What would the dance world be like without Tim Milgram’s mind-blowing cinematography? Can you even imagine??
At this point it feels like he’s always been here to catch every fabulous set of eight. Every hair flip. Every turn. Every splat split. We digress… Everything about his work is smart and intentional, and makes the viewer feel like they’re in the room experiencing class with him. What more could we ask for as dance enthusiasts?
We sat down with the film mastermind himself to get the inside scoop on how he produces some of our favorite content to ever grace the internet. Enjoy! 👇
Dance Teacher: Tell us about your background in dance.
Tim Milgram: My first experience was when I was in college at UC Santa Barbara. I was in a fraternity, and we had to do a performance as pledges. We were crazy into it and had rehearsals every day. I fell in love with dance through that experience, and decided to take classes.
After college, I worked as a software engineer in Santa Barbara and taught a local hip-hop class in town. After a few years, I wanted to be closer to dance, so I decided to make the move to L.A. and start auditioning.
DT: How did you get into cinematography?
TM: I bought a camera to film my own choreography and work early on. People noticed and started asking me to shoot for them as well. About seven years ago Todd Flanagan asked me to come film a concept video for him. That connected me to a lot of other people in the industry.
From there I started shooting for choreographers who were in need, and I got a lot of experience. I got to grow from trial and error. I was lucky to get into it at the time that I did. I would go to auditions and hand out my business card to the line of people who were waiting. Videos became my side hustle as a dancer. Then, as stuff started to go viral and brands started reaching out, I turned directing into my career.
DT: How has your business evolved since then?
TM: I’ve been able to grow an entire business out of this, and I’ve found a new love for dance because of that. When I got to the point where I was able to step away from how I was going to pay rent each month, my genuine love and passion for it was fueled.
I have five guys working on my team right now. Training these guys [most of them are dancers] and signing them to my company has allowed me to be at multiple places at once, and given them the chance to make a genuine living. I have a subscription service for online dance tutorials, I shoot TV commercials and most recently I opened a dance studio.
DT: Oh, yes! Tell us about your new studio.
TM: It’s called TMILLY TV, it’s in L.A. and it’s been open for about two weeks. We have been under construction for about eight months and just recently let the world know. On the front door of our building it says, “Train, Create, Capture.” We made sure to put train and create first, because that’s what we feel should come first. We want teachers who can find a balance between education and making a dope video.
DT: What advice do you have for educators who’re teaching students to dance for the camera?
TM: When people walk onto the dance floor, they need to convince themselves that they are a star. They’re there to learn, but when they perform, they’re a star. It’s all just a mind game. Don’t chew gum, and if you’re in the center of the shot, look straight at the camera.
DT: What advice to you have for dance teachers who want to start filming class?
TM: Get a stabilizer, but don’t go crazy. Stabilizers allow anyone to move around and get a steady shot, but the number one mistake people make is they move too much. There is more to filming than that. There is both an art and a science to it. There should be a distinct reason behind every time you move.
DT: What are your goals for the future of dance cinematography?
TM: I want more people to appreciate dance. I want to have an impact on the general public so they can see the difference between something that is fun and viral versus what is truly excellent. Having an impact on that is really valuable. Occasionally I’ll put something out there that does that, and it feels like a big milestone. For instance, I got to do a TV commercial that not only played between episodes of the Kardashians, but also during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. It feels like a win for dance when something so raw makes it into the mainstream
DT: How do you cut through the noise to create viral content?
TM: I think the work speaks for itself. There are always going to be videos that are viral because of the song they use or who they got to be in it. Ultimately, though, I care about the art itself. I find a balance between doing this because I want something to go viral, and doing this because I love dance and I want people to appreciate. My motivation is practicing my craft and making people feel something.