Literature In Los Angeles

BENEDICTE

In INTER-REVIEWS on April 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm

InteReview with Benedicte Schoyen on her educational dance movie for kids,  The Music Box.

What’s your mission?
Where’s your magic?
And, above all, how’s your dance?
Benedicte Schoyen comes to check on our personal fairytale with her movie, The Music Box, and guide us toward its very happy ending.

The Music Box

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Originally for kids for its clear educational structure and purpose, the story is a metaphor that fits any age and life’s stage.
Seven friends find themselves in a magic box where a prince has been trapped for over a hundred years; their mission is to dance him free by learning the steps of each of the seven characters in the box: a Teddy Bear, a Jazzy Cat, a Beautiful Ballerina, a Golden Ballet Bird, a Hip Hop Pirate, an Exotic Princess and a Tap Dancing Clown.
By pursuing the prince’s freedom through the dances, the kids will gain back their own as well and, like in every respectable fairytale, a romantic love will seal the end.

The Beautiful Ballerina and the Tap Dancing Clown

I asked Benedicte, dance studio owner, choreographer and ballet professor at UCLA, what’s her motivation behind the movie, which is her first project done since she founded Born To Play Productions in 2007.

Benedicte: I wanted to make a DVD for kids that would inspired them to dance. Kristin Proctor and I sit down and wrote the first draft of the story together. Terje Lindberg wrote the final script.

Fact is, the real magic of The Music Box is that, as the friends learn the seven dances, the kids at home learn them as well!
The DVD has interactive sections to teach and make them practice each character’s dance steps while another section features the interviews with the dancers, who share their artistic relationship with their character and, more in general, with dancing as their job and a way of life.
For those who don’t find the stage appealing, instead, there’s the “backstage” part to introduce the kids to some of the technical challenges and fun of the occupations behind the camera.

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LILA: How was your first experience as a movie producer?

Benedicte: I never went to film school, but I have gained so much experience throughout these years as a dancer, choreographer and studio owner… movie production is not brain surgery, after all.
I figured I needed to get a good crew and hold on to my vision of what I wanted the result to be.
We got friends and family to invest and tried to put as much money as we could. I had free rehearsal space at my studio, and we re-used a lot of the costumes I have collected through the years. Another huge thing is that my husband wrote all the music and he like me worked for free.
Then we got on board Stein Gausereide, who was running a green screen studio in Hollywood and Hans Mills, our set designer. I know them both from playing volleyball on the beach in Santa Monica.
All the dancers in the movie are friends from my dance studio.
Since we wanted to do a Norwegian version of the show as well, we also hired some Norwegians we flew in from Oslo; kids and crew that I had worked with over there.

Benedicte (center) and some of her dancers on the set of The Music Box

LILA: So The Music Box is available in two languages, English and Norwegian?

Benedicte: Yes, in Norway seventy pre-schools are already using The Music Box, both the DVD and the Activity Book, for their kids. 
We shot fourty minutes of film in two languages in five days. It was insane. The kids and their parents were amazing and our crew did a fantastic job. Our dancers had to stand for the longest time in frozen positions on their boxes and no one ever complained. I know how hard that is, and I am so thankful that I got to work with such supporting people.
I stepped in and directed the instructional bits in the film and wrote some of the camera directions.
I also did some parts of the Teddy Bear because my friend almost had a heat stroke in that costume.
I basically stepped in all over the place to help wherever I could, so we could get the shoot done on schedule. I think I slept a total of fifteen hours, those five days.
My biggest lesson is to schedule more time for the shoot, next time; however, then you need more money.

LILA: Talking about money, what are your plans for the distribution of The Music Box?

Benedicte: The funny thing is that it actually was easier to make the DVD than to sell it. So, now I am learning a whole new thing, about self distributing a DVD.
God bless the internet. Now, people like me have a chance even without a big company backing you.
I believe that, as long as you actually have a product that people like, it’s only a matter of time plus an extreme amount of hard work to make it happen. I am learning to be very creative to find ways to promote The Music Box on a zero budget.
It’s all about numbers and track records for the big companies to pick you up; if you can show good sales they eventually will come on board.
We were offered a distribution deal that was so bad that, for the moment, I rather sell through Amazon and go to the post office every day and ship the DVDs out by myself.
Sometimes, you gotta have ice in your stomach….

InteReview by Liliana Isella.

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