Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Biomechanics - Project - Book and Film



As I come to the end of The Russian Theatre Film Series book already new horizons opening up. Yesterday completed the artwork for the cover, so all that remains is to proof read the book one more time and check everything over for layouts and other things. I have been tantalizingly speaking to a publisher but still feel I should work at my own pace and within my own resources although it is always worth exploring all the publishing outlets which might be available.


Already there are ideas percolating through with regard to The Fairground Booth book and beyond. As always it is too early to write about this as the ideas themselves are appearing more as clues to developing work. One idea is to do another book about the theatre but only biomechanics. To make it more as an illustrated book with pictures but also text. The black and white tones will make I believe a very good visual impact. Working on this tonight - fleshing out a broad plan and outline with possible subjects to be included.

 The book should concentrate on visuals but also have text. It will be like a kind of graphic novel or one could say a graphic non fiction book - is that a new genre? - a hybrid book.



Last week we were out during the Maslenitza  celebrations in Moscow. At first I didn't even want to go out that day but eventually we decided that we just have to get out of the apartment and walk around. Then once we arrived at the square in Moscow were the celebrations were taking place at he statue of Yuri Dolgoruky I didn't really want to film anything. It didn't seem as if there was anything interesting going on and that all the masks and costumed  people were not there. but I got the camera out in any case and began. Then things started to happen. The crowds were moving, there was traditional folk singing and high spirits and there was a guy in an old costume with a hood which began to add to the atmosphere. he made faces at the audience and looked like something from the middle ages - somehow intimidating. Then the masks began appearing and I was filming in full swing. The atmosphere was that of a shrovetide celebration and had an air of authenticity which I was able to enhance and emphasize within an initial edit. One of the masks reminded me of the 4 masks which adorn the Theatre Satyra building in Moscow and combining these images would prove effective. By accident I found a photograph of the building taken at night. I had filmed the building during the day and it was quite bland so I did not use the footage in any of the films I had made earlier. At night however the masks are lit from above and below and the effect is very striking. I will go back hopefully in the next few days to film this building from various angles.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Mixing Genres

One of the good things about making a documentary film or an arts documentary film now is that you have the freedom provided by all the previous films that have been made which provide one with a myriad of styles and examples which you can draw on - not so much to copy but to use as inspiration or guidance and for dispensing with any boundaries. This does not mean a free form film but encourages a fluidity between genres , a mixing of styles which can work. So that the difference between The Fairground Booth and a feature film or a documentary or an avant-garde film will be blurred.
Bearing this in mind, The Fairground Booth is proceeding in production and editing almost simultaneously and with editing and writing working in tandem. One or two posts have been completed and put up on the special site that is dedicated to The Fairground Booth project and is almost turning into a self sufficient blog. The latest blog post can be accessed here and refers to the role of neoplatonism in Blok's work and in The Fairground Booth in particular. A whole section will be included in the book which will accompany the film and will be included as part of the Russian Theatre Film Series.  



 I have had some difficulties with a section of the book which deals with a comparison of The Fairground Booth with one of Shakespeare's plays and which I will write about a little later. It comes as a result of reading Hoffman's "Princess Brambilla" and some of Alexander Tairov's comments about his production of the play in the early 1920s. Hoffman had a big influence on Russian theatre and the Russian Avant-garde as a whole.  

Sunday, 15 April 2018

David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde screening in Moscow

I forgot to give an update on the screening of David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde which took place on the 7th April 2018 at the Museum of Chuseyev in Moscow as part of the Sogetsu Ikebana exhibition marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the school by Sofu Teshigahara. There was a mad scramble to get the translation and subtitles in Russian finished before the screening. The text is quite philosophical and technical in places so that held up the translation a bit.  Most of it I was able to complete myself up to a point but then it all had to be checked and corrected and then put up over the original film. We managed to get something pretty much decent ready in time with one or two problems here and there but no one seemed to notice. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Biomechanics - Film released


