Running away and joining the circus has been a dream of many children throughout the years. But Meg Pinsonneault, a 2001 Loyalsock Township High School graduate and now Los Angeles-based filmmaker, was given the opportunity to see just what it takes to become a circus performer through her documentary project, "Bizarre."
"Bizarre" will follow circus performers, of all experience levels, as they learn and train at the Circus Center, San Francisco's premier and oldest nonprofit facility for circus performers.
"This is meant to be a vehicle to help circus move to the forefront," Pinsonneault said of the film, which will be about 30 minutes in length. "... It's just a really neat experience for me, obviously. But it's a rare look into the daily lives of performers."
Loyalsock Township High School graduate Meg Pinsonneault, center, is working on a documentary, “Bizarre,” about circus performers. For more information, visit www.bizarrethefilm.com.
Pinsonneault was introduced to the world of circus in September when a former Emerson College classmate, who now works at the Circus Center, proposed the idea of a film on circus performing. Now filming, Pinsonneault is fully emerged in the circus culture as she captures the art form.
And although the film is considered a short documentary, Pinsonneault said it's much more than that. She described it as "part documentary, part portraiture and part performance," saying it's not merely a "day in the life of" film but a display of the performances' elegance and precision.
"What we're learning is ... circus is about making something extremely difficult to do, look easy. And it takes years to perfect," Pinsonneault explained.
The film will feature exclusive performances, with no audience present during filming.
To capture performances, Pinsonneault and her team are using RED Epic and Phantom Flex cameras, some of the most advanced technology in filmmaking. Pinsonneault noted that "The Hobbit" was shot with a RED Epic. The Phantom Flex shoots at a high speed, which Pinsonneault explained creates "wicked slow motion so you can really see," the intricacies of the performance.
The film will depict the circus in a totally new way for the viewer.
"It's showing these circus performers in a completely new way. No one's done this before. It is so awesome," she said. "... Just the power of high-speed and being able to see what really is going on when someone's contorting or when a clown is moving his face in a certain way (helps the audience connect to the performances)."
By shooting in slow motion, Pinsonneault said, it allows the viewers to see parts of the performance the human eye can't pick up on at an ordinary speed.
She added that these detailed performances take years to perfect. Even clowns go through rigorous training.
"They're really great. I mean, obviously, there's a difference between the clowns and the contortionists and acrobatics. ... They're all very dedicated," Pinsonneault said, "but for the clowns, it's a very theatrical thing ... then you have the aerialists and acrobats and it's much more physical."
She did note that although many think of clowns as those with rainbow wigs that come to birthday parties, the clowns she is working with are highly trained at their craft. Pinsonneault joked that the training is much more difficult than her's when she was a Billtown Clown as a child, sporting the name "Frizzle Frazzle."
Performers spend about 10 hours a day at a clown conservatory, which Pinsonneault described as a "clown college." A big aspect of the training is about getting the performer's face to move in ways it's not used to.
"You spend months just looking at yourself in the mirror training your face," Pinsonneault explained.
She hopes that the film will not only show the performances, but inspire and bring respect to a largely forgotten and under-appreciated art.
"We want to make circus that much more well-known and more respected in the United States, as it is in Europe," Pinsonneault said.
Circus is an art that has been practiced for thousands of years, Pinsonneault said, and has a more serious following in Europe and Asia.
"There's just so much more respect (in) Europe and Asia, where here circus isn't considered art," she said.
The amount of work that goes into each performance is incredible and has earned her respect, Pinsonneault said.
"They're just perfect at what they do," she said. "And I have so much respect for how hard they train for the audience."
And although Frizzle Frazzle may not make a comeback, Pinsonneault said she is so inspired by meeting the performers that she wishes she could join them.
"I've very much thrust into this circus world and it's been very cool," she said. "I very much wish I had time to run away with the circus."
For more information about the project, visit www.bizarrethefilm.com..