They joined forces in a parking lot in South LA. Two USC students: a cinema alumna looking for a documentary subject and an education graduate student and dancer known as Krucial.
The result – a documentary called STAND that was an Official Selection at the 2014 Pan African Film Festival and was recently nominated for the First Film Award in Documentary at the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ First Look Festival.
Melanie D’Andrea, who earned an MFA from USC School of Cinematic Arts, was trying to “find those stories in the fabric of Los Angeles,” and she found one in an unlikely place – a 2 a.m. krump session in South Los Angeles. Krump is a style of freestyle street dancing with expressive, exaggerated movements that originated in South Los Angeles.
After meeting Deidra Cooper, a krump dancer known as Krucial, D’Andrea knew she had found her documentary. The resulting film, titled STAND, followed Krucial, and the rest of her Demolition crew, who, “when they dance are speaking about what life is like in the city,” said D’Andrea..
Krucial, a master’s student in the USC Rossier School of Education, remembers seeing the film for the first time: “I almost cried because it met my expectations and exceeded them. It had elements of happiness, comedy, dramatic, real-life parts of death and struggle.”
Being chosen for the Pan African Film Festival was as special for the dancers as the director. “We went to Pan African and it was amazing because, for the krumpers, the cinema where it was displayed was the cinema that most of them grew up going to,” said D’Andrea. “We had a Q and A session afterwards, and most of the questions actually went to the krumpers. Seeing people’s interest and belief in [the dancers] made the entire filming process worth it.”
The six-month filming process brought together students from two different backgrounds. D’Andrea is a film student graduate from Miami. Krucial is an L.A. native performing with The Underground, a street dance company led by nationally renowned dancers Lil C and Miss Prissy. The Underground did a performance at USC, and D’Andrea approached Krucial with her idea.
“We’re teaching krump and this lady comes up to me and is like ‘You know, I’m really interested in your story. I don’t know you, but I felt you on that stage and I would really like to do a documentary on you,’” Krucial explained. “She was trying to find something that blends modern age protesting. Krump is our protest. It was a perfect match.”
Krucial is a second-generation Trojan. Her mother went to USC and encouraged her to apply to graduate school. Although she plans to dance “til the day I die,” she wants to pursue a doctorate in education after she finishes her master’s degree and open up her own charter schools, recreational centers and tutoring centers in urban Los Angeles.
What Krucial loved most about the film was that it captured real life and real struggles, including the culture of Chuco’s, a youth center dedicated to helping keep kids in South Los Angeles off the streets. Krucial and the Demolition Crew host dance sessions there, and she hopes to be a positive influence in the community by being an example of how dance can turn people’s lives around.
“The film just gave me this boost like, ‘You can do it,’” Krucial said. “My push has been in overdrive now. I’m continuing to work at Chuco’s and continuing to be that example to uplift people from all walks of life.”
D’Andrea also wants to continue exploring L.A. through her films. She believes that most of her work, from a film about an inner city teacher to her upcoming short on immigrant health for the USC Engemann Student Health Center, is about making the audience understand worlds other than their own.
“You can be in Beverly Hills and Hollywood and Santa Monica, and never know what’s happening in South LA,” D’Andrea said. “I just really hope that Krucial’s vision comes to life. I hope that in five to 10 years, I get to see youth community centers all over Los Angeles founded by Krucial.”