Crafted during a period of tumultuous uncertainty, Amaka Lin’s experimental dance short Stasis explores our relationship with time, nature and the unknowability of the future. As she mentions in our interview below, Lin drew from the eerie yet calming textures of dark ambient music when crafting the tone of her film. Watching it, you can see how that’s apparent in the sonic palette but it also comes through in the carefully choreographed movements of her performers, who convey an unsettled sense of being suspended in time. It’s also shot on 16mm which gives the short that added grainy texture to fully envelop the viewer in its perturbing atmosphere. DN is delighted to present the premiere of Stasis and spoke with Lin who broke down the construction of her short’s tone, the benefits of shooting on film, and the aforementioned influence of both ambient and classical music.

What did the beginning of working on Stasis look like for you?

The initial concept for Stasis came from my experience in lockdown. It was a time of varied changes and upheaval in my life, but still feeling stuck in one place. Having the same routine each day, I started thinking about the nature of cycles and loops, how repetition can feel like the past recycling over and over again, but how a process of transformation can be happening with each new pass of the thing that’s repeating.

I was inspired a lot by composers and dark ambient musicians, music and sounds that were unsettling and meditative.

I had taken up exploring nature and going for walks a lot more, and it was a particularly grey winter and I remember thinking, “Damn, will the sun ever come out again?” And I started tying all of these ideas, imagining a liminal space of change, time, nature, loops, and the idea of Stasis began to bloom. What does it take to break out of a loop and what is the cost of risk and uncertainty? Although terrifying at times, change is the seed of storytelling.

In terms of that wistful yet eerie tone of the short, were you drawing on anything in particular for inspiration?

I was inspired a lot by composers and dark ambient musicians, music and sounds that were unsettling and meditative. The wistful and unsettling nature of Holst’s Planet Suite, especially the ending of Neptune: The Mystic was a sonic inspiration to the development of the idea. Sound is a leading element of the film, and that came in tandem with the development.

And was the project always going to be choreography-led?

I knew I wanted to do something with movement. Movement and dance have always been an important part of my life and my creative practice. Working with the cast, our Choreographer Akti Konstantinou did an amazing job in transforming the concept into embodiment through dance.

For a short like Stasis, what does pre-production look like? Are you firstly thinking about the look and visual textures of the film? And conveying the initial concept to your crew?

In pre-production I was really lucky to have a wonderful team who understood what I wanted to execute with the concept and wanted to achieve with the film. I made treatments, collages, moodboards and playlists, it was my first short, so I had to be meticulous and clear in articulating my point of view. And I’m really glad that the team banked on me to execute that.

After an extensive hunt for the location, our Producer Ayo Alli found the perfect house. It felt atmospheric, alive, and exactly what I envisioned in the references, the house had been abandoned and we had a sneaking suspicion it was actually haunted…

What type of film stock did you shoot on? And why?

We shot on an Arriflex using 16mm film. Shooting on film causes you to slow down and be meditative yet sharp in your decision making.

Did your preparation in pre-production result in a pain-free shoot?

In terms of the production process, it went really smoothly. It felt like an organic process to get to the final piece and it was a real delight to work with everyone. Our main goal on set was to have fun amidst the stress and deadlines of filmmaking. To me, the part of storytelling that we can lose is ‘playing’ and sharing ideas back and forth. We lost picture halfway through the day, but everyone kept morale high and kept the daylight. Family and friends chipped in to help, we shared food, music and laughs in between takes and had a good time despite the cold weather!

Shooting on film causes you to slow down and be meditative yet sharp in your decision making.

Filmmaking is collaborative and so I really wanted to let the process be an open discussion where everyone could share their point of view and skills to make the film stronger.

Who were you working with during the edit, both in terms of the structural assembly of the short and audio/visual components?

When we moved to post, we had the amazing talents of Editor Natalya Holley, Composer Leon Jean-Marie, Colourist Megan Lee and VFX Artist Denova Media who elevated the film further. They were incredibly generous with their time and expertise. It was a lengthy process and quite a while to get from pre to post but the support from our producer and the team helped to pull it through.

I am incredibly grateful that I got to work with each and every person who was so so generous and open to give their time and efforts and belief in the film, in order for us to make something beautiful and incredibly special. I’m really appreciative of that. We were supported by our crowdfunders, produced by DMND CLR and Sunny Kapoor at Curation Music who really believed in the idea and getting it to be the best film that it could be. I’m beyond grateful.

What direction did you give your choreographer/performers? How did you work with them to get their best work?

We spent time in the devising process focusing on capturing everyday routines. What does routine look like on the body? Working with Akti, our choreographer, and playing with speed, looping and urgency, the performers used that as a basis for the movement in the film. They became the building blocks and a language to convey the characters’ emotions and intentions throughout the film. In any rehearsal, I always try to emphasize the importance of playing and experimenting and being loose. We spent some time putting on music, allowing the body to move in space, and seeing what came up from there.

What can you tell us about what you’re working on next?

Up next, I’m working to get a few more shorts off the ground and also spend some time writing and re-visiting concepts I’ve had in the past that I would love to develop. Hopefully, I’ll be able to collaborate with more artists and continue to make work that articulates my perspective as a director and storyteller.

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