The film Biomechanics is the latest in the series The Russian Theatre Film series. This film is a slight deviation from the documentary style films of Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-gardeStanislavsky and the Russian Theatre and Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre. It is a film without text, consisting only of the movements of the material which was shot for Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde.
Here  it has been extended and reworked to make a full 30 minute sequence of most of the experiments we worked on in a studio in Moscow with William Pease and Oksana Petrova performing the movements. The film itself is something of an experiment as were the performances  whereby we tried to find the essence of Meyerhold’s experiments in particular their graphic content.
As I have stated before this is not an instructional video about how to do biomechanics, it is not a reconstruction of Meyerhold’s acting techniques and a means for actors training. The film is more of an exploration to see what we could make of Biomechanics using the knowledge we had and improvising on some of the themes which Meyerhold’s experiments provided. It is in this spirit that the film is presented.
The whole film can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Japan Philosophical Landscapes - Release

Have been working constantly on the old film Japan Philosophical Landscapes film. Have made a new version in a different format and finally I managed to get an edited version which works. Certainly it is good enough to put up on Amazon Video Direct which I think is the perfect platform for this film. I never thought it would work on DVD. However I have since revised that opinion and I might release a DVD version as well. The Amazon video direct spot is perfect as it can be viewed as part of the Amazon Prime service which doesn't entail buying the film although the film earns money for the amount of hours it is viewed.  I have completed the closed captions. In many ways I have changed my attitude towards the film. I took it much too seriously and therefore feared criticism. Now I have an easier relationship to it and do not think of it as a real heavy laden piece of work but something much of an experiment - looser and adapted for the internet, concentrating more on the story rather  than the preciseness of the images. Some things have worked well, better than I expected. The film fits within the overall project Japan Philosophical landscapes which includes the film Tokyo Journey and David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde as well as the book Journey to Ogasawara. The film can be downloaded here: Japan Philosophical Landscapes


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Tokyo Journey and Closed Captions on Amazon Video Direct

The short film Tokyo Journey is now available for download on Amazon Video Direct. View the clip here. Download it here. In due course a DVD will be available as well. Before it could become available on Amazon Video Direct it was necessary to provide Closed Captioning even though there is no dialogue in the film.


Closed captions is something that defeated me in getting my films ready and published on Amazon Video Direct. I use an Amazon company called Create Space to market my films on DVD and the Internet. Now DVDs are becoming more difficult to sell on the internet and downloaded films are becoming more important. In 2016 all my films (all eight of them) were migrated to The Amazon Direct Video Service so that they could only be downloaded and sold directly through Amazon. The criteria for publishing is quite specific and somewhat strict. One of the criteria are closed captions for the those whose hearing is impaired or are deaf. Closed captions are like sub titles. 

Closed captioning (CC) and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a televisionvideo screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information. Both are typically used as a transcription of the audio portion of a program as it occurs (either verbatim or in edited form), sometimes including descriptions of non-speech elements.

This can be quite tricky but there is a way of doing it which can minimise the pain. Most non linear video editing programmed have a closed captioning facility. Go into the closed captioning facility and add the captions according to where the dialogue or text is located in the film. Once you have finished you render your film to which ever format you want and then save and export a srt. file which stored the textual data which can be used and matched by amazon when it is upload to your dashboard on Amazon Video Direct.

The editing programme I use is Vegas Video Pro. The process is as follows. Find the point in the timeline you wish to insert text into. Click on Insert and then command and the menu comes up. In the command box chose 608CC1. Then type your text in the comment box and press OK. Then repeat for all the other text you wish to insert as a closed caption. Rememeber also to change the Timecode format to Time and Frames.

