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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #35: "Blow Your Mind" With East New York Street Performers In 'Flex Is Kings'

By Indiewire | Indiewire April 15, 2013 at 11:05AM

Documentary filmmaker Michael Beach Nichols ("The Man Behind the Curtain") introduces audiences to the talented, bizarre and DIY dance scene of the flex community in "Flex Is Kings." The film follows three Brooklyn street performers in dance showcases that Nichols said will "blow your mind."
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Michael Beach Nichols
Michael Beach Nichols
Documentary filmmaker Michael Beach Nichols ("The Man Behind the Curtain") introduces audiences to the talented, bizarre and DIY dance scene of the flex community in "Flex Is Kings." The film follows three Brooklyn street performers in dance showcases that Nichols said will "blow your mind."

What it's about: On a macro level, it's about how an insanely gorgeous and weird dance style in East New York gives a community a creative launchpad. On a micro level, it's about how three men - Flizzo, Jay Donn, and Reem - navigate their creative journey while dealing with harsh realities and new obligations.

About the filmmaker: I grew up in Florida, but have lived in Colorado, Massachusetts, California, and Budapest. I've been in New York City for 4 years - I moved here to make documentaries. I've been incredibly fortunate to work for a wonderful production company in Chelsea called Blowback Productions for most of the time I've been here, and they've nurtured and supported everything I've worked on. And it was there that I met Christopher K. Walker, who was a Producer and head Editor on "Flex Is Kings."

When not working on film, I'm fairly music obsessed. And I like drinking bourbon.



What else do you want audiences to know about your film? The flex community could be the most creative group of people I've ever met - not only do they innovate in dance, but most of them have several other talents, whether it be in music, fashion, or filmmaking. They're crazy talented. Flex showcases happen constantly - check out Battlefest League and D.R.E.A.M. if you live in the area and want to witness something that'll blow your mind.



What was your biggest challenge in developing this project? Luckily for us, it's mainly been the money. Everything else - the incredibly talented core team behind the camera (my co-director/producer/cinematographer Deidre Schoo, producer/editor Christopher K. Walker, co-producers Joshua Woltermann and Ryan Hancock), who devoted three years worth of barely-existent free time because they believed in the project, the amazing dancers and community in East New York who welcomed us with open arms and took a leap of faith that we would honor their stories and art - came together seamlessly. But film's expensive, and we've had to go in debt to make this happen. Fortunately, Kickstarter has been very good to us and we've found a large worldwide community of people supportive of Flex. Without crowdfunding this film wouldn't exist.





"Flex Is Kings"
Tribeca Film Festival "Flex Is Kings"
What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with after seeing your film? I hope they come away with a sense of the power of DIY art in communities without a lot of access to public funding or resources. But mainly I hope they sit back for 80 minutes and enjoy the ride.

Did any specific films inspire you? During the first two years of filming "Flex Is Kings," I was working as an associate producer/editor on a Sundance Channel series called "Brick City," directed by Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin. The series examined the city of Newark from every angle - politics, the police, the justice system, gangs, community activism - to try to get a sense of what shapes an American city in the 21st century. I applied what I learned while working on that project to our film, believing that by focusing on a community of incredibly talented dancers we could get to the heart of a neighborhood full of hope and creativity. Also, "Paris Is Burning" was a tremendous influence.

What do you have in the works? I'm currently developing a short project with Christopher K. Walker on rattlesnakes and churches in the South.

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.



Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.


This article is related to: Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers, Tribeca Film Festival






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