Why "Mad Max - Fury Road" is not Just a Monstrous Melee in the Desert, or Why We Love this Inspiration for "fury"

I’d like to talk about Mad Max – Fury Road as an inspiration for our show.   It’s contemporary, recognizable, and a head turner.  All things we wanted when exploring movie references for our story.   But a couple years ago when I was coaxed into going to see the movie, it was one of those I expected to forget, thinking it would just be a big, absurd chase through a desert.  I was surprised to find that I left the theater chuckling and respecting it, and I’d like to share why.   For starters, its female and male heroes are equals - in drive, intensity, physical strength and mental stamina.  We can probably chalk up even more points for Furiosa, who has taken it upon herself to rescue imprisoned women.  But she and Max are also equals in their misery - dirty, hobbled and emotionally shelled-off, tortured by loss and despair.  They are both raw nerves who can trust no one.  They battle each other and everyone else until, finally, out of options and facing a hopeless future of more torturous isolation, each must transform in the core of their souls.  The risk each must take is an internal one, requiring equal measures of uncertainty and vulnerability.   They have to stop going it alone and rely on someone else.  That’s one thing that touches us about Fury Road.  We all run into the wall of doom that total self-reliance throws up in front of us.  We all struggle with whom to trust.  A super hero’s courage is never more tested than when she must admit she’s wrong.  Don't we all face the super hero’s challenge when it comes to that?  For Furiosa, admitting she’s wrong means facing the unimaginable – going back to the very place she thought she had left forever.  Never mind retracing a parched landscape and facing another death battle to get there.  This is one of the most interesting questions Fury Road brings up.  It asks us to ponder what is “home”, and the inevitable futility of chasing a place we can finally be happy.  Its stark question is that if your home is hell, isn’t that the battle you have to fight?  Isn’t real heroism found in facing what is, and bringing your talents, your power, and even your fury to making that better for everyone?  The desert blow-up of Fury Road unearths other deep questions about what makes a place home.  Is it as much a state of mind as a place?  Is it given to us, or do we make it?  Max and Furiosa survive, physically and emotionally because they decided to trust each other.  Is home really found wherever there are people you can trust? 

For we FURY creators, taking the audience on a ride that digs up these questions through awesome new, live music and movement by dancers at the top of the game is the kind of journey we’ve been waiting for.  We hope you'll strap in and come along.   Yours, Kate



PIcking up where the last blog left off, the other things we're working on in the background are getting a new LLC set up, - (now called CandyBomber LLC - I spent the holiday in Berlin with my fam so that's a hint on where to look for what it refers to), getting contracts done, and most work of all: getting a website, Eventbrite  and social media sites to work, and work together.  Editor Talia St. Claire took on all of our online presence, and let's just say it's been a wee bit of work.  We also shot some video of choreographer Dani Rowe rehearsing a dancer, and interviewed James and LIlie for our social media posts.  Stay tuned for those!

Meanwhile, the creative side is humming along.  In the process for this show, music comes first and so James and Lilie started by making a rough outline of the length and mood of each story segment and event.  Then they started making music, which will continue all summer.  But we got the first drop from them a few weeks ago, which James described as the framework.  So I made quiet time in my kitchen with my morning latte to listen - hoping I would love it.  What I felt was this, "Wow, this is a show."  That sounds like it starts off huge and loud, and it doesn't.  The feeling was more like a "Stop, lIsten and watch because something is going on," kind of thing, and that felt great.  Based on that first music, Dan had some input and ideas for James and Lilie as she's thinking of movement and how the story will unfold with dancers.  So it was thumbs up to James and Lilie all around, and they can carry on.  We'll get our second drop of music from them in early June and I'll get them to write a post then about what they're doing.  In addition to themselves, they have a bunch of other musicians playing, recording, and writing for this show, and I can't begin to do it justice here.   

Next on the creative trail, James, Lilie and I met with Luke Acret, Creative Director to review the story arc because he's creating the look and visuals for each of the musical/story segments.  I don't want to give anything away, but suffice to say this part of the process is a gas - dreaming up amazing images to create the environment and atmosphere for the show.  There will be a lot of late nights animating those visual ideas - but more on that in a later post.  More soon.  

LIlie Hoy, me, James Jackson and Luke Acret.

LIlie Hoy, me, James Jackson and Luke Acret.

Come Along on the Making of FURY

FURY has launched and tickets are on sale.  It's exciting and ambitious, and I'm diving into the producer role for the first time.  It's a concert experience, and I think our Blurb describes it best, so I will copy that below.

I'd like to share the process in a series of blogs with you as we go along.  Since this is my first post about FURY, I'll start back at the beginning.

I was introduced to James Jackson and Lilie Hoy of YASSOU about a year ago by a friend who knew they had composed and played music for a stage production for Louisville Ballet, sharing the stage with the dancers.  I liked their music online a lot, so we met at The Battery in SF, and I was impressed with the way they were approaching their music and their collaborations.  I also just liked them both - a recurring theme as this team came together.  I asked them for a second meeting and told them I was thinking about doing a concert with very high level dancers, and basing the whole thing on a modern story.  I also said I wanted to do it on a "manageable scale".  They were in because it's the kind of collaborative creation they are all about.   At that point, I was totally in myself.  No more "If..."  Now it was only "How, who, when, where and what."

Next I asked Dani Rowe to be the choreographer.  Her choreography is getting great reviews, and the recurring theme of  "I like her" was already there with Dani.   After my explanation, she was in too.  

Next, James, Lilie, Dani and I met at Cavallo Point for coffee to choose the story.  I wanted a story that would immediately say, "Strap in, this isn't your typical concert or ballet", and movies have the story elements and recognition I was looking for.  I had a list of about 25 different movies I was interested in working with.  The four of us worked our way through the list, discussing each, throwing some out, keeping some on a short list.  When I got to Mad Max, James, Liiie and Dani all lit up like light bulbs.  Their immediate reactions made it clear - we're doing Mad Max.