To export the srt. film click on tools, scripting and chose export closed captioning for Youtube option

The process is different for Adobe Premier and other programmes but the priciples are similar.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Russian Theatre Film Series - New book publication

This post first appeared on my blog but it is worth repeating to reach a different audience here. This book is the third by Michael Craig. The first being Journey to Ogasawara which was an account of the making of the film David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde and Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde.It’s difficult to find an appropriate description of the book "The Russian Theatre Film Series". Essentially it is an account of an arts documentary series with all its pitfalls, successes, limitations and achievements. The three films which have so far been completed are "Meyerhold, Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde", "Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre" and "Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre". This book is part of the overall project - The Russian Theatre Film Series and is a milestone and a marker in this developing project

Also it is a commentary on what it means to make an independent arts documentary film series in a foreign country namely Russia. Not so much from the technical point of view although there is plenty of technical aspects covered but more from the point of view of a kind of interior process. It is an expedition into the phenomenology of film-making, what obstacles have to be overcome, both physical and technically but more importantly some of the lived experience of film-making. For some people making independent films is a way of life in the same way that for others theatre is a way of life or acting is a way of life or painting or whatever is a way of life. You can't live without it or outside it. The fact that you have to spend a year or two of your life on each film means that it is a life decision. So it has an existential element and this quality of film-making is explored in the book. How the series came about, what were the thought processes involved in the development of the series, which influenced the series overall - who helped who didn't, why things went wrong and why they went right. The book is a staging post on the way to further developments clearing the ground before moving forward to the next phase - a book about The Fairground Booth plus a film on this subject.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Publication of "Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde"



Finally we can announce the publication of the book Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde which is now available on Amazon for purchase or download. Encounters with the Russian Avant-garde complements the series of six films made by Michael Craig and Copernicus Films about the Russian Avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s. It is not only an account or explanation but also an introduction or to be more specific an "encounter" with this exciting phenomenon. The title reflects an active relationship: firstly through the experience of living in Moscow for many years, plus a direct encounter with the buildings, the architecture and the very territory in which much of the avant-garde arose and to some extent still exists. Encounter suggests something more casual, unexpected and unstructured but also a sense of living in the avant-garde and being part of it. After all it was the intention of the Russian Avant-garde to connect with the real lived world and to ‘take art out of the galleries and onto the streets and squares of Moscow'

As always when a large project gets finished there is the inevitable feeling of disappointment and wanting to fill that vacuum with another book or project or a film. There is plenty to do and plenty to be getting on with and really I should not rest on my laurels. However it will take a bit of time to change gears and shift into another project.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Copernicus Films, Michael Craig and The Fairground Booth


Since Copernicus Films finished Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre development has been going ahead on the next part of the Russian Theatre Documentary Film series. A script for a new documentary about Blok and Meyerhold's The Fairground Booth is in a process of writing and rewriting. As well as this film work is taking place with regard to a film version of the play itself. The set design has been ascertained and is being painstakingly designed. This is a big question and will require a great deal of attention but at least the process is underway. The next big question will be the costumes - the design and the over all look as well as how to find the actors who will play the various roles. its a long process and cannot be rushed. There are various other ancillary elements to this series which are also being developed in parallel to the project and hopefully will make up a significant component of The Russian Theatre documentary Film Series but all the work being done in this are is in its early stages. Therefore it seems premature to make any announcements. 
Its worth saying that this series will be made up of five films (possibly more with time - discussions are ongoing with interested parties). The films will include Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-gardeStanislavsky and the Russian TheatreVakhtangov and the Russian Theatre (all three of which have been completed and released) plus Meyerhold, Blok and The Fairground Booth(documentary)  and The Fairground Booth (film). announcements will be made as each stage of the project progresses. For fuller and more regular updates check Michael Craig's blog or here for more specific updates and related information.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Vakhtangov Study Day – Rose Bruford College

Vakhtangov Study Day at the  Rose Bruford College – Film. Hosted by The Stanislavski Centre.

