Rachel Wolther and Alex H. Fischer

Rachel Wolther and Alex H. Fischer

Rachel Wolther and Alex H. Fischer were both fans of Cocoon Central Dance Team — the gleefully absurd, entirely winning performance troupe consisting of Sunita Mani, Tallie Medel and Eleanore Pienta — when they decided to collaborate on an adaptation of Cocoon’s stage show, Snowy Bing Bongs. The two had never directed together before: Fischer’s CV consists of commercials, music videos and short comedic web pieces, while the majority of Wolther’s credits are as a producer. (Among many other titles, she produced Nathan Silver’s Stinking Heaven and Drew Tobia’s See You Next Tuesday, starring Pienta.) But they had met, years ago, through Cocoon and had each seen multiple performances of the show. Deciding that Snowy Bing Bongs had to be a film, they sat down to discuss it over chicken-fried steak. “We talked about how we’d make it, and who would produce and who would direct,” says Wolther. Remembers Fischer, “We thought, ‘Why not just do it together?’ — even though that’s not a good idea most of the time!”

On the basis of Snowy Bing Bongs, which premiered this past June at BAMcinemaFest, the Wolther/Fischer/Cocoon collaboration was decidedly a good idea. The two directors, who also cowrote the short’s screenplay, bring an astonishing level of visual invention and production smarts to a short that’s unclassifiable in ways beyond its distribution-unfriendly 40-minute running time. Riffing on everything from 2001 to ’90s music videos to Vincente Minnelli–style set pieces, Snowy Bing Bongs interweaves charmingly athletic production numbers with dramatic vignettes that sketch out the Cocoon characters’ inner lives as struggling dance performers. Mostly, though, Snowy Bing Bongs just explodes with visual pleasure while never allowing its exuberance to be suffocated by nostalgia or affectation. “When you’re doing comedy, the audience is more accepting of things being on the cornball side,” says Wolther. “There’s no cynicism in it,” adds Fischer. “These women really love each other.”

To manage their collaboration, the directors decided to be specific about their intentions in preproduction. “We did charts and animatics and elaborate stuff neither of us would have done if we were doing it alone,” says Wolther. Fischer says Wolther brought the movie musical cinephilia (“Rachel was always telling me to watch scenes from Bye Bye Birdie on YouTube”) and the ambition to “shoot the dance sequences very specifically and as a story — my idea would have been to cover them with a couple of different angles.” Meanwhile, Wolther says Fischer was great at imagining the visuals “in a perfect moment, and then he knew how to build to that moment. And he’s a lot better at letting the camera roll and the actors riff. We come to ideas from different angles, and then we combine our two approaches.”

The duo are intending to extend their collaboration into features. About their next project, Fischer says, “You know how solipsists think no one else exists? We’re writing a feature set in a world where that’s literally true.” — SM

Image: Jake K. Leckie

Contact: Jason Klorfein (jklorfein@gmail.com)

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