Bringing together heartfelt testimony, archival footage, dynamic framing and a scintillating dance performance, Artur Zaremba’s documentary short SPECTRUM, questions society’s outmoded assumptions of what constitutes masculinity, whilst demonstrating the new horizon of possibilities for performance when freed from the shackles of convention. In the following guest post, Artur explains how intention consciously drove the form and content of his first venture into documentary filmmaking.

Who is the masculine man? SPECTRUM is a reinterpretation of the dated archetype of masculinity, which operates in the mainstream culture. The film challenges heteronormativity in dance and wider society by telling the story of two very different artists brought together by the desire to express their true selves through movement.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with manliness and felt the shadow it casts on my self-identity all my life. Being brought up by a single mother in a small, post-industrial town in Poland, it’s so easy to feel like an outsider when you’re the only guy at school not interested in chasing the ball. You become an easy target and hope that one day you’ll stop feeling alien and inadequate. You pray that the faint, but tenacious voice within will stop making you doubt yourself and instead will become your most powerful ally. I wanted to make a film that will help young men to be comfortable in their own skin, regardless of how masculine or feminine they feel.

With SPECTRUM being my first venture into documentary, I wanted to experiment with the formula and various storytelling tools. At the same time, solid preparation was crucial. Getting to know both Jontae McCrory and Stefanos Dimoulas was at the heart of the project – their stories are the experiences of millions of us.

Repurposing archive footage helped in emphasising how dated the archetype of masculinity we still adhere to is. Split screens and framing images in various devices draws a parallel to how easily society puts us in one-size-fits-all boxes. Finally, contrasting sublime, glossy slow-motion footage with dynamic and aggressive low-quality VHS shots hopefully works as an analogy to the vast range of shades of what it means to be a man.

It’s so easy to feel like an outsider when you’re the only guy at school not interested in chasing the ball.

SPECTRUM is the first production from Haze Creative Collective, which essentially is a group of friends from across the industry coming together to bring to life projects they feel passionate about. We shot on the Arri Alexa Mini with a set of Zeiss primes, with the VHS-style shots filmed on a tiny camcorder and treated in post for an authentic look.

Helming the camera department was the immensely talented Fergus Thom, who I fully trusted would share my sensitivity on the subject matter and deliver striking images. We had a lot of fun creating the visual language for this piece and both feel happy with what we achieved. Supporting Fergus on the camera front was the wonderful Julie Sande, who also took care of the sound side of things. Keeping his watchful eye on the schedule was the formidable Steven Meiklem.

Needless to say, none of this would happen without the amazing dancers and choreographers – Jontae McCrory and Stefanos Dimoulas. The biggest pleasure in making this film was learning about their backgrounds and personal struggles of fitting into the concept of masculinity. The choreography they collaborated on for the purpose of this project speaks for itself and was a fascinating storytelling medium to work with.

SPECTRUM by no means presents an answer to what it means to be a man, but hopefully it will act as a catalyst for wider discussion. The time has come to liberate ourselves from the shame and social stigma and to live as our true selves no matter how masculine or feminine we feel.

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