Guest Speaker Andrei Maleav Babel with the participation of  Graham Dixon 
The Vakhtangov Study day which took place in 2014 took place at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre and performance organised by The Stanislavski Centre with guest speaker Andrei Malaev-Babel, and Graham Dixon. The film Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre was also premiered at the event.
Books by Andrei Maleav-Babel about Vakhtangov:
BabelThe Vahktangov Sourcebook is a rich and extensive source of information and analysis of the central principles of Vakhtangov’s  work and compiles new translations of his key writings on the art of theatre, making it the primary source of first hand material on this master of theatre in the English speaking world. For more information click on this link or click on the thumbnail.


downloadRanging from Moscow to Israel, from Fantastic Realism to Vakhtangov’s futuristic projection, the theatre of the ‘Eternal Mask’, Yevgeny Vakhtangov: A Critical Portrait:
For more information click on this link or click on the thumbnail.
  • considers his input as one of the original teachers of Stanislavsky’s system, and the complex relationship shared by the two men;
  • reflects on his directorship of the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre and the Habima (which was later to become Israel’s National Theatre) as well as the Vakhtangov Studio, the institution he established;
  • examines in detail his three final directorial masterpieces, Erick XIVThe Dybbukand Princess Turandot.
 Graham Dixon and the Michael Chekhov Studio London:
Man Image.tif i Copy Copy CopyThe Chekhov Studio. Graham Dixon  started the Michael Chekhov Studio in 2003 as a means to give actors and directors living in London an opportunity to access and explore Michael Chekhov’s unique approach to the art of acting. Click on the thumbnail or the link above for more information about his work.


The Stanislavski Centre.
stanislavski-portraitThe Stanislavski Centre . The Stanislavski Centre at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance is a unique initiative within the UK to create a home for both academic research and practice/performance events based upon the work of Konstantin Stanislavski. The Centre, which is located within the college’s Learning Resources Centre, houses a core collection of books and other printed material (mostly in the Russian language), a photographic archive of more than 200 images and a small collection of material on video and DVD.

Michael Craig,  Copernicus Films.
Vakhtangov 2Michael Craig and Copernicus Films completed a film about Vakhtangov “Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre” which was also premiered at the Vakhtangov Study day. Vakhtangov eventually became one of the foremost directors of the Russian theatre in the early twentieth century until his early death in 1922 at the age of 39. Talented and enigmatic, his great achievement was the the synthesis of Stanislavsky’s theories of acting and realism and Meyerhold’s studied theatrically. This film by Michael Craig is the third in the series about Russian theatre in the early 20th century. Click here for more information about this film.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Tokyo Journey - New film release


The new film about Tokyo is finally released from Michael Craig and Copernicus Films:



 A short film about Tokyo and its unseen character. I don’t really know how to explain but if you spend a long time in Tokyo you start to feel the hidden world which lies beneath the electric and neon fa├žade. Traces of a dream world or forgotten world which belies the ultra modern appearance of Tokyo and which seems to be a continuance of some other parallel world existing in the past but in some way eternal and forever present. Noh dramas give a whiff of this other world and how it can creep up on you. Usually the waki, an itinerant monk, old man or traveler meets a local person whom he questions about the the history of the area. As the conversation continues the waki draws out the shite’s story it gradually becomes clear that the shite is the ghost of a historical figure who is still clinging to this world either through desire for revenge or anger,or a desire for love. The ghost often asks the waki to pray for them to be released so they can be reborn in the Amida Buddha’s western paradise. The swirling neon dream world of Tokyo with its episodic visual context opposed to the spatial coordinates that we are normally used to in most cities, disrupt the senses which feast on the abundance of light which subvert structure and the visual plane.

The Cityscape of Tokyo is a text-scape a kind of anti landscape. The city, a symbol which stands for something but also has its own intrinsic meaning- an hieroglyph We live in the age of light and nowhere is light, luminosity, a feature of the urban landscape as it is in Tokyo – it flows around and through the city like a liquid radiance.

