Back in 2016 I worked on a film called Dance Baby Dance with Stephen Kogon, Beverley Mitchell (7th Heaven), Jim O’Heir (Parks and Recs) and Clare Grant (Robot Chicken, wife of Seth Green). I attended the red carpet premiere: Red Carpet Premiere and took a minute to follow up with Stephen on the process of creating his first feature film.
1. Briefly tell us what the journey with Dance Baby Dance was like.
A: Briefly?! What are you trying to say — I’m a windbag 🙂 Fine, fine, here’s briefly. It started with walks on the beach where I would listen to music to clear my head and get story ideas. At the time this story came about I was listening to a lot of old school soul (Stevie Wonder, Sam &
Dave) and for some reason I just saw myself tap dancing to them (even though I’d never tap danced before in my life!). And it made me smile and made me happy. So I started coming up with the idea of a tap dancer who was an underdog, because I’m a huge fan of underdog films (Rocky, Rudy, etc.). Once I outlined the idea, I wrote the script, did a crowdfunding (reaching our goal), raised the rest of the money — and started filming in March 2016. Circumstances forced us to do 2 three day pickups in May and August — then Post took a while due largely to the intricacies of tap dancing. But then we were done! And we had the premiere on 1/19/2018, where Michael from “Mimosas with Michael” showed up without any Mimosas!… Was that brief enough?
2. What was the most important lesson you learned while make this film?
A: It was something I actually already believed in, but in low budget filmmaking can’t always be accomplished. And that’s allowing yourself plenty of prep time — and budgeting for it. I believe 90% of a director’s job should be done well before ever stepping on set. That means in Pre-Production you work with your crew to go over budgets, discuss contingencies, and work out how you want everything done so that everyone is on the same page… And same goes with working with your actors. You should rehearse enough with them before filming so that everyone feels good about their characters and their scenes (this is especially important if you’re also acting in the film because you can’t act and direct at the same time — so being comfortable about what your cast will be doing during their scenes is vital).
So basically the lesson was re-learned: Prepare as much as possible before filming — and budget for it so you can pay everyone who’s working during Pre-Production. I won’t go in to deep detail about why we didn’t do this
— but it largely had to do with the challenges of having a low budget.
3. So you are writing a book to accompany the release of the film. What is your goal with the book?
A: I was a first-time director, producer and actor — and I learned some very painful lessons. But I also thought there were plenty of things I did well. So I wanted to write the kind of book that I wished I read before making the film. I’m hoping that for people who read the book, they’ll learn a lot about what it’s like to make a film (especially if it’s their first time) from A to Z. That means writing the script, writing a business plan, pre-building your audience, fundraising (starting with a crowdfunding), casting, location scouting, filming, and Post… And I include the shooting script with notes about nearly every scene (from what it was like to work with the actors, to what challenges were overcome, to fun behind the scenes info). And I did a Q&A with some of our crew members (like you) so that people can learn the roles of certain jobs on a set — and the best way a director should work with them to get the best results.
4. What advice would you give to any one who is taking their first journey into directing/producing a film?
A: To read my book! 🙂 But until they do that, the short answer is, like I said, give yourself plenty of prep time and budget for it — and then hire well. You want to find people who are good communicators, work hard (and take pride in their work) and have good attitudes. Those people do exist.
5. What is next for Stephen Kogon and for Dance Baby Dance?
A: I’ll be putting just as much effort into promoting the film as I did in making it. Our distributor got us a week-long release in L.A. and will be putting it on all the VOD platforms (starting with Amazon — which is available now: http://amzn.to/2mYluPc). They’ll also rep us at Cannes for foreign sales… We’ll also separately aim to do select theaters around the country in which we’ll try to organize live dancing events after the movie. That way we can get local dance communities excited to see the film and feel a part of it all.
As for other projects, my background has mainly been as a writer and I write a lot. So I’ll want to get several of my other scripts off the ground (and help produce some of them), and I’ll soon start the process of trying to get another film of mine made where I’ll act, direct and produce it again. It’s a quirky comedy called, “Burton’s Invention” and is about an inventor and his eccentric family and the quest for that one great invention.
Trailer for Dance Baby Dance
Originally from Maryland, Stephen Kogon moved to Los Angeles and became a working screenwriter. “Dance Baby Dance” was his first feature film as an actor, director and producer. He also was a writer on the feature film “Boone the Bounty Hunter”, wrote, directed and acted in the short comedy film, “American Beauty Pie”, wrote the comedic young adult novel “Max Mooth – Cyber Sleuth and the Case of the Zombie Virus”, and once wrote a weekly satirical comic strip about the entertainment industry called “Studio Reader Stan”.
He has no pets but occasionally finds a dust bunny underneath his bed and befriends them.