Girl Walk // All Day director Jacob Krupnick on the mash-up of Rick Ross and ballet
It's like a mash-up of mash-up: The film Girl Walk // All Day takes the manic moods of remix master Girl Talk's 2010 record, All Day, and pairs it with a story of Girl and her city, told through dance.
In advance of tomorrow's screening at the Denver Film Center, director/cinematographer Jacob Krupnick spoke with Westword about how the film came together, and the challenges he faced when aligning sometimes harsh lyrics with the nimble beauty of a story told through ballet, hip-hop and dozens of other dance styles.
Westword: Where did the idea for Girl Walk // All Day come from?
Jacob Krupnick: It definitely came from collaborative inspiration. I worked on a dance-film project about two and a half years ago -- I was commissioned to make a big piece for a fashion show in Las Vegas. The piece that I made, Moves, featured about fifty dancers of all different levels, mostly amateur, dancing alone on a set, shaking their booties.
The piece was edited in such a way that the dancers were all re-cast to music very carefully. Amateur dancers ended up looking like they were phenomenal, or at least really inspired by the music. It was sort of an editing game. It was projected quite large at the fashion show and while filming it, I met two of the three lead characters in Girl Walk // All Day.
What I saw in Anne Marsen, the star of Girl Walk, was a wildly diverse range of dance training that she was moving between and showing of in a way that was really intriguing. I had never seen someone who could move between ballet and house and trance and hip-hop and capoeira -- they were all sort of jumbled up in her head.
I'm also an amateur in thinking about dance too, but I was intrigued by what she was doing. From that point on, I thought it would be really fun to create a project that would showcase all of these different dance styles. That was the set-up for how I met the dancers. For about two years, we stayed in touch and became friends. I was very interested in making a longer piece but didn't know exactly what form it would take or what the story would be. It seemed to me that it would make sense to cast it in New York City -- because of the city, the chaos and diversity of New York would be the right background.
When I first heard Girl Talk's album, All Day, shortly after it came out, that was the eureka! moment in terms of having a suitable soundtrack to use.
Can you talk a little more about the other characters in the film?
John (Doyle), who plays "The Creep" in the film, also came from that same fashion show project. His hip-hop style was also just a little different from the styles I had seen. As it turns out, he had studied a great number of different kinds of old school hip-hop dance and it was interesting in terms of the hip-hop dance lineage. I've learned a lot about dance through them, and the character's movements. A lot of what they actually do in the film, story-wise, is based on how I know them and the kinds of things I imagine them doing in my own fantasy land.
Girl Talk was a perfect match to that idea too, because you're talking about all of these different dance styles coming from specific people. The way that Gregg Gillis (Girl Talk) manipulates pop music is very surprising. I mean, one of his most famous mash-ups is Elton John and Notorious B.I.G.
Right. It is obviously a point in time where the rules are being totally rewritten in terms of the combination of things that can work together. It's true on a technological level and an economic level, just as much as it's expressed through Girl Talk's music.
I had it in my mind, even before that album came out, to use other Girl Talk music. But I wanted the reach of the film to be really broad, because the message and the content of it would be broad. I knew the appeal of the film itself would be broad, but then it can be difficult to find a source of music that will not say, scare away, big segments of the population. It seemed like, in some ways, Girl Talk is crowd-pleasing, but it is also challenging and has real charge to it.
But it can be universal in some sense, because Girl Talk's work touches on so many eras of music. You can see people's reaction when he combines, say, Fugazi and Rihanna.
Exactly. There's something that's kind of undeniable about his musical recombination. It is really difficult to listen to Girl Talk and not feel like what's happening in your brain is just like, the perfect reassembly of these ideas. I've listened to him an awful lot this year. (Laughs)
There are probably five or six points in the album, All Day, where it was an unusual challenge for me to figure out how to have the dance and the action correspond to the music in a way that I was happy with. There are portions of the album that I find really heavy, and kind of awful. Like, forty-five seconds to a minute and a half where the vulgarity became something I couldn't see around.
Including at the very beginning (of the album), with the Ozzy (Osborne) and Ludacris samples, I was kind of worried about how to start this film. Having Luda screaming "Move bitch, get out the way" is just angry. And I am totally a Ludacris fan, but that is a track of his that I am not down with at all. Its just total stupidity. It's angry, and it is obviously going to upset a good handful of people. In a lot of those moments, we used what was happening lyrically or musically in counterpoint to the film.
In this part of the song and film, we have Anne subverting the lyrical content by being a sort of "strong chick" and embodying these super rough rap lyrics. There's a great Rick Ross sample in track five where he's saying, "I want a dime with a fat ass, slim waist and tall heels," and Ann is running through a mini-mall -- It is one of those weird mini-malls for which there are only a couple in Chinatown - and it's priceless in a way. Her expression of what he's saying is just really funny. It is one of those high comedy moments.
For more information or to purchase tickets for the Denver screening of Girl Walk // All Day tomorrow, visit the Denver Film Center's website. The showing is interactive, since there will be a dance party before, during and after the film.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.