The Quintessential city of light and its neon landscape casts a luminous dome across the night sky turning dark night into a phosphorescent panorama. This urban phenomena of the night  reminds us of the ancients of Japan who feared the darkness and longed for the dawn, for the comfort of clear light, for the sun goddess Amaterasu to remain.The film which is in post production will form a journey through the streets and known regions of Tokyo revealing anomalies which occur at boundaries which separate the apparent from the real and the interface between the sentient world and a hidden non sentient world. Its a phenomenon which occurs everywhere in Japanese literature. Murakami in Kafka on the Shore explains that the Tale of the Genji is filled with living spirits which could sometimes travel through space often unbeknownst to themselves.


 The world of the grotesque is the darkness inside us, what could be called our subconscious which was obvious to people and gave a focus for their fears. Until the invention of electric light the world was in darkness, the physical darkness and the darkness of our souls were mixed together with no boundary between them. In their past living spirits of literature such as Ueda Akinari who wrote “Tales of Darkness and Moonlight” living spirits were both a grotesque phenomenon and a natural condition of the human heart and people of that time were unable to conceive of these two things as being separate. However the darkness in the outside world has vanished but the darkness in our heart remains just as before. It remains sunken in our subconscious and as Murakami points out that estrangement can create a deep contradiction or confusion inside us.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre premiere at the Rose Bruford College

Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre premiere at the Rose Bruford College – Post Prodcution update 45


Cover of film “Vakhtangov & the Russian Theatre”
Several days back from the UK after a successful screening and Premiere of Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre. It took place on May 10th 2014 as part of the Vakhtangov study day at the Rose Bruford college of theatre and performance organised by The Stanislavsky Centre which is based at the centre. It was a privilege to be able to participate in the and share the podium with the Vakhtangov scholar and specialist Andrei Malaev Babel who has written two books about Vakhtangov ‘The Vakhtangov Sourcebook” and “Evgeny Vakhtangov – A Critical Portrait”. Also Graham Dixon of the Mikhail Chekhov Studio in the morning session which he participated in together with Andrie Malaev Babel The morning session was dived into three parts. A long introduction presented jointly by Andrie and Graham, then the film Vakhtangov and the Russian Avant-garde which I briefly introduced and then a question and answer session with Andrie Malaev Babel, Graham Dixon and myself.

Michael Craig – Director of the film “Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre”
The afternoon session was a master class presented by Andrei Malaev Babel which lasted a couple of hours and consisted of a series of intensive exercises and short pieces for actors. About sixteen members of the audience took part in this session and it gave a real insight into the practical  insights and interpretations of Vakhtangov’s work. Natasha and myself filmed as much of the day as possible and I will try and put together  a short clip to give a flavour of the day if all parities are agreeable. This was also a good opportunity to try out the new camera which I recently purchased and develop my DSLR skills a bit – gradually getting the hang of this new way of filming.


Left to right; Graham Dixon, Andrei Malaev Babel, Michael Craig
Any premier is a worry and this was no exception. I have showed the film to  many people but there is nothing more effective than showing a film to a live audience and probably nothing more gratifying when the response is positive as it was in this case. I was very pleased when people came up to me after the film to express their thoughts and feelings.I was also glad to see meet some new people who share an interest in Vakhtangov like Oleg Mirochnikov the Russian theatre director who now lives and works in London as far as I am aware. He has a special interest in Vakhtangov’s work in relation to his own productions, as part of Belka Productions.I was especially glad that the actor Andrew Elias was able to attend. He has been a great supporter of the film form its early inception and throughout post production to the very end and so it was apt that he was able to make the premiere. There wasn’t much time to get to know each other but I am sure we can rectify that in subsequent meetings when I am back in the UK and of course we will be in touch over the internet.

Paul Fryer of The Stanislavski Centre

Michael Earley – Principal of the Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance
- See more at: http://www.vakhtangov.copernicusfilms.com/#sthash.CYgXb3gO.dpuf