A side note about why the pop of pleasure when that movie came up - here's what I think.  Aside from the adrenaline fueled, fantastical adventure of the post-apocalyptic pile-up in the desert, at it's core, the story is actually about hope.  It's  about the most ferocious of battles any real hero faces - taking a risk to trust someone other than him or herself.  We are also digging the feminist equality and strength of Furiosa.  As one reviewer said, "blending grit and gravity to become the story's heart and soul."

Back to our own journey.  Next, I called a number of lawyers and producers to make sure I wasn't going to be in any legal trouble.  Basically,  interpreting a movie through a music concert with dance is about as derivative as it gets, and I got the all clear as long as we're not using actual dialogue or video from the movies, which wasn't our aim anyway.

Next, I told Dani who my dream team was for dancers, and we figured out what roles they could have.  We approached them to "guest" (ballet term for side gig), and they were all in too.  It's an amazing cast, and will be fantastic to finally have SFB and LINES dancers in a rehearsal studio together!

Meanwhile, I was nailing down the date and lining up our first venue, The Chapel - a really cool music club in the Mission District of SF.  As I said above, I was trying to keep things to a manageable scale, so I was only planning for one night.  

James, Lilie, Dani and I met a few more times to shape the flow of the concert - timing, mood, narrative arc, visuals, etc.  Lots of thinking went into this and continues now.  Dani also suggested I contact her friend and fellow Aussie, Luke Acret to see if he would come on as Creative Director to take the visual design for imagery, sets, and projections to a next level.  As you know, the Mad Max movies are also Australian, so the Aussie DNA is thick on this project now.

We were off and running then, making music, visuals and all the rest.  I'll pick up from there in another post soon, but for now, here's the Blurb:
FURY is a new concert experience that is up-close and real, bringing together the collaborative music making of indie-pop group, YASSOU with another unusual collaboration between dancers from two different world-class ballet companies, San Francisco Ballet and Alonzo King LINES Ballet.  Principal dancers from SFBallet, Dores Andre, Frances Chung, Luke Ingham, Lauren Strongin and Joe Walsh, and from LINES Ballet, Adji Cissoko and Babatunji will share a center stage with musicians from YASSOU who are composing an hour of original music and sound.  Audience will surround the stage in an ever changing, post-apocalyptic world created with sets and visuals by Creative Director, Luke Acret.  Choreographer Dani Rowe is making movement for dancers and musicians who portray characters fighting for survival in a journey that moves between driving intensity and tender intimacy. 

FURY Website: 


Eventbrite ticket link:


FURY Show Facebook Page link:


Guernica - a short dance film for SFBallet's New Works Festival


I am exactly in the middle of two film shoots for "Unbound", San Francisco Ballet's New Works Festival coming in April 2018.  SFB chose 12 choreographers to make 12 new 30 minute works which will premiere in four programs over the course of two weeks in April.  It's an exciting burst of new creation for this company which is already known for consistently commissioning new pieces by well known, new and diverse choreographers.  

I am directing two short dance films based on the stage ballets by two of the choreographers:  Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Alonzo King.  I could not be more thrilled to be creating art films from the work these two very different and important choreographers have created for the stage.  

We shot the film based on Annabelle's piece, "Guernica" on November 5th.  She was inspired by the Pablo Picasso painting with the same title, and choreographed a gorgeous ballet with mythological characters that move with punctuated, angular steps, sweeping swings and lifts and distinct group formations that convey drama, challenge, and resolution.  The short dance film I'm making will show separately from the ballet in various events SFBallet has planned leading up to the live performance, as well as online when the ballet premieres.  We have just finished a rough cut of the edit, and are now diving into the deeper details of making it... well what can I say but.... really cool. 

Annabelle is a Columbian-Belgian, award winning and sought after choreographer, having made works for over 50 dance companies around the world.   

I will be shooting the Alonzo King piece on January 9th, and will write another post about that soon!  Stay tuned.

guernica still 01.png

Ballet Sun Valley - World Premiere - August 24, 2017

The new ballet for which I did projection and set design premiered at Ballet Sun Valley on August 24th.  Gemma Bond from ABT was the choreographer, and Judd Greenstein wrote a complex and varied new score for the live orchestra.   It was all quite ambitious for a summer dance festival, but it came off beautifully!  The cast was big with 15 dancers, and starred Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes in the leads.  The title of the ballet, "eight/twenty-one/seventeen" is the date of the actual solar eclipse that took place on August 21st.  We were all lucky that Sun Valley was directly in the path of Totality, andI I hiked up Dollar Mountain to watch it with Judd and orchestra conductor Martin West (from San Francisco Ballet).  As a projection designer, lets just say I was thinking that Mother Nature sets a high bar for light shows.  Seeing the gorgeous full corona was special.  

Gemma wanted the ballet to be abstract, and include a platform for dancers to be above the stage level, so we set  a circle element behind the platform.  I used simple, bright moving color bands, color gradients and ripples in the video design to express the moods and changes in the music.

Isabella Boylston made her debut as Artistic Director for the two night event.  The full cast of dancers she invited was unbelievable:  Misty Copeland, Tiler Peck, Maria Kotchekova, Stella Abrera, Ida Praetorias, Tyler Angle, James Whiteside, Xander Parish, Kimin Kim and more.  The performances were in the outdoor Sun Valley Pavilion which was a perfect place for this incredibly exciting new summer dance festival.

Backstage with Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes on the first night. 

Backstage with Isabella Boylston and Marcelo Gomes on the first night.