Streetdance 3D Cast: Nichola Burley, Ukweli Roach, Charlotte Rampling, Richard Winsor
Director: Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini
Genre: Drama, Dance
Running Time: 98 minutes
Synopsis: Things couldn't be going better for street dancer Carly (Nichola Burley). She's in love with charismatic boyfriend Jay (Ukweli Roach) and their dance crew has just made it through to the finals of the UK Street Dance Championships. But everything changes when Jay walks out on Carly and the crew, breaking her heart and leaving the street dancers' dreams in jeopardy. Thrown in at the deep end, Carly struggles to prove to the crew - and to herself - that she can lead them to victory. But, after a series of setbacks including losing their rehearsal space, she begins to seriously doubt her leadership skills.
Salvation comes in the unlikely shape of ballet schoolmistress Helena (Charlotte Rampling). Impressed by the skill and enthusiasm of Carly and her troupe, she strikes the street dancers a deal: they can practise in the Ballet Academy's luxurious dance studio in return for collaborating with her ballet dancers. Helena hopes Carly can inject some of the street dancers' intensity and passion into her young charges before they audition for The Royal Ballet.
A clash of cultures ensues as the two very different dance styles face off against each other. After years of classical training, the ballet dancers are horrified at the crew's slouchy style, while Carly is increasingly exasperated at their uptight aloofness. Eventually, and despite themselves, the ballet dancers begin to feel a grudging respect for the street dancers' spectacular moves. And Carly can't help falling for handsome ballet dancer Tomas (Richard Winsor).
Will the two groups of dancers find a way to work together before the Street Dance Championship finals, and the Royal Ballet auditions? Vertigo Films presents the world's first 3D dance movie, and the first British film to be shot entirely in 3D. With debut film appearances from Britain's Got Talent stars Flawless, Diversity and George Sampson, this groundbreaking event movie is an inspiring, exhilarating joyride through the UK's street dance scene.
Release Date: May 27th, 2010
From Concept to Screen
"The idea for StreetDance was in some ways a reaction," explains producer James Richardson, co-founder of Vertigo Films. "Every media story was about young kids stabbing each other and every film was about drugs and gangs and I thought, it's time to make something positive. I'd always loved the great American dance films of the eighties - Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, Footloose - and thought it would be great to do a dance film with the same aspirational feel and look of an American movie, but in a very British setting. I started looking into the UK street dance scene and soon realised that not only did we have some of the best dancers and choreographers in the world, it was also visually incredibly rich. But I wanted the street dance world to be challenged. The dance world has got lots of islands of speciality: classical, modern, street, etc. So I thought, what would happen if two of those worlds collided? How would they deal with it? How would they dance? And what kind of dance would it turn into? So I came up with the story of two worlds - the traditional British world represented by the classical dancers and The Royal Ballet, and modern Britain, represented by the street dancers. It was what came out of that culture clash that I thought would be exciting."
During his research, James Richardson found himself thrown in at the deep end. "I went to the UK Street Dance Weekend and was hauled in to be a judge," he laughs. "It was hilarious because I didn't have a clue. But I was amazed at all the talent I saw. And that's how I was introduced to Diversity and Flawless, a year before either of them got into Britain's Got Talent."
Of course, both dance crews went on to dominate the 3rd series of the BBC's talent competition in 2009, with Diversity eventually winning the series. "Everyone started getting extremely excited about dance," enthuses James Richardson. "It's been great, and obviously fantastic for me to already have them involved with the film. I couldn't have designed it better. I was very, very lucky that happened."
The next step was to hire a writer for the script. James Richardson took a chance on Jane English, a screenwriter he had never worked with before, because he knew she could speak to a younger audience. "Jane English had written parts of the TV series Sugar Rush, which I was a big fan of," he explains. "So we worked very closely together on the script and developing the characters over about eight months. During that time, we created a role for George Sampson, who had won the 2nd series of Britain's Got Talent. We really wanted him to be a part of it, and he's been fantastic."
