Thursday 21 May 2020

Interview with Frederick Keeve - The director of The Accompanist

Filmmaker Frederick Keeve’s latest film might be- like so many others – set within the world of dance but, as the director of The Accompanist explains, he wanted to “do something different to try and show ballet as an art form more honestly with realistic ballet classes and auditions” for this pic.

What do you think makes a good dance film, Frederick?

That’s an interesting question. One of the reasons I set out to make The Accompanist and also the upcoming sequel The Accompanist Awakening was to show ballet in a more realistic light and also bring back the beauty, grace and athleticism of ballet dancers to mainstream audiences. I’ve enjoyed other dance films over the years like The Turning Point, Center Stage, and even Black Swan, and of course a classic like The Red Shoes, but I wanted to do something different and try to show ballet as an art form more honestly with realistic ballet classes and auditions.

Can you remember the first one you saw?

The Turning Point.

And which ones do you think are the best?

I think all the films mentioned above have a piece of the puzzle and it really depends on what the filmmaker is trying to say and how dance is used in the movie—thematically, as a backdrop, essential to the rising action or conflict in the movie. In The Turning Point, Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft’s characters as friends took completely different paths in life and then come back together in middle age with unresolved conflicts in their lives and friendship. In Center Stage, we follow the lives of young, ambitious dancers as they enroll in American Dance Academy and jockey with each other to be the best and succeed in the dance world with all its stresses and drama.

Black Swan is a character study of the disintegration of the personality of Natalie Portman’s character as she descends into madness portraying the “black swan” in Swan Lake. In The Red Shoes, a young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina.

So each movie deals with the art of ballet and the dramatic conflict set up in each film differently. Whether it’s choosing between love or career, or descent into madness, or unrelenting ambition, or friendship and regrets of path chosen in life, I think that if a film has good production values, a well-constructed screenplay, and good direction and acting, all of these dance movies mentioned have their own artistic life and are valid. My favourite? it would be hard to choose to be honest. I like each for different elements and different performance aspects.

Are you, yourself, interested in other styles of dance outside of ballet?

Ballet is my favourite by far. I’ve always loved ballet, and in particular, the melding of classical music and the grace, artistry and athleticism and purity of style in ballet. It is truly a magnificent art form involving classical style, training, beauty, grace, gorgeous music, costumes, staging and wonderful storylines of the classic ballets. Magnificent!

Where did this interest in ballet come from?

I always liked The Turning Point in terms of melding great actors’ performances like Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft with beautiful dancing from American Ballet Theatre dancers, and lots of drama. But my original interest I’m sure would have been from studying classical music as a pianist from five years old, up through high school, and then as a student at UCLA, obtaining an undergraduate degree in music composition. I played piano for ballet companies, studios and classes since I was in graduate school at Oklahoma City University when I was quite young and played for Ballet Oklahoma master classes and professional classes. My interest in ballet continued later when my daughters took ballet classes at the Westside Academy of Dance, also known as Westside Ballet of Santa Monica for ten years, and currently I play piano today at this wonderful dance studio founded by Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire over fifty years ago and is such an artistic force in the lives of not only Santa Monica residents where it is based, but also in the artistic lives and interests of Angelenos, and where I got the idea for the movie The Accompanist.

And is “The Accompanist” based on a personal experience?

Partially yes, but of course intermixed with a lot of imagination and carefully constructed dramatic structure and fictional characters, because, for example, I don’t really send people back in time “to be healed where they need to be healed the most,” with my piano music, but people, whether with dancers in the studio or music for my films, seem to enjoy my music and my musical scores. But I have been married for over twenty years (now divorced) and have four wonderful children of whom I am extremely proud of and feel blessed to have them in my life. So certainly in terms of family life, raising children, the complexities of one’s own sexuality, having to navigate middle age, and those types of themes and issues are part and parcel of my own life, and of course I bring this to my character of Jason Holden and use some of this in the storyline of The Accompanist. I only wish I could do magic like my character in the movie!

How would you describe the tone?

The tone of the movie The Accompanist is definitely dramatic and a bit mystical--akin to raw emotions and healing the pain of loss, tragedy, ambition, unhealthy relationships, and finding true love.

It’s hard to think of a film quite like it! Can you think of the closest comparison piece?

My pitch for this movie is: Black Swan (ballet classes and auditions) meets The Green Mile (the use of magic and invoking magical and esoteric powers and how these experiences inform the major characters) meets Call Me By Your Name (gay love between an older man and a younger man) meets The Sixth Sense (a big mystery that is only revealed at the end of the movie).

I would like to think we are finding a singular and hopefully prominent niche in the marketplace as the film opens to English-speaking audiences in the US on June 2nd, and across English-speaking countries across the world (from Canada, UK, Australia, Bahamas, etc.), because there is no other film like this that offers something beautiful and intriguing and dramatic to audiences hungry for beauty, ballet, art, healing family drama, fantasy, magic, gay love—a combination of emotional rawness, healing, beautiful dance and classical music, all wrapped up in a dramatic storyline.

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