In the feel-good film Dance Baby Dance, star, writer and director Stephen Kogon dances toward his dream.
He plays Jimmy Percer who wants to be a professional tap dancer. In his early 20s, he was on his way until a horrible knee injury stopped him in his tracks. He rehabbed to get back to where he had a chance again only to re-injure the knee. The dream never died, but life happened. He met a pretty girl (Tess), they got married, he got a job and the years passed.
Now in his mid-30s, and still happily married, he sees one last chance to dance. A showcase for a touring show is coming to his town. To be selected means joining the touring show for a whole year. He’ll have to compete against younger and better dancers. His surgically repaired knee never recovered 100%, making it difficult to do moves that once came so easily. But no one wants it more, and no one will work harder.
Beverley Mitchell (Seventh Heaven), Jim O’Heir (Parks and Recreation), Carlos Alazraqui (Despicable Me 3) also star in Dance Baby Dance. Stephen Kogon shares thoughts about his experience working on the film Dance Baby Dance, along with tips for writers:
What was the source of inspiration for writing this story? I’ve always been a fan of underdog films like Rocky, Rudy and Eight Mile, but the inspiration for this film came while I was walking on the beach and listening to music. At the time, I was listening to a lot of old school soul and just saw myself tap dancing to these songs, which made me smile. So I combined the happiness of the tap dancing with the theme of the underdog, and that’s how this story came about.
Why do you think that dance is an important and relevant subject to explore in today’s world? Dance has always brought people joy and can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of country, ethnicity and language. So, in that way, it can help bring people together. And it’s also a great way to express creativity in a non-verbal way…. Plus, it’s a terrific way to work out and stay healthy while having fun.
What are the different challenges involved juggling your roles as writer, actor and director? I’ve been a writer the longest, so that was the easiest for me. Even on set, when a scene had to be rewritten quickly, that came easy to me due to my years of experience doing it. Juggling the roles of director and actor are much more challenging because it’s difficult to do both at the same time. The best way to go about it is prepare and rehearse as much as possible beforehand (mainly in director mode) so that when you’re on set everyone has an idea of what you want as a director, which will allow you to focus more on acting.
What was the most gratifying aspect of working on this project? The act of making it. It’s very rewarding to make a film, and even though you’ll face challenges and setbacks along the way, it’s easy to enjoy the process if you love being a storyteller.
How do you transition to upcoming projects, and can you share the new themes or details? Transitioning to a new project will be easy to me because I write often and I have so many scripts I either want to produce or act and direct in. My future projects will run the gamut from comedies to thrillers to dramas to more dance movies.
What advice would you offer to screenwriters trying to succeed in the film-making industry? Write as often as possible to hone your craft. And then create an atmosphere where people will be comfortable giving you honest feedback. If you get defensive or interrupt you won’t learn the things you want to learn. Also–and this is difficult for many writers–network. Meeting people can create opportunities for you.
Would you like to add any other points about your experiences, work or vision? I’m actually releasing a book about the making of my film, which will cover every aspect of it: writing the script, the business plan, fundraising, casting, hiring and working with crew, production and post-production. It will also include my shooting script with info and notes about nearly every scene–from what it was like working with the actors to overcoming any challenges. Hopefully it will be very valuable to anyone who wants to make a film, especially first-time filmmakers. It should be out on Amazon sometime in February 2018.