SID the Sci-Fi Ballet Film

November 10, 2013

SID the filmThere is something utterly captivating about a robot that possesses humanlike qualities. This is the subject of the latest project by producer, Ben Pierce, in collaboration with director, Ben Estabrook.

About the Film

SID- Conceptual art by Ben Pierce

SID- Conceptual Art
by Ben Pierce

SID is a cutting edge science fiction ballet film about an android whose newfound ability to dance leads to both love and destruction. As described by its producer, Ben Pierce, this film is a “fifteen-minute short that melds traditional Hollywood-style filmmaking techniques, science fiction themes and classical ballet together for the first time in the dance-based film genre”. (Film synopsis.)



The Creative Team – link to Bios

  • Producer – Ben Pierce (award-winning filmmaker & former Principal Dancer with the San Francisco Ballet)
  • Directed by Ben Estabrook (esteemed dance filmmaker)
  • Choreography by Yuri Possokhov (former Principal Dancer with the San Francisco Ballet and now resident choreographer)
  • Written By Ben Estabrook & Ben Pierce
  • Composer – Preben Antonsen (award-winning composer)
  • Set Design by Ben Pierce


Featuring: Sarah Van Patten as SID and Carlos Quenedit as Rutger

Carlos Quenedit, San Francisco Ballet Soloist (© Chris Hardy)

Carlos Quenedit, San Francisco Ballet Soloist
(© Chris Hardy)

Sarah Van Patten, Principal Dancer with the San Francisco Ballet (© David Allen)

Sarah Van Patten, Principal Dancer with the San Francisco Ballet (© David Allen)




SID & Rutger Pas de Deux

Here is a brief clip from a rehearsal with choreographer – Yuri Possokhov.  Here, we see Sarah Van Patten (as SID) and Carlos Quenedit (Rutger) rehearsing their final pas de deux.


Featured Interview: Producer and Director

As we look forward to the release of this groundbreaking film, we had a chance to interview producer, Ben Pierce, and director, Ben Estabrook.

Ben Estabrook, Director (Image source:

Ben Estabrook, Director

Ben Pierce, Producer

Ben Pierce, Producer






Question: Growing up, did you have a particular fascination with science fiction?

C-3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars, 1977 Lucasfilm Ltd.

C-3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars, 1977
Lucasfilm Ltd.

Ben Estabrook: “I was a big fan of Star Wars as a kid.  I was also fascinated by special effects and loved that Industrial Light & Magic, the company that did the effects for Star Wars, was located right here in the Bay Area.”

“The inspiration for this film comes from a range of science fiction classics dating back to Metropolis and more recently Blade Runner and Terminator 2.”


The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, 1951 1st Edition

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, 1951 1st Edition

Ben Pierce: “I read Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man and the rest of that collection of short stories from 1951 in high school. Although I went on to follow the genre more intensely in film rather than literature, to me it remains one of the most expansive outlets for creativity we have. SID is my first foray into the subject as a creator and it has not let me down.”


Question: What inspired you to do this particular project?

Ben Estabrook: “I love the concept of an android developing a creative impulse.  You see a lot of sci-fi about artificial intelligence yearning to feel emotions, but there’s very little that deals with androids making art.  Ballet is the perfect platform for exploring this theme since it requires such machine-like precision.  I imagine that an android would appreciate that much of the beauty of ballet comes from the harmony of the proportions of its positions.  On the other hand, ballet is about much more than just perfect technique.  You can see six ballerinas perform the same role and they will each bring their own unique interpretation to it.”


Yuri Possokhov (© David Allen for the San Francisco Ballet)

Yuri Possokhov (© David Allen for the San Francisco Ballet)

Ben Pierce: “When Ben (Estabrook) came to me with the project, I saw it right away. The budget for the film projected in my head was a million dollars but I knew it could be pulled off on a small indie scale. As soon as the dancers hit the studio with Yuri, I was even more convinced. One reason for this, as Ben E. alluded to, is the way the story lends itself so nicely to movement. The arc of the story is analogous to the physical evolution of the main character, SID, through the course of the film. If we weren’t making a dance film, that would still be the case and offer interesting opportunities as filmmakers. Since we are telling a story told entirely through movement, we get to really have fun.”

