Friday, 29 June 2012

The film - what happens next?

Gosh it's been a whirlwind two weeks! Of course it's nothing to what real celebrities go through, but it's been exciting, exhausting and unbelievably good for my ego
Firstly, I was overwhelmed by the wonderful messages of support from people once I had announced the news of the film. I'd been pretty scared about doing it - I didn't really know what to expect - but I really hadn't imagined I'd be the recipient of such generosity of spirit. It was incredibly heartwarming. I had so many posts on my Facebook message board, private messages, emails and of course comments on this blog. All were supportive, congratulatory and very, very kind. Thank you everyone!
Then every day last week was spent in interviews with TV, radio and national press. And this was a week that should have been completely taken up with preparation for my big student show on Saturday! I'm good at juggling but I tell you, there were a lot of balls up there! Here's a link to a BBC TV news film about the story and here's a lovely piece in the Sunday Express
But now the student show is over (and was wonderful!) so I have time to get back to writing. And I thought you might like to know a bit more about where things are and what happens next as far as the film is concerned. Of course there are lots of things that have to be confidential, so I'm going to concentrate on stuff that is in the public domain or is standard industry practice.
How long will it take?
A film takes years to make - my brother, who works in the film industry told me to expect it to take up to ten years!! But because I'm working with a big studio it will hopefully be much quicker. This one has actually been in progress since November last year and if everything goes really quickly, it might be in cinemas two years from now. 
Two years may sound like a long time, but when you think of the amount of work that is involved: writing and agreeing a script, finding the right director, casting it, finding locations, putting together all the film crew, costuming, etc etc etc. And of course the studio has to work around the busy schedules of A-list actors and directors who are not all going to be available at the same time, and certainly not at the drop of a hat.
Filming itself typically takes around ten to twelve weeks. And even when that is done, there’s the long, gutty job of editing and post production - which takes about nine months.
Where are we now?
We now have a writer in place – a BAFTA nominated writer who is very much in demand right now. And, quite magically, it turns out she’s a bellydancer! Nobody had known this in advance,  but she’s been bellydancing for ten years and loves it. She regularly goes to festivals such as JoY and has taken workshops with several of my friends. She came down to our show on Saturday (and loved it) and will start work on the script in the next few weeks. One of my concerns was how well I would be able to communicate the way bellydancing can change women’s lives, but of course she totally understands – she’s experienced it herself. And she doesn’t come loaded down with pre-conceptions or misunderstandings about our dance.
We also have a famous award winning producer on board who, once again, is a woman. She will be responsible for putting the team together, for making sure the film is true to its conception, that it comes in within budget and generally keeping everything on track. She’s produced some of the biggest blockbusters of recent years so it’s incredibly exciting that she wants to do my story! 
A British production
The studio executive who ‘discovered’ me is deeply committed to this being a British film. British films are a distinct genre within the industry – wonderful films such as The Full Monty,  Calendar Girls, Bend It Like Beckham and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. When the story went out to writers to pitch for it, the American studio executives put forward several Hollywood writers, but my guy resisted because they wanted to "Hollywood-ise" the story. We all want real women with real curves and a few years on the clock to be represented, as well as younger ones of course.
We're all aiming for this film to be heartwarming and inspirational with crackling dialogue. We want you to laugh and cry along with the real women depicted in the film – most of whom are still Hipsinc students and teachers. And of course there will be great music,  great dancing and fabulous costumes!  
What’s not to love?
If you have any questions you'd like me to answer in this blog, leave a comment and I'll try to answer (subject to commercial confidentiality of course!) 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Here it comes! The secret I've been dying to tell everyone!

So, last night I finally went public. I had an interview lined up with the local paper today and had been given permission to tell them what was happening. I really didn't want my friends and bellydance colleagues to find out from the press before I told them myself, so last night at London's Bellydance Trophies competition I said the words I've been dying to say for two years now...

"In the next few days I will be signing a contract with a major Hollywood film studio who will be making a film based on my life story!"

Yes. Really!

I can't quite believe it myself, although I've had a long time to get used to the idea. The plan is that it will be a classic British film, telling the story of me and my students, and the classes I used to run in my tiny village in Kent. They are billing it as the next Calendar Girls, but edgier. And of course with lots of bellydancing!

If the film is a success, then they will make a West End show of it. A West End bellydance show! How amazing is that??

We are hoping to have some of the great British actresses starring in the film, so hopefully I'll be teaching some of my favourite actresses to bellydance some day soon! And I really hope I get the chance to choreograph the dancing in the film too - they've certainly promised I will.

I hope I'll be able to tell the story of how it all happened in this blog sometime, but basically this is what my Project Lift Off is all about. When they started to talk about a West End show, I realised that bellydance isn't geared up for the West End stage - our dance was developed for small scale environments like restaurants and nightclubs. The big stage needs bigger movements because tiny vibration shimmies and lovely internalized mayas will be lost across a big auditorium. We need our work to be seen all the way back in the upper circle!

And if the stage show does indeed get commissioned, we need to be ready with lots of amazing bellydancers! Capable of doing anything that a choreographer wants to throw at them! And if we are to dance night after night on a big stage, we need tough dance training - to make sure we are strong, fit and flexible. We need to do the sort of dance conditioning that other dance forms do, but that has tended to get missed in bellydance.

I've got at least three years to get UK dancers prepared for what I hope will be an unbelievably exciting opportunity. Something that will put bellydance on the map. Something that will hopefully raise the profile of bellydance internationally. And something that could be a major milestone in the history of bellydance.

Whatever happens, it should be one amazingly exciting journey!!

If you want to find out more about Project Lift Off, I explain a bit about it on my website here. If you want to join in, the next two courses start on Sunday - details here. One is a four week choreography course, the other is based on combinations so you can just try a class out without committing to a full course.

I'll tell the story of how it all happened very soon. It has all been quite magical - for everyone involved.

I also want to say a massive 'thank you' to my students and a few very special friends, who have known about this story for a while, but didn't tell! Thank you for keeping my secret. It meant a lot to me to be able to confide in you when I was just bursting to tell the world but couldn't!