MY KICKSTARTER GOAL: To finance this most important step, PHASE ONE, the film research in the UK, so I can complete my Documentary on Eccentric Dance!
Never documented until now, 'Funny Feet:The Art of Eccentric Dance' represents the rarest of documentarIes, one that is both vastly entertaining and deeply informative for an international audience. So now the time has come to see this film to fruition, and this one final step, will provide me with the tools to finally make it happen.
But what on earth is an Eccentric Dancer?
Well, that's what everyone asks me, and yes, it's quite different from 'exotic' dance..... but while working as a young animator at Disney Studios, I fell in love with this quirky, off-beat, style of funny movement upon learning my first silly walk, and the rest is history...
YOU ALREADY KNOW IT! It's the cockeyed strut of Jimmy Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy and the classic tramp of Charlie Chaplin, the wild banana dance of Josephine Baker or Groucho's zany twist kicks, the sentimental scarecrow of Ray Bolger and Goofy being, well, Goofy! The 'Lord of the Rings' Andy Serkis as dance master in TopsyTurvy and John Cleese's indomitable 'Ministry of Silly Walks', Massine's spirited Peruvian in Gaiete' Parisienne and the outrageous and impossible break dancers of today. Yep, it's ALL Eccentric and it's ALL visual 'comedy in dance', with the funniest feet, rubber legs, snake hips, and craziest legmania hi-kicks, where twists, falls and the most exaggerated and outrageous comical movement, delineate a unique character, who performs a surprising, but always hilarious, story through dance!
My work as an artist and animation choreographer has entirely financed this DOCUMENTARY to date, but now, following 20 years of research, performance and studying with those remarkably funny dancers and choreographers, I have amassed the only 'eccentric dance & visual comedy' collection of its kind, including 45 filmed celebrity interviews and over 1000 hours of historic eccentric dance footage. These incredible INTERVIEWS, (see below) spanning six countries, with some taking years to acquire, are uniquely focused on each performer's approach in making movement 'funny'.
With five of these interviews already donated to the New York Performing Arts Library for restricted use when completed, my entire collection will be donated to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an educational asset for researchers and performers, my biggest dream, once the film is finished.
But there's still some crucial material to gather before I can finish this documentary and begin editing, and I am hoping to complete the research and production with the help of friends, colleagues, film, dance, animation, physical theater enthusiasts and anyone who loves to laugh!
In order to complete a film of this scale, I've reached out to an Emmy-winning filmmaker who has long been interested in similiar material. Marc Fields ('Give Me The Banjo', 'Broadway: The American Musical' on PBS), will help create a master budget, schedule and script, and supervise the editing of the film.
MY GOAL FOR THIS KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN and WHAT THE DONATIONS WILL COVER
To get myself to England, complete my research and select film clips over there, before I can select clips here, and then budget the film. With extraordinary contacts and commitments for access and support already in place, I need to make a two week trip to England in January, to access the vaults at the British Film Institute and the BBC. The story of this film cannot be properly told without first tapping into a vast resource of archival footage and historical information residing in England, where Eccentric Dance flourished for well over two hundred years. I've made a connection with the BFI, and the Founder of the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America, located at Drury Lane Theater. I have also made contact outside of London, at the University of Exeter, Devon, who have rare Chaplin Eccentric Dance sheet music as far back as the early 1900's.
This funding will also pay for HD video equipment rentals and crew for interviews, research costs and travel and accomodation costs while in the UK. Any funds received in excess of my goal will be applied to transfer and back-up of archival film, interviews and analogue materials to a digital format for editing.
PHASE TWO.....Following Phase One, a final fundraising effort will be made to edit and complete the film, as well as arrange for distribution and release. The Phase Two effort will not be financed by this initial solicitation through Kickstarter.
Why I Became An Eccentric Dancer?
While working as a young animator at the Walt Disney Studios, I avidly studied dance, but was soon redirected by a vaudevillian to the Eccentric style, and there was no turning back! My journey had begun, as I eagerly studied old films and studied with any vaudevillian willing to teach me the Eccentric repertoire. This exaggerated 'character movement' style was a natural transition into animation choreography, a link that continues today, in my recent work as 'character movement' coach for the animators and performers in Disney's'The Princess and the Frog' . Performances in eccentric led to the 'Betsy Bird' on England's Muppet Show, and with the Muppet's first 'live' performance at the Kennedy Center, the Steve Allen Show, the American Dance Festival's 'Salute To Vaudeville', Faerietale Theater and the Broadway bound 'Stardust'.