James Richardson was keen to make the film in 3D from the beginning, even though it wasn't something that had been done before in the UK. "My producing partner, Allan Niblo, and I had been talking about 3D for a while," he says. "This felt like an obvious film to start with as dance has a lot of depth to it, especially street dance. So we spoke to the guys at Paradise FX, who had made My Bloody Valentine 3D. Once we told them what we're doing, they leapt at the chance to be involved."
Working entirely in 3D posed many challenges and it soon became a steep learning curve for James Richardson and the rest of the crew. "We're the first film outside of America to be shot in 3D live action so there's a lot of learning going on," he admits. "You have to think about the design and the positioning of the set because certain things don't work so well in 3D. And, of course, you have to bear in mind 3D tricks, like when things come off the screen at you. Cost is the biggest difference - it's more expensive - but worth it."
Once the script was finished and Paradise FX were on board, James Richardson set about looking for the right director, a task he found more difficult than expected. "We took a long time trying to choose the director because we wanted to find someone that really understood dance and how to make it look beautiful," explains James Richardson. "So we decided to look for a promo director, and Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini very quickly became the clear frontrunners. They're an incredibly exciting director duo, and they really understand how to create a beautiful atmosphere on screen. I'd never worked with two directors before, but I knew that they were perfect for this film. They understood it, they got the vibe. They wanted it to be beautiful and glossy and aspirational. This is their first film so it was a big decision for all of us. But, for me, they just had it."
Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini have worked together on many music videos over the past 15 years, with artists as diverse as Girls Aloud, Oasis and Sophie Ellis Bextor. And they were extremely excited, if a little anxious, about working on their first film.
"We were a little bit nervous about it," admits Dania Pasquini. "But we've always wanted to do features so this is something that we've been working towards." Max Giwa nods in agreement. "We got the call from James Richardson to say that he'd seen our work and was excited about us," he recalls. "He sent us the script, then we met up with him and soon after he called me to tell us we had the job. I was so taken aback that I didn't believe him at first and asked him to call Dania Pasquini too just to confirm! Then, along with Jane English, we all got really involved in the later drafts. It's a brand new learning curve for us to make films. Obviously we have lots of experience in music videos so there are certain things that we're very confident about, but there are lots of new things too."
But the rookie directors took to feature length like ducks to water, bowling the cast and crew over with their infectious spirit. "I love Max Giwa's energy," says Jennifer Leung, who plays ballet dancer Bex in the film. "He always walks into the room with a smile on his face. So, even if you're really tired, you want to work as soon as you see him. And Dania Pasquini keeps him in line. Their banter is great. You can tell they've known each other a long time and they've got a great relationship."
Charlotte Rampling, who plays ballet schoolmistress Helena, agrees: "I like working with two directors because you have two points of focus," she explains. "They're very much in tune with each other." And both directors were on James Richardson's wavelength from the word go. "One of the things they agreed with me on, right from the start, was that we didn't want the film to have anything to do with the struggle of inner city kids with drugs and gangs," says James Richardson, firmly. "That was so important because most of the street dancers I met during my research had nothing to do with that world. So many British films focus on the dark, gritty side of British youth and I don't know why because there are so many positive stories out there. Ashley Banjo from Diversity was doing a physics MA alongside his dancing. It's such a cliché to assume that urban kids are involved in gangs, and it's more exciting to focus on the positive element, which in this case is the dance."
Finding the Cast
As experienced music video directors, Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini had worked with some of the UK's best street dancers on previous projects, and they brought that knowledge to StreetDance. "We had worked with some of the dancers and most of the extras before," explains Dania Pasquini.
"It makes for a great atmosphere on set," adds Max Giwa. "It's a family vibe. But nobody was cast just because we know them. We went through weeks of really rigorous auditions."
