Hi Dan, thanks so much for speaking with us. Whereabouts in the world do we find you right now?
I live in Southern California just outside of Los Angeles.
What can you tell us about your documentary, EVERYBODY DANCE?
I think it's ultimately about the power of artistic expression and why we all benefit when exposed to the Arts. EVERYBODY DANCE is a documentary that dives into the transformative world of art as it empowers and encourages children who are neurodivergent and/or have a disability. I follow five kids as they experience the thrill of movement and belonging while preparing for their dance recital. We share in their struggles and triumphs, (that ALL kids feel) - as they, along with their families and dance teacher, discover the rhythm of inclusivity and acceptance.
By dancing, the children shake off isolation and the narrative of not being good enough. The arts are a great equalizer, allowing every child to discover the freedom of true self-expression. An inspiring journey of self-discovery, dedication, achievement and yes dance!
Why did you want to make this documentary?
My initial inspiration comes from my fascination with people who studied the Arts but didn’t pursue it as a profession. Did they acquire any tools that were helpful and applicable in their everyday lives? That was my jumping-off point.
I then actually had a dream about two girls I taught dance to over 20 years ago who had autism - it was so clear and precise, that I took it as a message from beyond that I was being handed the way into my movie. I researched dance schools and conservatories all across the country and stumbled upon Ballet for All Kids and the owner & teacher Bonnie Schlachte.
She was gracious to let me view a class and I knew that these were the stories that needed to be told. At Ballet for All Kids, the dance class is an actual 55-minute class - the kids are doing ballet barre work and learning classical ballet (other dance styles are also offered) and I wanted to talk with the parents and kids about how studying this art form has helped in everyday life. Did the discipline, repetitiveness, and structure of dance overflow into school and home? Those stories are explored in the film.
Everybody Dance shares the stories of these families and kids in their own words about disabilities and neurodiversity, which may encourage empathy for some viewers and provides a lot of food for thought about the positivity of arts education and being a more inclusive society.
What has the reception to Everybody Dance been like? I am humbled by the response. We have a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, 5 out of 5 stars by Comment Sense Media which focuses on rating films and TV for families and kids and we have been embraced by many organizations that focus and support the disabled community.
Where can people see it next? We are lucky to be available on Prime Video, AppleTV, Google Play, iTunes, Venmo and most other streaming platforms. What's next for you in terms of filmmaking?
I’m actually in the editing stage of my next documentary. I can’t say much yet but I am honoured to be working with Broadway Theatre Producer Daryl Roth, who is a seven-time Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of 13 Tony Awards and Oliver Awards. It’s gonna be great! Why do you make movies? When I was young I use to come home from school and watch Phil Donahue and Merv Griffin. I love to hear about people’s journeys, the good and bad that helped get them to where they are today. I get to talk directly with fascinating people as they share their triumphs, missteps and accomplishments as they reflect on who they are. I can’t think of a better job. Who would you love to make a movie with? I was lucky to have Morgan Spurlock hold my hand through this process. He answered my calls and offered words of encouragement and guidance when I started questioning myself - so we can cross him off the list as even today, he’s just a phone call away. I would love to sit down and chat with Ron Howard and Norman Lear who have accomplished so much and have stayed true to themselves along the way.