I have always wanted to wite a book based on the material in the 6 films but also including additional material which I have collected over the years as well as much material which could not be included in the films themselves.
I have now started the book and I am well into writing and collating material. The point of the book will be to expand the subjects outwards and in depth both visually and textually. Plus I will add material like interview transcripts and new articles.
Just some thoughts about the recent Indiegogo campaign for the film Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre which is part of the Russian theatre Film Series.The campaign didn’t reach its goal by a long way but it taught me a great deal about the way I make films and the way I have been making them over the past ten years or so. First of all the experience connected me with a lot of people on the internet through Twitter and through other social network sites. In some ways it raised my game in this sphere and raised my awareness of the possibilities of using the internet to further ones film making goals and project. I was also very appreciative of the support and interest which people showed in particular the director/writer/producer David Baker (City of Sin Universe) and the actor Andrew Elias. I will be thanking everybody who supported me on this site and the main Vakhtangov site in the near future.
What I learned however is this is not necessarily the only way for me to raise finance for my films. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go down the crowd funding route again but the project would have to be more tailored to such a task. The other thing to mention is that the films I make are quite specific and niche orientated. They have an audience and they can be located and reached out to but they don’t necessarily want to be involved in the film through crowd funding. I may be wrong about this but I think its a fair guess. Still I was glad I tried it and the experience I attained through mistakes I made and knowledge gained will not be lost. The crowd funding campaign was largely meant to raise funds for locations, in particular the Vakhtangov Museum and access to archives and other materials and locations.
During the period of the campaign I decided to take the bull by the horns and approach the Vakhtangov Museum practically empty handed so to speak. In this I was aided by a friend of my wife who introduced me to a valuable contact. They in turn introduced me to the administration of the Vakhtangov Museum. Luckily the people at the museum, which is owned by the Vakhtangov Theatre, responded extremely positively to the project and made the location available and more. There was a certain amount of back and forward discussions between all parties but an agreement was reached and I was able to go ahead and gain access to some superb material, some of which has never been seen anywhere This consisted in documents, photographs, letters and other artefacts connected with Vakhtangov all unique and rare.
The point of all this is – how does one create value in a film? Is it directly with money or through other means or a bit of both? Making a documentary film entails a bit of both but the most important thing is establishing relationships with people. In some ways you can’t buy that and it goes a long way in making a project work better and creating value in a film. Rex Sikes discusses this at some length in his blogtalk show with Nicholas Tabarrok.
If anything the experience of crowd funding has reinforced that understanding for me, something which I had been aware of and had practised but needed to reaffirm.
A summary update on the film Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre and overall progress of the Russian Theatre Film Series. Vakhtangov is now in production with plans to shoot in the house museum of Vakhtangov in Moscow as well as other locations throughout Moscow. Archive footage is almost assembled and script on its way to being finished. As I work through the material the script is opening out and starting to “hang” together better with each refinement. Reading Dostoevsky’s ”The Devils” (or Demons) in parallel with all the research material as a supplement to the atmosphere I would like to create in the film.
There is a possibility of a Vakhtangov event in the UK although this is still undecided but if it does happen we will travel to the UK to film this event and possible conduct some interviews as well. This will either be included in the film or maybe as supplementary material as part of the overall film project.
Another line of action being considered is to raise finance through Kickstarter or Indiegogo although nothing has been decided on this question. Other avenues for finance are being considered as well. One of the advantages of a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign is that as well as attracting finance it may raise awareness of the series and for future films in the series which will include another documentary on the influence of carnival on Russian theatre and a feature type adaptation of Blok’s “The Fairground Booth”. Two previous films in the series include: “Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde” and “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre”.
Connected with all this we are preparing publicity material – some short films, blog posts and other internet material. Gradually, therefore, bringing all the elements of the project together and blending them together step by step.
