Dance film explores ‘The Passing of Time’
Elon University faculty members Jen Guy Metcalf and J McMerty '00, with assistance from several students and alumni, collaborated to examine a love story through ages and stages of life.
It’s hard to pinpoint the most breathtaking aspect of “Le passage du temps (The Passing of Time),” a film created by two Elon University faculty members that’s making the rounds on the festival circuit.
One could argue that it’s the project’s dance choreography, film direction or maybe musical composition – all overseen by members of the Elon community. But don’t overlook the remarkable backdrop of InterContinental Los Angeles’ helipad, offering views of Hollywood from 20-plus floors up.
“When you’re at the top of that building, you can see Beverly Hills and West Hollywood to your right, Santa Monica to your left, and it can take your breath away,” said Jen Guy Metcalf, an assistant professor of dance and the film’s director. “Space and time hold a special meaning in the film, and that rooftop served as the second location in the film. It highlighted a couple in the middle of their relationship, at the height of their lives.”
“The Passing of Time” is the second film collaboration between Metcalf and J McMerty ’00, director of the Elon in Los Angeles program and assistant professor in the School of Communications. Filmed in summer 2014, the project was funded by Elon’s Faculty Research & Development committee and has been selected for 10 film festivals, including the Detroit Dance City Film Fest and Philadelphia Screen Dance Festival. Several Elon alumni and students played pivotal roles in the project’s final cut.
While the first Metcalf-McMerty project provided an intimate look at a couple’s relationship in their apartment, “The Passing of Time” explores a love story through ages and stages of life – from a female perspective.
The film begins with a young couple on a Malibu beach at sunrise, connecting the start of their relationship to the start of the day. Then action moves to the top of InterContinental Los Angeles and later to an elderly couple winding down their evening – and lives – in a loft apartment.
“This is a story of the timelessness of love,” Metcalf said.
The dancers and crew rehearsed and shot the 7-minute, 45-second film over the course of just four days. Afterward, the project was turned over to Ben Stringfellow ’15 to edit and Philip G. Anderson ’13 to create the musical composition.
Before Anderson began work, Metcalf and McMerty met with him at a Los Angeles coffee shop to break down the film’s concept and their vision.
“I basically told Philip that I wasn’t a big fan of a brass sound, but that I loved piano and string and I would love a waltz for the middle section,” Metcalf said. “He took the ideas we had and ran with them, doing more than I ever expected.”
The trio traded audio files over email, and Metcalf recalled listening to the last piece with tears in her eyes on a Burbank park bench.
Likewise, Stringfellow went beyond expectations, picking up on details that Metcalf didn’t mention. “Ben was incredibly important to the whole editing process,” she said, noting he incorporated filters for each section. “He found movement motifs in the choreography that I didn’t tell him about. And he made the structure work with editing. He made our vision a reality.”
McMerty said opportunities to collaborate with alumni and students on the West Coast continue to grow as the university’s footprint expands out there.
“One of the great pleasures that we have as we build a community in Los Angeles is to incorporate not only students, but also alumni into our professional work. And it’s been great to tackle interdisciplinary projects like this,” he said. “Not only does it help Jen and I, but it also gives the students a good professional example of how collaboration can work between two art forms.”
Added Metcalf, “J and I both love teaching. We think it is important to model positive/collaborative behaviors for our students. The fields they are going into are highly collaborative. That’s really important in the classroom and in these professional projects.”
Teamwork also played a key role in the film’s costume design, and even the selection of its title.
With support from the College of Arts and Sciences, Karl Green, assistant professor in the Department of Performing Arts, led the design and construction of the film's costumes. He flew to Los Angeles to meet with the performers to handle fittings.
The film’s collaborative nature did not end there. Metcalf shared early footage with Sophie Adamson and Patti Burns, faculty members in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and the duo recommended using the French translation of “The Passing of Time.”
The name, Metcalf said, “was too perfect.”
Cast, Crew and Contributors
Director and Choreographer: Jen Guy Metcalf
Director of Photography: J McMerty ’00
Performers: Heather Leffler, Allister Dahlberg, Allynne Noelle, Alex Castillo, Gianna Jigarhan, Dan Collins
Music: Philip G. Anderson ’13
Costumes: Karl Green
Camera Operators: J McMerty, Tyler Diamond ’10, Brian Szymanski ’16
Editor: Ben Stringfellow ’15
Rehearsal Assistants: Taylor Aucott, Brenna Dames, Nina Sunderland
Production Assistants: Anthony Philips, Robin Day
French Translation: Sophie Adamson, Patti Burns