In fact, the audition process for the film was unique in that open auditions were held up and down the country to find the UK's best street dance talent. "We set up a website to advertise the auditions and, almost immediately, it crashed because so many people had tried to apply," says James Richardson, shaking his head in disbelief. "We eventually auditioned over a thousand people in cities around the UK, including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Then the shortlisted ones went down to London and we started whittling it down. It's a really tough audition because not only do you have to be an amazing dancer, but also you have to be able to act."
"The whole process took weeks," says Dania Pasquini. "But there were certain people that we called in to do a closed audition because we really wanted them, like Steph Nguyen, who plays Steph Nguyen in the film. In real life she's a b-girl champion. She won one of the biggest world championships in street dance, the Juste Debout in Paris. To have won that competition against all those guys; she's phenomenal."
But James Richardson admits the biggest casting challenge was finding someone to play the lead role of Carly. "I saw Nichola Burley in her first film, Love + Hate, back in 2005," he explains. "And I remember thinking that she completely stole the film so I was keen to find something to work with her on. Then, completely coincidently, the casting director, Gary Davy, put her forward for StreetDance. Of course, I knew that she could act, but I didn't know she could dance, so we put her through some gruelling tests to make sure she could handle it. Kenrick Sandy, our street dance choreographer, really put her through her paces."
Nichola Burley admits that the audition process was terrifying. "I had several auditions and, when I saw the standard of dancing, I was blown away," she says. "It was scary to watch because I knew that I was up against them in the dancing part of the auditions. I've danced since I was very young, and I trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, so I am a trained dancer but mainly in ballet, contemporary and jazz. I soon realised it's all about how you hold yourself. Movements in contemporary dance are very fluid and continuous, whereas street dance is quite rigid, so you have to retrain your body."
James Richardson says that one of the best things about the film's unique audition process was that it threw up lots of fresh, exciting new talent - and some fun surprises. "During the casting process, we kept adding roles into the script because there were people that we really wanted to be in the film but there wasn't a role for them," he laughs. "George Sampson is the obvious one, but we also created the role of Isabella for Rachel McDowall and the role of Steph for Steph Nguyen."
And, of course, there was always a key role for dance troupe Flawless, who play 'The Surge', bitter rivals to Carly's crew in the film. "James Richardson came to us at first because he wanted to know more about the UK dance scene," explains Marlon "Swoosh" Wallen, the choreographer behind Flawless. "He'd had this idea for quite some time, but he wanted to know what actually goes on: how it works with regards to competitions and what we go through. Then he asked us to come on board as 'The Surge' crew, and we were very happy and excited to do that."
So, after such an arduous audition process, James Richardson must have become something of a street dance expert himself? "No, no!" he laughs. "In fact, I have actually gone out clubbing with some of these dancers and it's the most humiliating thing on earth. It's not like going out with your friends: these guys are the best dancers in Europe. Very embarrassing."
The Street Dancers
Nichola Burley plays Carly, our heroine and leader of the street dance troupe that must work with the ballet dancers to be in with a chance of winning the UK Street Dance Championship. "Carly's a very sweet girl, but she's very driven by her dancing ambitions," says Nichola Burley. "She's not had the luckiest of upbringings but, nevertheless, she has always carried on doing it and it's always driven her. She's challenged a lot throughout the film and the exciting and inspiring thing about it is how she overcomes those challenges. Personally, I would be terrified at the thought of having to teach ballet students how to street dance. But she is actually stronger than even she realises. She just needs the encouragement to let that out. And, once she does, she ends up becoming the best that she can be. It's all about her finding that inner strength, and finding out who she is."
Carly's best friend, and a source of much support throughout the film, is Shawna, played by Teneisha Bonner. "Shawna's a loud mouth," laughs Teneisha Bonner. "Her day job is a hairdresser and she's a straight talking, sassy, sexy kind of a girl. She says it the way it is." One of the most fun parts about the character is Shawna's outrageous look. "She's very colourful and loves big earrings and crazy wigs," grins Teneisha Bonner. "She's got a wig for every day of the week so I actually wear about eight to ten wigs in the film. It's a lot of fun playing someone like her."
