Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Director Adam Del Deo

Every Little Step DVD (Sony)
Available October 13, 2009

For fly-on-the-wall excitement, you can’t do much better than Every Little Step, the superb documentary that peeks behind the scenes at both the casting process for the recent Broadway revival of A Chorus Line and the creative process behind choreographer-director Michael Bennett’s smash-hit, Tony-winning classic, which premiered in 1974.

Directed by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, Every Little Step shows the triumphs and the tragedies that are part of every theater person’s DNA: being called back or not hearing your name called for that special part. It’s also what Bennett zeroed in on in A Chorus Line, and one of the movie’s insights is showing how Bennett created the show: by talking with friends in the business about how they first came to New York to pursue a stage career. Hearing Bennett and many of his original cast (including Donna McKechnie, who is interviewed in the movie and in one of the DVD’s bonus features) during their lengthy workshop sessions is truly revealing.

With Every Little Step now out on DVD, co-director Del Deo recently discussed the film and the legacy of Bennett and A Chorus Line.

Kevin Filipski: How did
Every Little Step come about?
Adam Del Deo: John Breglio, executor of Michael Bennett’s estate, reached out to (Every Little Step co-director) Jim Stern before the auditions for the 2006 Broadway revival began. John thought that there was a good idea there about the show, and we agreed and decided to do it.

KF: Talk about the process of filming the many auditions. Did everyone agree to be filmed or were some not willing?
ADD: It took a lot of planning and logistical work to pull off. Actors Equity had never let a film crew into any auditions before, so they wanted to make sure that we were going to do it right. There was a series of conversations, and I think that Jim being a Broadway insider really helped us, since he explained that what Michael Bennett originally created was a show that brought dignity and respect to those who struggle everyday to do something they loved to do onstage. The spirit of our film was to be very similar to that, to show how dancers struggle in New York to do what they love. Every person in the film could sign or not sign a release, and once we explained our intentions to them, 99.9 percent of them signed. Luckily for us, all of those who ended up being cast in the revival had signed releases, so we were able to shoot them throughout the process. We had 10 camera crews criss-crossing the city, shooting all of those who stayed with the show.

KF: Can you discuss the film’s structure? Along with the revival auditions, there’s a lot of archival material, including Bennett’s original workshop audiotapes, vintage interviews and footage from the original Broadway cast.
ADD: We spent well over a year editing this film and we strongly debated the question of how much historical footage showing the creation of the original show would be integrated into the process of casting the revival. It took a long time, but when we finally got it right, we knew we had it. For people who had seen the original and for theater aficionados, there was enough inside information to satisfy them, but we didn’t want to cut off other potential viewers who might not have any prior knowledge of the show. The themes of sacrificing and working hard to achieve your dreams also resonate for a regular filmgoer. So in the end we were able to hit our goals.

KF: How difficult was it to secure the Bennett audiotapes and the footage from the original production of
A Chorus Line?
ADD: Those were two separate issues. The audiotapes were in control by the executor of Bennett’s estate, John Breglio, which really helped smooth the way and allow us to move forward with the project. When we heard those tapes, we were blown away by them and knew they would end up in the film. We had to work with the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center for the Chorus Line footage, and several different unions had to sign off on our using it. It was tricky and touchy for awhile, but it was essential for us to have in the film, because the show is really a love letter to Broadway.

KF: How did you approach the extras for the DVD release? There are over 30 minutes of deleted scenes, interviews and an audio commentary by you, Jim Stern and Marvin Hamlisch, composer of the music for A Chorus Line.
ADD: We thought about what people would be interested in that we didn’t get into the film. Although a lot of footage was integrated into the movie, making the best film possible sometimes forces you to lose certain scenes and segments to make a stronger movie. With DVDs, you have a second chance to let people know about extra footage and why it’s missing. For us, we thought about what would engage the most people. It really wasn’t about time—it was our sense of what the film was, and how it was the strongest. I think doing commentaries is great: they’re really fun to do and it’s wonderful to add your thought processes and give interesting tidbits about creating the film. It was also great to do the commentary with Marvin Hamlisch, who’s such an iconic composer, and to be able to banter back and forth with him and with Jim was terrific.
originally posted on timessquare.com

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