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Jon Chu’s “Step Up 3D” Step Forward

Jon Chu’s “Step Up 3D” Step Forward (photo)

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Shortly after “Step Up 3D” director Jon M. Chu gave an eloquent answer about growing up in Silicon Valley where he learned that “technology was there to bridge human relationships” and extolled the potential of technology in transforming the arts, his cheek hit the left side of his new iPhone and dropped our call. Seconds later, he chuckled as he got back on the horn, “Technology’s not quite there yet…almost.”

In fact, technology may not have completely caught up yet with the state-of-the-art krumping on display in “Step Up 3D,” but that didn’t stop Chu from putting stereoscopy towards its natural end — the first 3D dance movie. Ridiculous in both the absurd and incredible senses of the word — dance battles start in bathrooms and Slurpee residue floats into the sky — the film is bound to entertain tween fans, dance fanatics and guilty pleasure seekers alike.

It’s just the latest way the 30-year-old director has renewed one of the world’s oldest forms of entertainment with a hi-fi delivery system. (His other recent project, The League of Extraordinary Dancers, a dance troupe made famous by their performances at this year’s Oscars, and a TED Talk last year, recently launched their serial “dance adventure” series on Hulu.)

In a summer where thrills have been limited and a backlash has started against the format, I felt compelled to ask the man who brought popping and locking into the third dimension about what goes into utilizing 3D for a different kind of action film, how Michael Jackson saved “Step Up 3D” and how one goes about preparing a dance for “The Hurt Locker.”

Overall, this is a noticeably brighter film than “Step Up 2: The Streets,” one of the many ways 3D probably changed your approach. Were there other things to take into account?

I had been to all the lectures and read all the books, but you really don’t know 3D until you’re actually there. We basically threw out all the rules and said, let’s just play and find out what we can and can’t do. So we did a lot of tests and our actors are not just actors, they’re amazing dancers and their speed is incredible, so we’re doing a lot of tests with how fast they can spin, how slow they can go and how close to the lens they can come before we have stereo issues.

08042010_StepUp3D-1.jpgDancers are really good with space and their body weight and muscle memory, [but] it was hard for them to understand when we’d say, “no, no, you’ve got to go slower.” Like what do you mean slower? Eventually what we did, we had these 42″ monitors in real time in 3D and gave all the dancers glasses and we turned the monitors around at them while they’re shooting and we said, okay, watch this and you guys can play. That alone changed everything for us because the dancers suddenly understood — I didn’t have to say one thing. They understood what works, what didn’t, when their body cut off the frame, their angles with the camera itself and suddenly, they could be the dancers they wouldn’t in a regular [film] because they understood the language of what the cameras would bring to their dance.

The 3D influenced every part of this movie, including the tone of the movie. I knew if we wanted them to dance at the camera and literally look at the audience as if the audience was in the battle, our tone had to change from “Step Up” and even more so from “Step Up 2.” “Step Up 2” was a little more fantasy than “Step Up,” but this one we had to go even further, so the 3D definitely influenced that.

You mentioned the lectures, which always sound like meetings of a secret society where James Cameron shows 20 minutes of “Avatar.” What actually happens at one?

It was crazy. I went to one at the DGA — this was maybe two years ago — only 40 people in the room and Spielberg, [Jeffrey] Katzenberg and Cameron were the guys talking about what they were doing with 3D and trying to convince different directors. I was next to [Steven] Soderbergh and I wasn’t even thinking about 3D at first. I was like oh my God, I’m sitting by all these awesome directors — I made it!

08042010_StepUp3D-4.jpgIt was literally like film school where everyone just didn’t know a lot of the answers or even the questions to ask. They brought in some footage like how “Kung Fu Panda” was done in 2D, but then [DreamWorks] had their animators go back and reinterpret some scenes as if they were doing it in 3D, and how much it enhanced that sequence. That was a real eye-opener for me — if you just say, we’re doing everything in 3D straight up and you put that to the choreographers, to your stunt people, to anybody in the process, they will present it differently and that creates a different feel in a movie.

There was no question that 3D and dance was something that should be together, even from “Captain EO.” When I watched that as a kid, it just opened up my brain so much, so to be there amongst those people talking about it, it made me excited more than anything and confident we could actually push the boundaries. All the rules [are] actually not the rules at all. We’re just getting into it. We’re going to start defining those rules in the next five to ten years.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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