Bringing comic relief to the street dance crew are Mack and Boogie, the jokers of the pack. "It's really nice to work with a whole bunch of people that totally get you," says Lex Milczarek, who plays Boogie. "Everyone's so dedicated and hard working but, at the same time, everyone loves to have a laugh so we have a great time together. There are no egos on set. You do worry that, if you do films, you're going to get stuck-up types; thespians or whatever. But everyone's so chilled out and we get on really well. Which is great because we play a crew so we're supposed to be like family."
Bradley Charles, who plays Frankie, originally joined the project as assistant to Kenrick Sandy, the film's street dance choreographer. "Ken and I were running the auditions when they saw me dance and asked me to audition for a role in the film," Bradley Charles explains. "So I did a screen reading and a dance audition, then they offered me the role. It all happened by chance."
Frankie is one of the film's more serious roles. He's unhappy about Jay leaving the crew, and is extremely unsupportive of Carly's attempts to take over as leader. "He feels that he would have been a better choice to lead the crew," reveals Bradley Charles. "He gets in a huff about it, has a go at Carly and then leaves the crew. But he's ambitious so he eventually comes back because he wants to win the competition."
Frankie's girlfriend is Steph, the role created for internationally renowned b-girl Steph Nguyen. "The character is basically me," explains Steph Nguyen. "Although the costumes are a little more sexy than I would normally wear! I wanted to be a part of this film because dance is my passion, it's my life."
Rounding off the street dance crew are Aimee (Sacha Chang) and Justine (Rhimes). "Justine sings in the church choir and her mum thinks that she's an angel," explains Rhimes. "Little does she know that her Justine can be really bossy, with a big personality. The rest of the crew call her Big Justine."
As for Aimee? "She's basically a bit of a bitch," laughs Sacha Chang. "She spends a lot of time bitching with Justine."
Britain's Got Talent winner George Sampson had the role of Eddie created especially for him. "Eddie's a lot like me," he admits. "He's quite cheeky and he really wants to be in Carly's crew. He's got a bit of a crush on her too. But, no matter how hard he tries to get involved, she says no." But - fear not - Eddie gets his chance to show what he can do on the dancefloor, despite Carly's best efforts to prevent him. "He doesn't so much get his chance as make his chance," says George Sampson. Not being biased, but he is the best character!"
George Sampson had already worked with the directors, so he felt at home on set. "Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini directed my music video, Headz Up, last year," he explains. "So they asked me to do a screen test to see if I could act and, luckily, they thought I could. This is my first film and I'd love to do more. I'm so excited to be involved with this because it's the first British dance movie."
George Sampson cites his inspiration as not only the usual suspects of Usher and Justin Timberlake, but also his childhood dance teacher. "His name was Swanny and he was my biggest inspiration," says George Sampson. "He has passed away now, but it was him that made me want to do it. He was in one of the first break-dancing crews that danced in Manchester's Hacienda in the 1980s. It's because of him that my style is quite old school."
Rhimes is extremely excited about the emerging popularity of street dance in the UK and thinks that Sampson's springboard, Britain's Got Talent, is partly responsible. "Britain's Got Talent is watched and voted for by not just the kind of people that you would expect to be into street dance, but by normal British people sitting at home on a Saturday night." she says. "Dance has a wider appeal now because it has evolved, it's got younger. And it's entertaining for people. For me, it's a passion. I teach a lot of young people and I'm always telling them, if you're going to do this, it has to be from your heart. And, as the passion grows, people inspire each other. A lot of films about young people in Britain are all about the ghetto and knives and guns. But we've come into this industry trying to inspire young people to be ambitious about something."
