Ravenna Flamenco

el arte de la guitarra

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posted in performance on november 1st, 2010
film still

Ho boy! Have I been bad about site and blog updates. I know it — and I feel the guilt pangs over it nightly — but have I ever got a good excuse for my web-negligence this time around: I’m in a movie!

Well, a short film, anyway — but it will be a brilliant and post-apocalyptically hilarious one all the same. It’s called Manchego! and it’s a zombie romance. And I play — you guessed it — a zombie flamenco guitar player.

Brief synopsis: The film is set in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse (i.e. next Tuesday) and starts off with zombie wrangler Rigby Dangler heading out to catch the most notorious zombie of the land: Manchego.

Manchego is a special prize because of his peculiarity: he doesn’t go after brains (as we all know that good zombies do); he goes after hearts — lady hearts.

And Rigby Dangler has brought his lovelorn wife along … as bait.

I think we can all see where this is going — it is a zombie romance, after all. But let’s get to the important stuff: Manchego works his zombie-seduction magic with the help of an accomplice: his cousin, Valdeon — who is played by yours truly.

“Valdeon,” FYI, is a kind of Spanish blue cheese. Hence, I got to be a blue zombie:

film still
A still from the footage.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m playing here with a heavy layer of blue on my hands. This is a good argument for having a second, “travel” guitar that you don’t mind getting a bit mussed (or blued) up.

What you don’t see from this shot is that it was also brutally cold out — and raining about half the time. In addition to another reason for an “abusable” guitar, this is an excellent reason for what Carter is holding in his right hand below: hand warmers!

actors in makeup
Patti (Kate Kraay), Manchego (Carter Rodriquez) & Valdeon (Andy Fitzgerald)

I eventually got my mitts on two of these chemical “Instant Hot” hand warmers and they became my best friends on the set between shots. The next time I play somewhere chilly — or somewhere where I’m going to need to sit around in the cold a lot between playing — I’m definitely bringing some of these along (in addition to the infamous fingerless gloves, of course).

The actual filming, of course, was only a fraction of what was involved with this project. There was also a lot of arranging, setting, and choreographing prior to the shoot. There is a section in the film where Patti and Manchego do a flamenco dance and all of this had to be prepared, blocked out, and rehearsed.

Patti (Kate Kraay) had danced some flamenco before, but Manchego (Carter Rodriguez) was completely new to it. This posed a bit of a challenge in getting the dance to look “right” — preferably without spending hours and hours and hours on the choreography.

The music I could take care of (I suggested — and was taken up on — a minor key sevillanas), but working out the dance was a job for reinforcements — in this case dancer Daniela Serrano (with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with a number of times in the past):

Dani & Andy

As you might imagine, working with people who are new to — but need to look good at — flamenco dance adds a whole new element to accompaniment. Here, even more than in working with experienced dancers, a strong, clear, regular rhythm was perhaps the most important (and helpful) thing I could provide. My sevillana playing style is a bit more modern than the most basic examples of the form, but even this was able to work as long as my time was spot on.

I also found that it was helpful for the actors/dancers to be able to explain to them the structure of the sevillana as well as explain where the beats fall and where their cues are. One doesn’t necessarily need this information to play the music well, but knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing when you do it — and being able to explain that to others — definitely opens up the possibility of what one can do with the flamenco guitar.

Now you: put away the body paint and go play!


tags: film, manchego, zombie
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