The Dance GoodbyeAn Interview between Editor Kathryn Luckstone and DFA fiscal sponsored filmmakers Eileen Douglas & Ron SteinmanAlong with Ron Steinman – her producing partner in Douglas/Steinman Productions – Eileen Douglas has been a member of Dance Films Association for well over a decade. When asked how she first learned of the organization, she remembers that she turned to DFA at a time when THE DANCE GOODBYE project needed a fiscal sponsor. She recalls with great appreciation how generous Deirdre Towers was with her time and advice, patiently encouraging Douglas to apply, telling her, “…of course you can do the paperwork!” In later stages, Towers aided the project by sharing leads for funding support. Now that the film is nearing completion, Douglas/Steinman Productions draws great confidence from being in the DFA fold, knowing that there will be helping hands as they take their last steps over the finish line.
How did you arrive at deciding to make THE DANCE GOODBYE?
Years ago, when Eileen was an anchor/reporter at New York’s All News Radio station 1010 WINS, she was asked by a friend on the staff at Actor’s Equity to do a radio talk show featuring Career Transition For Dancers, a new group Actor’s Equity was creating to help dancers in post-retirement. The half hour show was tremendously engaging. Guests included recently retired ballet star Jacques d’Amboise, Broadway chorus dancers facing the end of their careers, and the director of the new organization.
A decade later, in the late 90s, Eileen had become an independent documentary producer with Ron Steinman. One day she received a postcard from her old Actor’s Equity contact. Eileen remembered how powerful the radio show had been. And she realized how visually compelling it could be to capture on film the life of a dancer who is no longer a performer.
At roughly the same time as the newspapers were full of the news that Merrill Ashley was retiring from the New York City Ballet, Douglas/Steinman Productions began laying plans to make a pilot for fundraising. We added those recent news articles into our clip file with many others.
Lo and behold, one day in the locker room of Eileen’s gym, who should walk by but someone who looked remarkably like Merrill Ashley! Hard to believe, but it was in fact she. Eileen longed to approach Ms. Ashley to ask if she would agree to be in the pilot. But being respectful, and admittedly more than a little shy, months went by as Eileen debated how to speak to her.
Eventually one day, in the pool, Eileen was talking to a friend when Ms. Ashley came along. Eileen’s friend happened to know Ms. Ashley so an introduction was made. “Eileen, do you know Merrill?” “No, but I’ve had something I’ve wanted to talk to you about!” Graciously, she agreed to be our subject for the pilot.
Ms. Ashley was so articulate and moving in our first interviews that we realized we needed no one else to tell the story. Focusing on her struggle to find her next career steps would be the perfect way to shape the structure of the feature-length film.
Over the last decade Ms. Ashley has been extremely cooperative and trusting. She has never imposed her will on us or tried to take the film in another direction. She has been available for the many interviews and the needed B-Roll we did with her, always truthful in what she said and how she said it. She has made available her personal archive, including material from her early years. We believe that the audience will see Ms. Ashley as a warm, giving and unusual person; full of insight into the life of a prima ballerina, after the music stops and the dance is over.
What challenges have you had to overcome through the making of this film?
With any documentary film, the primary challenge is raising the money to make it! We started THE DANCE GOOBYE in 1998. Three years later 9/11 happened, and any money we thought we might raise dried up. There was little interest in our subject. We were unable to raise the funds to continue production. In the intervening years, we made two feature-length documentaries and a short subject documentary. Early in 2010 we decided to restart production for THE DANCE GOODBYE. We were able to raise enough to complete our shooting and to edit a rough cut.
What is the current status of the production?
After securing the archival material, still images and dance footage, we wrote a script and started editing in October of 2010. By mid January 2011, we expect to have completed a rough cut of the film, which will contain all the necessary footage, with rights cleared only for fundraising screenings. At this point, raising completion funds is our next step. We plan to show the current version of THE DANCE GOODBYE to those interested in ballet and in this unique story: a prima ballerina who transitions from being a major stage to being an exemplary teacher and coach, carrying the flame of Balanchine worldwide.
Once we secure finishing funds, several other steps remain: replace the archival film/video and stills with the cleared film/video and stills; color correct the film and go into audio post-production. Then, finally, THE DANCE GOODBYE will be available for festivals, TV broadcast and on DVD. We anticipate it will be ready for showings in the fall of 2011!
To learn more about THE DANCE GOODBYE, contact
Ron Steinman at: email@example.com, or
Eileen Douglas at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on how to support THE DANCE GOODBYE contact Dance Films Association at: email@example.com