Nulla, a film by Jean Claude Billmaier

Tension & Release

The beauty of letting the raw energy within take over

Nulla, a new film created by New York-based director Jean Claude Billmaier explores in a surrealist mode the sensation of tension released. Featuring choreography by Loni Landon and dancer Evan Copeland, Nulla is a carefully constructed study of movement, and is set to an original score by long-standing collaborator, R&B singer and producer Toulouse. Jean Claude extrapolates on the inspiration behind and execution of Nulla in our Q&A.

Click the button above to view, or watch Nulla on Vimeo.

Where did the idea for Nulla come from?

The idea behind Nulla came from thinking about energy being released in an elegant fashion, resulting in an almost energy-release dance. Loni (the choreographer) and I had been talking about this for a while, for example when we worked together on Toulouse’s music video “Reach Out,” so it was only natural to explore this further with Nulla. We didn’t want to make it eerie or dark; we wanted to focus on the liberating aspect of being extremely tense and releasing pent-up energy and tension.

Is this your first dance film?

Not really, I have done a lot of music video work and commercials where we’d implement dance—but this was certainly the first dance-centric piece. After Nulla I’ve gone ahead and further explored the medium, so expect a couple other pieces coming out soon!

How did you come to work with Loni Landon, Evan Copeland and Toulouse?

Loni and I actually met through Instagram! We both liked each other’s work and decided to meet up and start collaborating. We work so well together and have the same taste in movement and dance so it’s quite a joy to work together.

As for Evan, he was brought onto the project by Loni; when casting he was our top choice and were so happy to have him join the project. Toulouse on the other hand is one of my closest friends, we attended the same university and worked the same school job. After we both pursued out distinct paths we kept collaborating—he initially created music for my commercial projects and then when he transitioned into his artist path we were able to collaborate on his first music video. This seemed to be just an extension of our constant collaboration, which will keep going.

Were there any particular challenges with making this piece?

There were a couple different challenges! It wouldn’t be a film if there weren’t. We first had to choreograph the piece without knowing the exact dimensions of the shooting space—Loni and Evan would rehearse in spaces that were different to the final shooting one. I was also working on two other productions during the production of Nulla, so the amount of time I was able to invest was limited and a lot of the work happened remotely.

We also worked with no music, which on one hand was liberating as we were able to explore movement without being constrained by a beat. But it also proved to be a challenge, as we were constantly trying to image what the result would look and sound like.

A final challenge I’d say was the long post production process—the editor had to edit the piece without music as we wanted Toulouse to compose once the film was locked. Again, this allowed for an incredible creative opportunity for both, but we definitely weren’t following the traditional process. Also, with Nulla being a passion project, we took longer than usual in conceptualising the look and adjusting it through visual effects.

How do you see this film in relation to your overall artistic practice?

Nulla is a direct product of me feeling a little jaded and overworked in the current media scape—it is an elegant and surreal representation of what releasing the stress and energy would look like. If we look at most of my pieces they all share one surreal element explored in a grand study—sometimes the elements are subtle but they all are trying to incite the viewer to relate and feel the same way as the subject.

Jean Claude Billmaier
Loni Landon