I work a lot with the documentary filmmaker, Mary Trunk. She is one of the coolest people I know because she has never stopped giving priority to her creative interests. She makes art every day, drawings, photos or digital images. She has produced and directed four independent feature documentaries, numerous short films, and she nurtures new talent as a film professor at Mount Saint Mary’s University Film Department.
Prior to all those accomplishments she had her own dance company in San Francisco called The Trunk Company. This was just before Silicon Valley ate the Bay Area Bohemian scene for lunch. Coincidentally, we both lived there but didn’t know each other. I went to a ton of dance concerts back then and almost for sure saw her perform. Oh, what I would give to be able to go back in time, see our crossing paths and hear a voice say, See that women? She is going to change your life.
Her documentary process is unusual. She films for a long time, three years for her first film, two for second, seven for her third and six for her most recent. That’s 18 years of filming! She doesn’t film every day or even every week, but she is tracking her subjects over a longer period of time than most documentary films do. I’ve only met a few people as committed to a vision as she is. It’s not that she comes off ultra-intense, it’s more just her nature. She doesn’t get bored or tired. She likes to go very, very deep. The stuff that is interesting to her doesn’t come right away and she is fine with waiting.
I edited her last three feature documentaries, and most of her other projects, since we started working together back around 2007. I am extremely lucky my sensibilities harmonize with her vision. We collaborate well and really enjoy each other. It’s been a truly life altering creative relationship.
Thanks to her, I have made the best thing I think I’ve ever made. Or I should say I’ve edited the best thing I have ever had the privilege of editing. We did it together. I didn’t do it. But for my contribution, it’s the best I’ve done. I am so grateful to have been part of it and so excited to share it!
Her latest feature documentary, Muscle Memory, is premiering at the Fargo Film Festival in March. I am so excited to go and see it in a theater with an actual audience.
Muscle Memory looks at the power of first obsessions to haunt the totality of our lives. The film follows eight former college dance majors over six years. Together again after several decades, the dancers use the language of movement to convey the emotional terrain of remembering.
Here are a few of the comments we have received:
A nuanced meditation on being an artist and the connections formed in the optimistic crucible of youthful creative expression.
Muscle Memory transcends documentary conventions, “documenting” the past but acting and feeling and testifying more like a work of art than a work of documentation.
This film is not just about dance. It’s about the choices we make.
It felt very personal to me even though it wasn’t my story.
It brought up so much of what’s inside, most spiritual thing I have ever seen.
Mary and I edited the film over five years, not continuously, but regularly. We knew it was a complex film and would take us a while to discover and choose which connections to make, which dances to pair with which stories, how to go back and forth in time, how to track each character over their 30-year journey.
Mary wanted the film to be dynamic and gave me permission (and the footage) to make it dance. She was ruthless, in her diplomatic way, about removing anything boring and anything she found aesthetically underwhelming. Sometimes I would push back because I had worked so hard on a scene but as I gained some distance from the editing, I’d realize she was right. That’s actually quite comforting, to trust your collaborator’s instincts. She gave me permission to go wild and she helped me rein it in. The result is something that pushes the boundaries but also has boundaries.
I think it’s fair to say we both didn’t want it to end. Yet we did want to share it with the world. I am very proud of this movie; it moves like a freight train on the wings of a butterfly. Don’t know what that means? Check it out! I will let you know when additional screening opportunities become available and the film moves into wide release.