Dancing with the Stars – Alvin Ailey Dance Company | Edinburgh International Festival

Chocolate films was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival to create a film following three young dancers as they prepare to perform with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. 

Edinburgh and Alvin Ailey

The Edinburgh International Festival is a three week long festival of the arts that has been running since 1947. The festival has curated classical music, opera and ballet for most of its lifetime, plus contemporary dance like Alvin Ailey performs.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Company, founded in 1958, is one of the most prestigious names in contemporary dance, and has performed for over 25 million people across 71 countries.

The festival wanted to portray its connection to Edinburgh and the city’s youth. They commissioned Chocolate Films to create a captivating dance documentary, showcasing emerging Scottish dancers aged 18-25 and their journey as they train and perform with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Three dancers at the beginning of their careers were chosen – a Scottish dancer, who grew up, trained and stayed in Scotland, a Scottish talent who left Scotland to pursue a dance career, and an international talent, who came to Scotland to train and work. 

From audition to performance we documented their hopes, anxieties and successes to create an intimate portrait of our three subjects, and portray the experience of performing with one of the most prestigious Dance Companies in the world.

Our Rehearsal

The initial brief was fairly loose, requiring us to simply capture the process of the young dancers’ audition, rehearsal and performance, but that was developed after conversations with some of the dancers.

Eventually, three dancers were chosen to be the focus of the film, and the script was developed around them. Initial interviews with these dancers provided the backbone for the more personal moments of the film.

Stylistically, the decision was made to use a handheld camera and wide angle lenses for interviews, to give the film a more intimate, casual feel and let the audience connect with the subjects.

Some of the challenges we faced with were capturing the right moments and creating an atmosphere for our subjects in which they felt comfortable and able to share their thoughts and feelings about the process. We tackled this by using smaller crews, and chatting colloquially with our subjects to make shoots feel less like interviews and more like friendly chats.

Getting to the Pointe

Over the course of six shoots, Chocolate Films captured the dancers audition, get selected, begin their rehearsal process, and learn and evolve until they were on the Edinburgh Festival Theatre stage performing in front of almost 2,000 people.

We leaned into the fantastic backdrop of Edinburgh as a location, and asked some of our contributors to show us around their favourite parts of the city, which led to some unexpected moments and breathtaking visuals.

In post-production, there was a large amount of footage to go through, but our script and extensive pre-production, as well as regular discussions throughout production about the direction the film was going in, helped the film take shape naturally in the editing process.

Documentaries - stories based on real-life people

At Chocolate films, we have a lot of experience creating documentaries about complex subjects, often over long shooting periods, while keeping a strong, continuous vision throughout.

Our experience in these kinds of projects ranges from a series of three documentaries with the V&A on their photographic archive, to work with the Sony World Photography Awards.

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The producers at Chocolate Films are available to talk through your project at a time that suits you. They’ll make sure they really understand your organisation and what you’re looking to achieve with video content. Following the discussion, they will send over a detailed proposal for the work you’re looking to commission.

What our clients say

Chocolate Films
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Kerri AthertonKerri Atherton
14:11 15 May 24
Chocolate films produced a fun promotional video for us as part of our 80th anniversary. They were professional with clear communication, and the project was delivered to time.
Samantha ChetwoodSamantha Chetwood
09:34 03 May 24
The video content creation workshop offered by Chocolate Films was incredibly useful, packed full of handy tips on how to create compelling videos with the minimum equipment and time! The space is great and the team were welcoming, generous with their knowledge and clearly enthusiastic about what they do.
HUGE round of applause for the Chocolate Films team! We attended their ‘Using Video for Business’ Workshop, which they so kindly offered free of charge for local businesses in the Wandsworth area. Hosted at their lovely new Nine Elms studio space, we had a great morning of learning, chatting over tea and coffee. They are a really delightful and organised company that we hope to work with going forward, and we would love to see the team at one of our cookery classes one day! Ax
Victoria NicholsonVictoria Nicholson
11:16 01 May 24
I joined other small business owners, founders and entrepreneurs for a morning workshop on how to create content, shoot and edit footage. The studio was so welcoming and the team gave some fantastic advice whether it was your first foray into film making or had been trying for a while but stuck with certain elements. The workshop was fun, enjoyable and informative with a good balance between information and hands on practice. They made something quite complex seem very accessable. The teams enthusiasm for their craft is infectious.
Marie de ChampchesnelMarie de Champchesnel
11:11 01 May 24
I had the pleasure to be invited to a workshop at Chocolate Films which was delivered to a high standard from start to finish. The facilitators were highly knowledgeable, friendly and very approachable and took time to answer any questions we had. Thank you for a great experience!
Asma SharapovaAsma Sharapova
10:56 01 May 24
I attended a workshop with Chocolate Films and was very impressed with their professionalism, knowledge and expertise. They packed so much invaluable information into the session and they were all super friendly and approachable.
Carlos LutterbachCarlos Lutterbach
14:03 19 Apr 24
Chocolate Films did outstanding work on the Seido Karate London promo. They were able to capture the spirit of the Dojo with their visuals and presentation. The interviews were professional and conducted expertly. Overall outstanding work!
James FairbairnJames Fairbairn
14:42 11 Apr 24
I work for the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and we commissioned Chocolate films to make 3 films to support the training of mental health workers.The Chocolate films team have been highly professional, skilled and excellent to work alongside. Right from the beginning where we met to share our plans and discuss the potential project, the team have offered creative thinking, ideas and helped us to build a clear vision for the films. The script process felt easy and collaborative. The team have also provided a very clear structure and reliability around time scales.As the film making process began we worked closely around the development of scripts and casting of actors. Chocolate films have been very responsive and active in supporting us (at the Anna Freud centre) to work to the deadlines whilst showing a really high level of knowledge around the process and steps needed.The actual filming days were a pleasure to be involved with and the team has been very impressive to see in action, particularly in their ability to work together, to include me in their process whilst also attending very carefully to the details needed for the films to be high quality.I would highly recommend Chocolate films and would certainly commission them again
Alice KirklandAlice Kirkland
14:01 21 Dec 23
I had the pleasure of working with Chocolate Films for a corporate video campaign. From the offset, the team were professional, engaging, and quick to communicate. Rachel and Lucia worked with our vision and helped turn it into a reality, offering suggestions and expertise to help bring the story to life to a highly creative and timely manner.The video created a real buzz within the organisation and the feedback received has been fantastic. I would highly recommend Chocolate and look forward to working with them again in the future.
Stephen WheatleyStephen Wheatley
16:50 03 Nov 23
Make Listening Safe Campaign UK is an initiative of The World Health Organisation aimed at increasing the awareness of avoidable risks to hearing in those between 10 and 40 years of age, launched at an in person event in London on 1st November 2023.We needed the launch to be filmed and were lucky enough to be introduced to Chocolate Films who provided the crew and the equipment required.Our events team have informed me that the crew were a delight to work with and were very helpful.We were very impressed with the quality of the footage and were very surprised when we received it so quickly after the event, so we could edit it and get it out on to social media in a timely fashion.We have no hesitation in recommending Chocolate Films.Thank you for making the filming such a pain free experience.Stephen Wheatley | Chair – MLSC UK |
Stella HungerStella Hunger
18:15 01 Nov 23
I was lucky enough to work with Nikita and Chocolate Films on a photo shoot. They were extremely professional, accommodating, organized and generally lovely. We definitely plan on working with them in the future! Thank you for everything, Nikita!
Vanessa RushtonVanessa Rushton
12:59 25 Oct 23
Great provider – always happy to help and deliver what’s needed quickly and cost effectively