The Ballet Dancers
As ballet schoolmistress Helena, Charlotte Rampling is a pivotal role in the film. "If my character hadn't had this idea to dare to put ballet and street dancing together, there wouldn't be a story," she explains. "Helena sees something of herself in Carly - that strong spirit of wanting to be alive."
Although some might be surprised to see Charlotte Rampling's name on a film about street dance, she believe it's the perfect fit. "I was so delighted to be involved in this film because I have always loved dance," she says. "Although I have never danced professionally - only in clubs! It's enriching to find out that people would think of you for a role that you would never have imagined you would do. I loved meeting all the young street dancers because I would never get the chance to meet them otherwise. And I love that the film shows young people really trying hard to do something. It shows that, if you work really hard, with passion, then you can achieve extraordinary things. It's rather wonderful to be able to put that message across."
Handsome, athletic Tomas is one of the best students in the Ballet Academy. "He's the popular stud," says Richard Winsor, who plays him. "Well, popular in ballet terms, so I'm not sure how cool that actually makes him! But he gets knocked off his pedestal when the street dancers arrive. He doesn't want to be part of it at first but, eventually, he starts to see there is as much talent and beauty in street dance as there is in ballet."
And, of course, he is involved in the film's love story. "Yes, he falls for Carly," he smiles. "It's a key part of the film."
Like all of the cast, Richard Winsor endured a rigorous audition process. "I was dancing in Matthew Bourne's Dorian Grey at the time," he says, "So we were touring all around the country and to places like Italy and Moscow. But, any time I was called to London to audition, I was there like a shot. This is such a great project to be involved in."
Liverpudian Rachel McDowall joins Richard Winsor as another of the ballet dancers. "Isabella is a ballet bitch," laughs Rachel McDowall. "And she has two sidekicks: Chloe (played by Welsh actress Sianad Gregory), who is also very bitchy about the street dancers, and Bex, who is more naïve."
But Isabella is taken down a peg or two when she receives some news that leaves her dreams of auditioning for The Royal Ballet in tatters. "I'm six foot tall," explains Rachel McDowall. "So, in the storyline, Isabella finds out that she can't audition for The Royal Ballet with everyone else because she's too tall. In a way, she knows it's going to happen because she has never really had a partner who's tall enough or who could lift her. But ballet is all she knows because she's trained in it her whole life. When the street dancers come along, she's initially wary, but eventually she starts changing her way of thinking and realises that ballet isn't the only thing in the world."
Interestingly, this storyline is a case of art imitating life for Rachel McDowall. "The same thing actually happened to me when I was younger," she explains. "I trained in ballet since I was very young and it got to the point where I was auditioning for The Royal Ballet when I was 11. But they could tell that I was going to grow this tall, so that was it. I was mortified. At the time, it felt like my whole world. But, after about a month, I got over it."
Scottish Actress Jennifer Leung plays sweet-natured Bex, who struggles with the bitchy attitude of Isabella and Chloe and is more welcoming of the street dancers. "Bex lives and breathes ballet," says Jennifer Leung. "It's all she's ever known, but that's not to say she is totally against the street dancers. She's nicer than the other two ballet girls, and she understands Helena's thinking behind asking them to work together. It actually changes her life because she's extremely innocent. She has never been to a nightclub and is very 'Angelina Ballerina'. So, when the street dancers come into her life, it opens her eyes to other things and she starts to become more worldly."
The other male ballet dancer in the group is Gabe, played by Brazilian Hugo Cortes. "Gabe comes from a very poor background in Cuba, and he has worked extremely hard to leave that behind and get into the world of classical ballet," explains Hugo Cortes. "It was really hard for him, but he made it. He got a scholarship into this London ballet school so now he has become very cocky, very proud of himself. At first, he struggles with the street dancers because hip-hop reminds him of his background that he has worked so hard to get away from. After all that work to become a classical ballet dancer, he doesn't want to go back to what he used to know. But he likes a challenge so, eventually, he embraces street dance. When he sees the moves, he feels something click inside of him that he can't deny."