My plans to make 'Funny Feet: The Art of Eccentric Dance' as a documentary began over 20 years ago. My first screening of the 'work in progress', sponsored by Disney's Artist Development Program, took place in Los Angeles in 1996 with over 1000 animators and special guests, including Bill Irwin and was hosted by comic genius Steve Allen.
I have maintained an active association with Eccentric Dance including a guest speaking engagement at Oxford University for the Fred Astaire Conference; as vaudeville and Eccentric Dance consultant for Cirque Du Soleil in Montreal; Eccentric Dance screenings and workshops for Ringling Brothers 'Clown College' and, most recently, character movement coach for Universal Studio Japan's dancers and characters.
INTERVIEWS ALREADY FILMED INCLUDE:
(US): Red Skelton, Shirley MacLaine, Dick Van Dyke, Ann Miller, Herb Ross (Director), Michael Kidd (Choreographer), Jerry Lewis, Milt Larsen (Historian), Mrs. Buster (Eleanor) Keaton, Lois Hawes (Stan Laurel's daughter), Fayard Nicholas, Geoffrey Holder, Marge Champion, Dennis Nahat (dance for Agnes DeMille and Massine) , Andre DeShields, Lou Wills,Jr., Jenni LeGon, Leonard Reed (Producer of the Apollo Theater), Kendall Capps (Historian), Steve Allen, Buster Brown, Charles Collins & Carol Stone (Fred Stone family), Gil Lamb, Richard Fleischer (Director & son of Max Fleischer)
(UK & EUROPE): Lord Lew Grade (former competitive dancer and producer), Johnny Hutch (Royal Shakespeare Theater, Benny Hill and consultant on Chaplin film), Norman Wisdom, Len Lowe & Harry Seltzer, Frederick Franklin (Ballets Russe), Slava (Russian pantomimist), Marcel Marceau (French Pantomimist), Paddy Moloney (Ireland's Leader of the Chieftains), Paolo Bosisio (Italian Commedia Professor and Director)
ANIMATORS: Chuck Jones, Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Myron Waldman (Betty Boop/Popeye) , Joe Barbera, Joe Grant and Al Hirschfeld (NY Times caricaturist)
WE ARE PLEASE TO HAVE SECURED THE SUPPORT AND COOPERATION OF THE ESTATES OF: Stan Laurel, Eddie Foy Sr., Red Skelton, Hal Sherman, Fred Stone and Lupino Lane
NOTE: Limited rights for use of images has been granted. If any violation of rights have occurred, please contact us and they will be removed immediately. All rewards are related directly to the film and its producer and artist, Betsy Baytos, and will be sent as soon as they become available.
I thank you all for your time, support and generosity and I look forward to reconnecting with many and meeting NEW enthusiasts of the 'Eccentric Dance'! Join me for an incredible journey and please 'spread the word!'
With sincere gratitude and appreciation,
REWARDS: #2 'DANCE MUSIC DOWNLOADS'
REWARDS: #3 'ECCENTRIC DANCE PRINTS!'
REWARDS #4: THE ART OF THE PRATFALL with RED SKELTON (6 prints in sequence)
REWARDS #5: 'GROCK' PRINT with TOTE BAG
REWARDS #6: POSTER, one dance PRINT and a TOTE.....Artist: Betsy
REWARDS #7: 'DANCE ECCENTRIC' POSTERS'
REWARDS #8: JIMMY BUFFETT TEE, A 'DANCE ECCENTRIC' POSTER and a TOTE! Artist: Betsy
(Jimmy Buffett Tour Tee courtesy of HK Mngt.) LARGE SIZE ONLY
REWARDS #9: 'LUPINO LANE PACKAGE' (Includes copy of the book, 2 still prints & a DVD of 'THE LAMBETH WALK')
REWARDS #10: THE 'BOFFO' PACKAGE! (Includes a BUFFETT Lg. Tee, the entire LUPINO LANE package above, 3 still prints, all music downloads, any DANCE or LOGO poster and a TOTE!
REWARDS #11: THE 'ULTRA DELUXE WOW' PACKAGE! (Includes ALL of REWARD #10 PLUS BOTH posters!
REWARDS # 12: THE 'PRICELESS PREMIUM' PACKAGE! (Includes ALL of the DELUXE Package PLUS a special, personalized ILLUSTRATION by Betsy, of any pet or person you desire.
REWARDS #13: THE 'ANGEL PATRON' PACKAGE! (Includes ALL of the 'PREMIUM' Package above, including the special ILLUSTRATION by Betsy!