A few nights ago we attended the opera The Queen of Spades at the New Bolshoi Theatre. We hadn’t been to the theatre or a concert for quite some time and I had long wanted to see this non-traditional production of Tchaikovsky’s opera from the short story by Pushkin with Valery Fokin as the artistic director . Another reason is to step up my theatre going experiences to help me with writing the script for and preparation of the film Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre. We used to attend the theatre a great deal in Moscow but lately have not been so active in this area which is a shame because Moscow theatre has an immense well spring of theatrical events and talent. Continue reading →
Returned from the UK a few days ago after a three week trip there, partly business partly pleasure. Pleasure was restricted due to constant rain so the business side of things took precedence. Arranged a meeting with Paul Fryer of The Stanislavski Centre where we discussed future projects. At the forefront is a film about the Russian theatre director Vahktangov which is in development and one could almost say in pre production already. This is in addition to the two films already completed in the series about Russian Theatre – “Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde” and “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre”. There are tow more films planned for the series. A film about Russian carnival and its influence on Russian Theatre and a feature type adaptation of the Fairground Booth by Blok. This series about Russian Theatre is a solid ongoing work in progress requiring the assemblage of series resources to make it come to fruition both financial and logistical. One step in this process is a short film project which I am going to include as part of The Japan -Philosophical Landscapes project. The working title is The Phosphorescent Queen but maybe I will rename it later I am not sure at the moment. It loosely involves elements which are influenced by Noh and Kabuki Theatre so it is not so far away from the Russian theatre project as may seem, also bearing in mind that Meyerhold’s theatre was influenced by Kabuki and Noh. One of the main themes of this film will be the cityscape as text once again dovetailing with the themes of Japan – Philosophical Landscapes. More about this film project will be added at a later point once the project is nearing completion.
Another task completed was picking up more equipment which I had ordered to be sent to London. Mostly lighting equipment but some other smaller items which will be necessary in future projects. All in all this was a trip for consolidating all the film projects which are in development and post production and despite the rain was productive and positive.
Moving forward with the Russian Theatre Film series. Researching and writing and setting up related sites which will contain information about the progress of the films individually and the series as a whole. Two more web sites are now in preparation and will be the main focus for organising and distributing information about the whole project. There will be one site which will focus on the series as a whole and connect to the other pages and sites. To see it click here.
Some videos of the latest process and progress of the series can be found as clips and related information which is built around “Chekhov Country” This is a small on-line project which will loosely chronicle the series “Russian Theatre of the Early 20th Century” in documentary form with videos clips from some of my travels in and around places in Russia connected with the films and series, behind the scenes footage and generally related material. The first few are about last summer where I wrote most of the first draft material for the scripts. More to come soon.
Now the holiday is officially over here in Russia its time to take stock and make a few announcements. The long holiday – Christmas and New Year in Russia extends until 14th January ending officially with “old” New Years Day – gave me plenty of time to consolidate my thoughts about future projects and work. Continue reading →
Rolling through the festive season in Moscow which will last to nigh on until the middle of January. Why so long. Because Russia still holds its festive celebrations like Christmas by the old calender. Therefore we will have the new year on 31st December like everyone else then Christmas day on 6th January and then old new years on 13th January. Its a long haul and generally I try and get as much work done in the lull when nothing is happening. Continue reading →
A long time has passed, or so it seems, since completeing the film "Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre" and a process of reflection has replaced the frenetic rush to finish the film in time for the premiere and get it released at roughly the same time. The […]
After a decade working in the film industry in the UK, mostly on the packaging of feature films for international prodcution companies and later in the financial and production aspects of feature films, he travelled to Moscow in 1995 to make films and write where he has lived and worked ever since. He started making his first documentary film about Alexander Rodchenko in 1998 and from this experience embarked on series of films about the Russian Avant-garde of the 1920s and 30s. Three more films in the series followed:"Architecture and the Russian Avant-garde and , "Meyerhold, Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde" and "Mayakovsky" . Two further films have now been completed "David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde, with locations in Moscow Tokyo and Kyoto and a 6th film "Kandinsky and the Russian House" shot in Germany and Russia. Michael Craig returned to Japan for two 3 month periods to shoot a film about Japanese culture and art. The project is called Japan Philosophical Landscapes and is being released in short episodes on the internet-Click Here to Watch for Free.In 2011 a documentary about the Russian theatre director and founder of MXAT (The Moscow Art Theatre)