the best way to tell a story while still focusing on the performative elements of “The Nutcracker.” Whether that’s interweaving dance and the documentary elements throughout the film, or perhaps using the non-fiction sequences as a sort of “prologue” to the performance of the numbers, it’s all up for discussion.