Again, Hugo Cortes's personal story isn't a million miles away from the one that he's portraying in the film. "My stepfather is a contemporary dancer, and so is my uncle and my godfather," he says. "But none of them, my mother included, wanted me to get into dancing. It was hard because I loved dance so much. But they kept telling me that it's so hard to be successful at it, and I would never make it as a professional. I had to really prove myself by studying and showing that I have the ability to be a success. So I worked really hard and graduated from school a year early. Then I told my mother I would like to take that extra year to focus on dance and, in that year, I got a job with a big dance company in Brazil. After that, my family started to think, 'OK, maybe he can do it after all.' Now I have been lucky enough to perform at the Royal Opera House, and all around the world. Contemporary ballet is what I'm best at, so it has been a great challenge to learn classical ballet for this role."
Hugo Cortes is thrilled to be part of the UK's first dance movie. "I've done lots of musicals and opera but this is my first film role so I am dying with excitement," he grins. "My family and friends back in Brazil are going crazy. My mother thinks that I'm already in Hollywood!"
Choreographing the Movie
"I had met Kate Prince soon after her show Into The Hoods," explains James Richardson. "I loved the show and wanted her and Kenrick Sandy (an Olivier-winning choreographer who is a former UK Street Dance Champion and co-creator of hip-hop dance company Boy Blue) involved from the start. The idea was for Kenrick to cover the key street dance scenes, while the ballet would be overseen by Will Tuckett, an internationally renowned ballet dancer and choreographer who Kate Prince brought in, best known for his work with The Royal Ballet and films such as the acclaimed Channel 4 series Ballet Hoo. Then Kate would be responsible for the other scenes: all the dance storytelling and the finale when the two dance forms are fused."
Kate Prince, who is the founder of ZooNation UK dance company and recently choreographed So You Think You Can Dance for the BBC, knew that working on her first film would throw up some new and exciting challenges. "Working with non-dancers was by far the greatest challenge," she says. "And the 3D element was very new for me. I had to think about the camera shots and what moves would come out of the camera more."
Kenrick Sandy established Boy Blue Entertainment in 2001, along with his friend Mikey Asante, when they realised there was a hunger for dance in East London. "It was never an ambition to create a company," he explains. "It was more to facilitate our love for dance, and other people's love for dance." Since then, Kenrick Sandy has seen how street dance has transformed the lives of the young people he has worked with. "Dance enables people to be stronger characters," he says. "Whether people dance as a career or as a hobby, they take away a sense of discipline and enhanced self-esteem from dancing, and they're able to apply that to other areas of their lives. We show people how to express themselves and allow themselves to let go."
Kenrick Sandy was excited about the project from the moment James Richardson approached him with the idea. "This is the very first UK street dance film," he grins. "America has had lots of them so, for me, it felt important to be involved in it. I'm happy that it's happened, even more so because the market for dance has grown ridiculously. It's coming out in the right year, at the right time, when dancers are getting more exposure. Plus, it's an opportunity to show how different styles of dance are actually very similar to each other. When you think of street dance, you think of working class kids on the street and youth centres. With ballet, you think of the upper classes. And what this film shows is that, ultimately, dance is dance. We're all the same. It's about breaking down those boundaries."
Kenrick Sandy admits that, at first, he was wary about working with Nichola Burley, who had previously had no street dance training. "I thought Nichola Burley was a very big gamble," he says. "As the main character, she had to be top class in dance. So I told her to come down to all my sessions and classes before we started rehearsals for the film. She was always there, at the back, training with the Boy Blue dancers. She even did a performance with us at Hackney Empire because I wanted her to understand what it's like to be in front of an audience. She felt the pressure because she's the main girl so she was worried about letting everyone down. There were quite a few times she felt like giving up and there were tears. But I was not playing. I told her: 'Stop crying. You're the star. Even at your lowest, your troupe cannot see you like this.' I had to speak to her numerous times on set. But, by the end, people will be surprised to know that she wasn't a dancer before this. I'm really proud of her."
