Set against a blank and dense concrete backdrop, Kevin McGloughlin and Jacob Jonas’ Weakness of the Flesh from Films.Dance (the third from the series we’ve featured on DN) is an experimental dance film that sees abstract, unfolding choreography combined with clone-like editing techniques. The result is a surreal look at expression, self-awareness and the overwhelming feeling of being metaphorically surrounded by one’s self. DN spoke with McGloughlin and Jonas about the naturally evolving process which birthed Weakness of the Flesh, how they co-directed the film from different countries, and the notions of overwhelming emotion that they wanted to explore.
How did you both become involved in making Weakness of the Flesh?
Kevin McGloughlin: Working on Weakness of The Flesh was a truly unique experience, Jacob and I initially chatted via Zoom to hash out what we felt could work and get the ball rolling. We quickly found we were on the same page in terms of what we wanted to make. Jacob, Emma Rosenzweig-Bock (Dancer) and Shaun Boyte (Cinematographer), then filmed in LA and sent me the beautiful performance footage. Emma’s performance was shockingly beautiful and even more expressive than I had imagined!
I was motivated to use concrete as a surface. Something hard and rugged but also plain. Acting as a blank canvas.
Jacob Jonas: I have been following the work of Kevin and Max Cooper (Music & Sound Designer) together for a few years and have deeply admired their collaborative relationship. I have been trying to find the right project to work with Kevin and his experience. Once we had shot it, I sent him the footage and was really excited to learn about his interest to interpret it visually. I was blown away once he started diving into it and creating a storyline separate from the choreography.
Jacob, when you set out to initially capture the footage of Emma’s performance what was it that you were interested in exploring?
JJ: All work I create has a different point of initiation; narrative, music, etc. For this project, it started with an abstract movement study through choreography with our dancer Emma. I was interested in exploring moments of surrender and complexity. When thinking about it being filmed, I was motivated to use concrete as a surface. Something hard and rugged but also plain. Acting as a blank canvas.
The blank canvas feels key both thematically but also, I imagine, when it came to sending the footage to Kevin. How much of a challenge was it to maintain interesting shot compositions whilst using the same backdrop?
JJ: I knew when I shot it, that I didn’t want to see anything but the grey concrete so we worked on how to compose the camera with certain angles so you couldn’t see the surrounding environments. We shot it on a RED camera, and with our DP Shaun Boyte, we also explored using rotation in the camera.
Kevin, how did you adapt to working on, effectively, this blank canvas?
KM: It was with this blank canvas that I began to experiment further. Initially we had an entirely different route planned, which worked better in theory than in practice, so there was a huge shift from our preconceived ideas. Quite a few avenues were explored before we finally landed where we did. The project was very experimental, and open, which was a joy to work on.
What was it you were looking to convey in your edit of Jacob’s footage?
KM: My main aim was to convey the idea of channeling hardships to create positivity. Focusing on loneliness, solitude and perception, the notion that being surrounded by one’s own thoughts can be both terrifying and enlightening, depending on the mindset of the individual.
The Films.Dance projects we’ve featured seem to always strive for that level of experimentation you’ve both mentioned. We really love how they challenge the form.
JJ: For the entire films.dance series, it has been themed around non-traditional collaborations. Pairing artists of different mediums and backgrounds and also in different parts of the world to work together and interpret each other’s work.
Musically-speaking, it feels like another layer to the experimentation.
KM: Thankfully, Max Cooper, a long term collaborator and friend jumped on board with his amazing ideas and musical genius, to create the sound design and score, complemented beautifully by incorporating the incredible vocals from Samad Khan.
My main aim was to convey the idea of channeling hardships to create positivity.
JJ: In addition to the pairing of Kevin and I, we were interested in exploring the same concept sonically. Once Max joined, we were encouraged to find a musical element in a different part of the world. I had come across Samad’s work which is mainly classical Indian vocals and pitched it to Max. The resulting film had collaborators from LA, London, Ireland, and India.
Weakness of the Flesh very much seems like the product of a process more so than a typical production.
KM: The project was very process based, and layered. Everyone played a huge role in bringing their contribution to life, playing with ideas and unearthing our collective vision for Weakness of the Flesh.
Will you both be collaborating together again soon?
Kevin: Me and Jacob have just had a few very loose text messages, so it’s hard to say what we are doing next! But basically I’d love to try and maybe write a narrative. Mix loads of different genres. We’re not in a position to say anything at all yet as we really are just tinkering with stuff. We’re planning a Zoom chat soon but at this point my only real idea is to write a narrative and see how we can use dance to get an idea across. I just want it to be super wild and expressive! But also with wild dialogue! Something very out there and surreal. We are at a very notional stage. Not even talking yet, just thinking.
JJ: Jacob Jonas is continuing to grow the Films.Dance platform producing another 25 films and additionally planning to bring live work to the stage.