Along the eccentric streets of Hollywood, between the “Bed Behaviors” fetish shop “Kung Pao Kitty” Asian restaurant, Cinema and Television Arts student Andrea Ball and her crew are capturing the essence of underground dance culture in the making of the student film “Beats Per Minute.”
The film is one of five senior film projects selected by the CTVA department. Proposed and directed by Ball, the movie is about an ambitious French dancer who comes to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a professional dancer.
“We look at things like the budget and capability of the crew and, of course, an innovative twist in the story,” said CSUN film professor Nate Thomas, who is part of the panel that chooses five proposals out of all the entries.
“Beats Per Minute” is the kind of film that fits that description and the first dance movie, Thomas said.
But “Beats Per Minute” is more than just a dance movie, Ball said.
“There’s so many different layers to this film,” Ball said. “On the surface, yeah, it is a dance film but it is also about pursuing your dream and overcoming all the negativity.”
The film also deviates from street dancing clich?s such as drugs and violence, Ball said.
“I am telling a dance story in an inspiring way,” Ball said.
Ball’s own dance hobby is what inspired her to make this film. Three days prior to shooting, Ball was pressed on conjuring ideas for the film in her dorm and viewed dance movies such as “Idlewild,” “You Got Served” and “Step Up.” After all, Ball is an avid fan of the underground dance culture.
Underground dancing can be categorized in many ways, Ball said. There is “poplocking,” where performers create a robotic illusions and liquid-like movements. Then there is the more prominent art of “break dancing,” where dancers perform many acrobatic stunts such as headstands and back flips.
Ball’s first exposure to the underground dance scene was seeing a performance during an event.
“I saw this guy do this move where he put his hands through his shirt and mimicked a heartbeat,” Ball said. “I just had to learn how to do moves like that.”
Financing for the film comes from the CTVA department, and committees, including the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Thomas said. However, students must still find different resources for the bulk of their movie budgets.
With a budget of $20,000, Ball persisted to amp up sponsors to support her film. Her persistence paid off as companies such as Panavision, Hustler and the online dance culture site WestCoastPoppin.com hopped on the sponsorship wagon.
“I hope that this film will help promote the underground street dancing scene,” said Soh Tanaka, one of the Web site’s representatives.
Back on the streets of Hollywood, Ball and her crew are shuffling between countless tasks on the third day of shooting.
One person on the set seemed to be bursting with with energy and excitement. Salah Benlemqawanssa, a French dance sensation, have been giving awe-inspiring performances minute by minute. He mesmerizes everyone as he channels his art and creativity through his movements.
Sporting a hat similar to Charlie Chaplin, his Hollywood idol, Benlemqawanssa’s movement and footsteps closely mimics Chaplin’s.
“Andrea has given me my dream to star in a film being made in Hollywood,” Benlemqawanssa said. “The movie fuses a bit of my life story with Andrea’s vision.”
Ball met Benlemqawanssa at a dance event last October and asked him to be a part of her project.
Beats Per Minute is scheduled to premiere in July at one of the Panavision theatres in the Los Angeles area. For information about the film including a production journal, visit the film’s Web site www.beatsperminutefilm.com.