For Will Tuckett, the biggest challenge was working with dancers that had little classical training. "They are all really good dancers, but in contemporary dance," he explains. "They all had some degree of classical training, but none of them had done it in a long time so the colour drained from their faces when I made them all get en pointe! It was very daunting for them. But I didn't want anyone who knows about ballet to watch the film and be able to spot that they're not really ballet dancers. It's very easy to do a send-up of a ballet dancer - that cliché of being uptight and straight-laced - but it's much more difficult to make it look convincingly like this is something they do every day. The rehearsal period was crucial. That's when we worked like mad. It was very hard for them because they were learning the street stuff at the same time. Obviously there is a lot more street dancing than ballet in the film - the clue is in the title! - but we were really uptight about them looking good in the classical scenes. In the end, I was extremely proud of them because they worked so hard and, when you watch the film, I think you believe that they are ballet dancers."
Will Tuckett has worked with some of the best ballet dancers in the world, but he was still blown away when he saw the street dancers do their thing. "I've been in dance for a long time, as a career, and it's rare that you sit there and a grin comes across your face because you can't quite believe what somebody's actually doing in front of you," he says, in awe. "They were just extraordinary and, not only that, but they were completely lovely. I'm not quite sure what I thought they would be like. I'm sounding like my mother. They were delightful!"
So was Will Tuckett tempted to try out a few of the street dance moves? "I did try," he laughs, "but I looked like a tit. I'm past 40 now, and that's the age I should have stopped trying to do that kind of dancing."
In an echo of the film's plot, the two experts in very different styles of dance forged an unlikely bond. "Kenrick Sandy is a total dude," laughs Will Tuckett. "He's annoyingly good-looking, really cool and basically all the things that I wish I could be but never will. I wear tweed and generally look like a bit of a git. Then he comes in, all laidback and softly spoken. And, when he starts dancing, he's a complete knockout. Also, he's incredibly positive and never loses his cool."
But it won't be the last that the two choreographers see of each other. "Kenrick Sandy and I have been talking about working together again, which was totally unexpected," says Will Tuckett. "It would be lovely to do something else with him. And if I hadn't have done this film, with its whole hybrid dance element, then we would never have crossed paths. It was a fantastic experience."
Richard Winsor, who stars as ballet stud Tomas, relished the challenge of learning two very different styles of dance. "I did three years of ballet training about seven years ago, but I've never performed classical ballet professionally so getting back into it has been a work in progress," he says. "Working with Will Tuckett has been fantastic. It has also been hard work, but I can draw on that for the film. Ballet is a discipline. It has been a huge challenge to regain the style and poise of classical ballet and then to break it up and learn street dance."
Did he get a chance to throw himself into the street dance side of it? "Yeah, there's a scene where I do a bit of breaking, which I have never done before in my life," he laughs. "It's actually given me a passion for it. The music is so gripping. When you have that beat on really loud, you can't not move. Obviously I'm not the best street dancer, but I can see why people become really passionate about it. Working on this film has completely transformed my view of street dance. I mean, I've always loved watching that kind of dance, and acts like Diversity or Flawless, but actually being part of it and learning about the history and origins of it. It's been a real pleasure."
Rachel McDowall, who plays ballet bitch Isabella, was terrified about getting back into tights and revisiting her ballet training. "I actually panicked because I hadn't done ballet for six years, since I left college," she says. "It was really hard getting back into it. Sianad and Jennifer Leung, who play the other two girls, have tiny little figures and, you know, I've got the figure to go with my six-foot frame. They actually look like ballet dancers. I was mortified when I walked in to rehearsals. I thought, what have I got myself into? And I have to wear tights and leotards!"
