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An Interview with Daniel Belton

Tell us about yourself. How did you become an artist?

I am a choreographer and filmmaker from Aotearoa New Zealand. My art background stems from the visual arts, and dance. I began working professionally in the performing arts over 30 years ago, and in 2003 I cut my first film.

What was your first job in the art field?

Dancing with choreographer Douglas Wright (Wellington) and touring internationally with his company, then with Danish choreographer and filmmaker Kim Brandstrup and Company in London.

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

We can enrich the dreams of the world with our art, and it is dreams that create history. Artists are transformers of things, and change makers. We can affect change in very positive ways through our creative efforts. We can make the human heart grow larger. Dance, Music and Cinematic Arts are in my view natural partners.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

The starting point for my work is always the dance - the universal language of human movement shared and expressed through moving image. When I conceive a new work, there are drawings, and many notes that come together to form a narrative that can then be shaped towards a film pitch for funding. A key part of this process is inviting in collaborating artists to help me realise the vision; such as music composers, dancers, couture artists, motion graphic and digital artists, etc. I am involved in every aspect of production and bring a choreographer's eye and sensibility to how I shoot film and edit in post production.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that have influenced you?

Early silent cinema of Keaton, and then Fellini, Fritz Lang, and more recently the dance film works of Pina Bausch and Co. There are many other influences and current ones, but the starting point of my curiosity and passion for film is silent cinema - the expressive potency of human gesture and dance captured on film offers a kind of kinetic map of the spirit in action.

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

We are seeing a greater embrace of technologies in moving image, which includes 360 and other formats. Indie film making carries more of a voice than ever before on the world stage, especially where the younger generation artists are stepping forward to highlight awareness around issues that affect us all -climate change, renewable energy, race equality, etc.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow?

Follow your heart. We don't have to try to be original - just being ourselves is enough - the authentic voice comes through all we create and co-create as we learn to listen to the inner voice, trust intuition. When we collaborate with other artists, this fusion can amplify those qualities and evolve our projects in ways which we had not possibly imagined. Being open to these shifts and changes, grows a work and enables the joy of discovery of the new. Purpose is your compass.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Yes, yes they can and do. We can be and are important influencers on the world stage with our creations. Uplifting and inspirational stories in dance, and in the art-film genre, open peoples minds and hearts to tolerance, to celebrating the diversity and beauty of all cultures, all peoples.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

It seems there is more contemplation and reflection, and more of a sense of belonging to a global family - the interconnectedness of everything and everyone. There is a resurgence of documentary-style films and a greater appreciation of art-films I believe.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

With Good Company Arts we are creating a sequel to the TIGER (Silver-Lotus) film. This new work is for Year of the Dragon 2024 and involves artists from New Zealand, Australia and Japan. I am a PhD candidate at Massey University College of Creative Arts. My research is primarily spatial and optical - I am looking at 360 dome and XR environments in relation to performing arts.


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