Interview with Cari Ann Shim Sham

In honor of our new NACHMO Film Project, we have an interview with the fabulous  Cari Ann Shim Sham

Cari Ann Shim Sham* is a wild artist who enjoys hunting edible mushrooms, collecting antique doorknobs, and making magical manipulations of movement.  Known for strong surreal images and precise rhythm of the edit, her visual artistry, opens up the viewer's body through emotional sensation, powerful visuals, provocative sound and engaging movement. Cari Ann has answered some inspiring questions about film and movement.

How did you first get interested in working with a camera?

I grew up around cameras.  My father had a few Canon still cameras and he was always taking chrome photos and my family would look at the slides at night on our slide projector and eat popcorn.  He liked to photograph race cars.  Looking at those photos taught my eye framing, composition, and color.  As I got older, he gave me one of his Canons and I started taking photos.  It wasn't until the early nineties that I stared shooting super 8 and high 8 in the late 80's.  Then in the early 90's and a friend gave me his pxl 2000 camera which shot to cassette tape that I played around with and made some experimental shorts.I got a hand me down handicam video camera in the mid 90's that I shot a bunch of footage on of my dance company Bitch Co. performing at underground raves and art gallery parties in Los Angeles.  

Video was a real fun playful format for me to work with, it was so liberating from the technicalities of still photography with celluloid. I liked playing with the in camera effects and learning what I could do to mess with the picture. I was always interested in getting wild looks out of my images. That is still at the heart of my camera inquiry. 

What was an initial struggle capturing movement on film, and how did you overcome it?

The struggle is always the balance and counterpoint of movement between the subject and the camera. I never plan to overcome that...I continue to work with and through it. 

How do you find an audience for your film work?

I started making dance films with help from the initial launch of the Final Cut Pro Editing Software in 2000 which was given to me as a Christmas present by my boyfriend.  At this time I was living in Los Angeles and Dance Camera West announced its first call for submissions. I submitted two of my films to the new dance film festival and they were both screened.  It snowballed from there. I think it was good timing, luck, and interesting film content that attracted audiences to my work.   

What do you think is a unique feature of being able to work with a camera vs. working for the stage?

Intimacy, control, sound dynamics, color depth, attention to detail and the ability to create something that can repeat exactly/perfectly the same again and again. It is perfection. 

What do you miss in live performance that you would like to see captured more on film?

Mistakes, recovery from the unexpected, I'm always after this as a filmmaker, capturing the human improvisation that comes from something gone array.

What draws your eye to a specific piece when you’re curating a festival?

I don't know until it happens. I will let you know the next time it's always something new and compelling.  What I love about curating dance film is that there are no rules in the genre, so you get the wildest's really the most experimental form right now in film making, I think that is why everyone is flocking to it. 

Who are the film creators you enjoy watching, be it with or without movement?

All films work with movement. Movement of subject, movement of camera, movement of sound, the movement in the footage, movement of the's all movement, that's why I am drawn to cinema.   My favorite filmmakers to watch are Michel Gondry, David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Mike Figgis, Sophia Coppola, Lena Dunham, Gaspar Noé, The Cohen Brothers, Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Wim Wenders and Thierry De May. 

Are there specific festivals choreographers can apply to?

Film festivals? Yes. Hundreds.  The field is exploding.  Dance Films Association who's screened several of my films and who I recently curated the 2015 Holiday Screening and Party for has a really great list of festivals here

Any advice for budding choreographers/cinematographers?

Just do it.  

Biography: Her live work and video art has shown at Jacob's Pillow, PS 21, Peak Performances, the Joyce Soho, and she's engaged in tech residencies at the Krannert, Clarice Smith Art Center, Danspace in NYC, Dance Place, DC and numerous times at REDCAT including the NOW Festival & RADAR LA. Her film work has screened at the Laemmle Sunset 7, Mann Chinese Theater, and the United Nations General Assembly, and 160+ festivals internationally including Cannes, Austin, Seattle, Dance Camera West and DFA garnering numerous awards. She served as the Director for the 2015 Topanga Film Festival, has curated dance for camera for Dance Camera West and Topanga Film Festival for a total of 10 years, has taught Dance for Camera at UCLA, St. Mary's College, ASWARA and University of Malaysia and Indonesia Institute of the Arts. She was the recipient of the Surdna Arts Teachers Fellowship, the Chime's Choreographer Mentorship Exchange and was a mentor for the ODC Pilot Program's first ever multi-media residency.  She is currently developing video artistry for Kevin Williamson, David Rousseve, Lionel Popkin, and for Emily Beattie. She's currently shooting a feature film for Marta Renzi and curated DFA's Dance Film Lab end of the year holiday program.  She is over the moon delighted to be teaching for NYU TISCH Dance Department’s Dance & New Media program and directing a Virtual Reality project collaboration between Google, ITP and Opera on Tap.