But, for Rachel McDowall, donning the tights turned out to be the least of her concerns. "I did find it tough in rehearsals, I must admit," she says. "We were made to do ballet barre every morning from 9am and that's even harder than dancing because it's so precise. The day after we started rehearsing, I felt muscles that I have never felt before. I just wanted to cry sometimes."
Jennifer Leung, who plays ballet dancer Bex, agrees: "I did get a bit teary at one point," she admits. "Will Tuckett is used to working with people from the Royal Ballet so he was really cracking the whip. It was like ballet bootcamp. But it was good that he was tough on us because that's what ballet training is like. We were so relieved to hear at the end of rehearsals that he told Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini we were 'starting to look like ballet dancers.'"
But, for all the ballet dancers' hard work, Jennifer Leung admits that she was impressed by the dedication of the street dancers. "Street dance is very technical," she remarks. "It's actually more similar to ballet than you might think, because both styles are about strength and discipline. The street dancers were constantly working out and practising in between takes. Then there's me, Sianad and Rachel sitting around drinking cups of tea and eating biscuits!"
Another Dimension: Bring StreetDance to Life in 3D
The film is not only the world's first 3D dance movie, but it's the first European live action 3D movie.
Stereographer and all-round 3D guru Max Penner is more used to bringing guts and gore to life, having worked on My Bloody Valentine 3D and The Hole 3D. He must be excited to be at the forefront of the 3D revolution happening in film at the moment?
"I don't think of 3D as a revolution; it's evolution," he explains. "It's only now that this has become economically feasible because it's easier to project and capture 3D because of digital imaging. We have digital screens, digital players and digital cameras, so we can manipulate stereo pairs much easier in a digital world."
If that sounds complicated, you'll have to concentrate hard for this next bit. "Live action 3D involves a camera made up of two lenses and two sensors that are put together in such a way that we can scale a left and right image to be projected on a 40 foot screen. That gives you a 3D image on a flat plane without causing you nausea or grief," he continues. "I started working with 3D on film, and I can personally tell you that it's much more of a process and much more expensive to shoot on film. It looks great, but it's just not feasible any longer. The process that we're using right now, using digital red cameras and silicon imaging cameras, along with 3D technologies to control those cameras, makes it far cheaper and easier."
So is 3D the future? "Yes, if modestly budgeted pictures can shoot in 3D, because that's the majority of pictures that are going to go to the theatres. And if we can shoot enough pictures in this manner, the theatre owners are going to see it as a benefit for themselves to change over so that there are more theatres that can show 3D."
Directors Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini had never worked with 3D before. "We were thrown in at the deep end," laughs Max Penner.
"But we were really excited about it," adds Dania Pasquini. "It's a very new medium and it will be huge in the future so it's great to be right at the forefront of the new wave of films. We knew it was going to be 3D right from when James Richardson first brought the script to us and that's one of the reasons we wanted to do it. It's so brilliant because it feels like you're on the floor with the dancers. It's more immersive; you're right in there."
For ballet choreographer Will Tuckett, the 3D element caused him to rethink his whole way of working. "I hadn't got my head around it at all, but the challenges soon became very obvious to me," he explains. "There's a scene where Carly goes to the Royal Opera House to watch a ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet. It has a big ballroom scene, which we shot at the Hackney Empire in London. Normally, I would shoot a scene like that close up with the dancers all crossing the frame. That would look great in 2D but, in 3D, it looked really pants. If you've got somebody dancing and their arm sweeps up and goes out of the frame, the whole effect is ruined. So the best way to film a 3D scene like that is a bog-standard long shot, which I thought would look dull but, in 3D, it looks amazing. It was the strangest thing, and a very different way of working for me. Luckily we had the 3D monitors there so I could keep having a look to see what was working. Max was fantastic, and very patient with me being dim. It was an incredible learning experience."
Veteran actress Charlotte Rampling was blown away when she first saw how the film would look in 3D. "I would never have thought that I would be in a 3D picture," she laughs. "But it's beautifully done. It's a much deeper visual experience and you almost feel like you are part of t