Clarke brings her experiences of choreographed dance movements into her films. American society in the postwar period was in many ways a society in motion. The economic boom brought prosperity, so social movement, dance, rock ‘n roll and jazz made the world groove. Supermarkets and shopping centers are staged as the new temples of the consumer society. Shirley Clarke brings the urge to move into her films. She made one of her first films in Paris with Martha Graham. Already in “Paris Parks” she finds her way to use film editing to thematize movement sequences.
The themes of the films had been specified by the client, the governmental organization of the State Department USIA (US Information Agency). The brief to present America in Europe as a “society on the move” is to be presented in topics such as research, mechanized industrial production, traffic, people, food production, shopping in shopping centers, energy production (by means of nuclear power), new construction of city districts, production of clothing and costumes, weather and topography, city and country or technology of traffic routes.
Pennebaker and his assistant Derek Washburn travelled the country in the summer of 1957 and sent the material to New York. They shot material for a total of twenty-three two-and-a-half-minute color loops. Clarke cuts the material for twelve short films and shoots and cuts three more loops alone. Pennebaker is responsible for one film alone. Clarke makes the cuts for the other filmmakers involved, Richard Leacock and Francis Thompson, on another four loops. Thompson, Wheather Galentine and Leacock each make one film alone.
In “Nite Lights” Clarke and Pennebaker show the dazzling colorfulness of neo-light in vibrating modern American cities.