Sci-Fi inspired artwork. Robotina by Paul Vera-Broadbent (Source:

Sci-Fi inspired artwork.
Robotina by Paul Vera-Broadbent (Source:

“An android programmed with a limited degree of movement that attempts to dance is not unlike a young student doing ballet for the first time. SID’s transformation into a 3-dimensional ballerina happens within a few hours (a few minutes in actual movie time) but the process isn’t unlike a human’s, which, of course, takes place over many years. Namely, ballet dancers train by repeating the same classroom exercises over and over much like a machine. SID gets to enjoy some bravura dancing when she strikes out on her own but her frame eventually breaks down due to the stress of dancing. Allegorically, again, the parallel to a human ballerina is similar and the opportunity for another shift in movement quality by the choreographer is right there for the taking.”


Question: What can you tell us about the film and when/where can we see it?

Sarah Van Patten, studio rehearsal for SID (Photo by Danielle Short)

Sarah Van Patten, studio rehearsal for SID (Photo by Danielle Short)

Ben Estabrook: “From the beginning of this project I had Sarah Van Patten, Principal Dancer at the San Francisco Ballet, in mind for the role of SID.  Given her strengths as a dancer and an actress I knew that she would be able to deliver a convincing portrayal of the evolution of SID throughout the film.  I feel incredibly fortunate to be working with her and her frequent dance partner at the San Francisco Ballet, Carlos Quenedit.  Carlos can deliver a very masculine performance full of swagger and he can also be quite tender and compassionate, all of which are qualities he brings to the role of Rutger.”

“While most ballet film you see is an adaptation of a stage work or is a documentation of a stage performance, the choreography for SID is an original work created for film by Yuri Possokhov, Choreographer in Residence at the San Francisco Ballet.  I am thrilled to be working with Yuri because he is creating some of the most interesting and beautiful work in ballet today.  Plus he has an incredible understanding of how dance works on film and is creating his choreography accordingly.”

Preben Antonsen (Photo by Bob Hsiang)

Preben Antonsen (Photo by Bob Hsiang)

“The composer, Preben Antonsen, has done a phenomenal job of arranging various tracks of Shostakovich and Prokofiev for the film.  I approached Preben for this film in part because he understands how to tell a story through his compositions.  He also works with modular synthesizers, which are analogue synthesizers that are capable of creating a rich, warm sound that I wanted for this film.  The recording for the film will be a combination of an acoustic ensemble in addition to a modular synthesizer.  I’m excited to hear how it turns out!”

“The film is a bit of a throw back to the golden age of musicals, to films like Yolanda and the Thief, An American in Paris, and of course, The Red Shoes.  These films featured wonderful fantasy ballets that lasted for over fifteen minutes on screen without a word of dialogue.  The dance sequences were shot on gigantic sound stages with wildly creative expressionist sets.  Although the tone of SID is dark at times, I hope to capture that same sense of awe and wonder that you feel watching these classics.  Those films were all about showcasing beautiful, exciting dance, which is exactly what we set out to do in SID.”


Ben Pierce: “As the production and costume designer, I have pulled inspiration from the great tradition of sci-fi cinema in the US. One of the key scenes in the film is when SID programs robotic arms to manipulate her frame and teach her ballet. We have developed A and B plans for using real robots or models for the scene, each of which comes with its own set of benefits and challenges.”

“We are in discussions with the incredibly supportive people at 32Ten, which is the old home of Industrial Light and Magic in San Rafael, to shoot on their 60’ green screen stage. Although there will be one or two location shoots, the majority of the film will be captured on a stage where we can be in control of the floor, the most important tool for a dancer outside of pointe shoes. Principal photography will take place in November and the film is due to be released next Spring. The duration of the film is 15 minutes.”


DanseTrack: Thank you, Ben Estabrook and Ben Pierce, for sharing this information about this exciting film project!

In the meantime…

You can,..and should…follow SID the Film on their website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.


Support the Film! We did!!

Just click on this link, and you’ll find all of the information you need, including an awesome video!


Androids in Films

Over the years, the portrayal of robots with human-like qualities has captured our imagination in a number of films.

The Automaton from the film Hugo by Martin Scorsese

The Automaton from Hugo, created by Dick George, 2011, Paramount Pictures, Director, Martin Scorcese (source:

Created by Dick George, 2011, Paramount Pictures, Director, Martin Scorcese (Source:


Here’s a science fiction film that has inspired many filmmakers over the years — Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ from 1927.  Here’s the trailer from that innovative masterpiece.

Stay tuned for more updates about SID the Sci-Fi Ballet Film!!

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