Betsy Carson

"With financial assistance from the DTRC, I was able to work as a free assistant for about four months learning the film production business." - Betsy Carson

Excerpt from 21 Transitions: 21 Stories of Inspired New Beginnings... © 2007 Dancer Transition Resource Centre

Danced with: Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Theatre Ballet of Canada, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Judith Marcuse Repertory Dance Company
Retrained in: Film/TV Production
Currently: Documentary Film and Television Producer/Director

Dance, like breathing, was essential to my existence. So, after a 17-year professional career, I was somewhat confused and dismayed at having to re-invent myself; but I was prepared. At age 23, I incurred a knee injury from which  I was not expected to recover. It was a rude kick-start into thinking about what else I might do with my life. Thus, when I decided 11 years later that I wanted to stop dancing, I had some ideas.

Throughout my transition, I was extremely fortunate to have the support of my family, and most importantly, my partner Gary Marcuse.  A profoundly sane individual, he wouldn’t let me hide my uncertainty or sadness at the loss of my former life, but challenged me to address them. And then there was the DTRC, which provided me with support when I needed it.  I was already the Vancouver representative — a position I maintained for 20 years — and continue to be involved as a board member.

To become a film production manager, I had to learn to drive (terrifying), how to type (not very well), and how to keep books and manage money. My mentor, a filmmaker friend, hooked me up with various producers in Vancouver. After achieving seniority and a degree of respect as a dancer, it was difficult to become a neophyte again. There was so much to learn. With financial assistance from the DTRC, I was able to work as a free assistant for about four months learning the film production business. Then, I took on my first job as a production manager, wherein I made every mistake possible! The generosity and experience of the director and crew kept me afloat.

In the 18 years I’ve been working at this second career, I’ve been remarkably lucky to spend my time with wonderfully interesting colleagues. Our documentaries educate and often stir up passionate debate about social and political issues. And it’s been fun too.

The skills I used every day as a dancer have served me well: discipline, tenacity, a retentive memory and an ability to solve problems. As a dancer, I was constantly learning, always hungry to immerse myself in new choreography. Today, I still find constant challenge in applying myself to the ever-changing rules and regulations of film financing, finding creative solutions to seemingly intractable production problems. And, on the rare occasion when I direct a film, there’s that exultant “AHA!” when everything comes together and I can communicate with an audience; just as in my dancing days.

Photo: Beatriz Schiller, 1984

DANCER TRANSITION
RESOURCE CENTRE

Helping dancers make necessary transitions into, within, and from professional performing careers since 1985.