Today has been spent considering what steps to take in assembling a crew and a team to make an adaptation of the film The Fairground Booth by Alexander Blok. The project requires a team of people who will be able to understand the overall vision – that would include techicians actors and all personnel. That might sound quite an obvious thing to say but this is such a unique project and in such a unique place – Moscow – that it will require subtle understanding of the dimensions and more importantly the paramaters of Russian theatre. That means understanding some of the historical background to Russian Theatre as well as having an open mind to experimentation and innovation.
The other two parts of the project, “Carnival and Russian Theatre” and “Vahktangov“are going ahead with both the scripts are coming together piece by piece. They are not quite at the stage where we are ready to start filming but at the moment there are no particular deadlines, just a desire to keep developing the work and moving the scripts forward ready for shooting.
Three weeks in Chekhov Country, the heart of the Russian countryside, working through the research for the new film project and trying to think of a title for the whole project. Work went well and the relaxing country air was conducive to creative endeavour. As mentioned before the entire project is a three film enterprise. Two documentary films – one about the Russian Theatre director - Vakhtangov, another about the influence of Carnival on Russian theatre of the early 20th Century and then a feature type adaptation of Blok’s play “The Fairground Booth”.
Why “The Fairground Booth” or “The Puppet Show” as it sometimes is called – “Balaganchik” in Russian. Well if you acknowledge that carnival has had an enormous influence on Russian theatre especially at the beginning of the 20th century then “The Fairground Booth” is the play which really underlined this fact. It was one of those watershed plays or theatrical events which defined the future and broke with the past. Alexander Blok’s play and his cooperation with Meyerhold in “The Fairground Booth” served as a link between the symbolism of the early twentieth century and the revolution in culture and technology and society – it was the nexus between the old and the new theatre.
From this perspective, to pair a film about Vahktangov, carnival and “The Fairground Booth” makes sense. Each film will stand on its own but each film will inform the other. Moreover it will also sit well against the two films already completed about Russian theatre: “Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde” and “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre“. This will make up a series of five films covering an area which is less explored than say the theatre of Chekhov.
The connections will become clear over time as each film begins to develop. I will be charting the progress and development of these films here and in blogs and in a series of background video blogs across the internet. Some may claim that Blok’s Fairground Booth is just a curiosity piece or not a classic drama. In subsequent blogs I will try and argue otherwise and that it is as much of a classic as any play by Chekhov, Shakespeare or Ibsen and deserves its place in the history of world theatre. Blok’s play paved the way for a new kind of theatre which relied less on naturalism and explored other means of expression.
However the question still arises why Blok and the “Balaganchik” and why now. Russian society and culture was changing at a rapid pace, to some extent this is still true of Russia. Any attempt to hold a mirror up to nature so to speak was then doomed to failure. Naturalism was ill equipped to deal with reality at the beginning of the 20th century. Events move on a at staggering pace. How does one reflect reality of the then Russia, how does one come to terms with it. One way is through masks and masquerades, to widen the expressive possibilties of what was then a narrrowly defined view of the role of theatre and the content it should portray.
Autumn – Moscow. The dark evenings come earlier and earlier with
every passing day. Coming to the end of the edit on The Japanese Garden
- Landscape and Meaning. Still not entirely happy with the title.
However I don't want anything to prosaic which might be misleading.
Writing something which will introduce the film as a kind of
announcement of release. Work has piled up behind this film including
The Stanislavsky Documentary film "Stanislavsky and the Metamorphosis of Russian Theatre"
and some related writing projects which I am working on. There is no
other way however to make progress otherwise the quality of the film
suffers if you try and rush things. Today manged to get to grips with
and complete some computer graphics and effects which have been giving
me difficulties. I feel like I haven't been out for days although this
is not true. The feeling with this film is that I have been ensconced
in a long tunnel neither looking right or left and despite the pleasure
and experience I have derived from this film I really want to get it
finished and move forward with other projects.
Returned from the Russian countryside after almost three weeks. Not exactly a place of Chekhovian
atmospheres and moods. Such things are hard to find nowadays in the
Russian countryside but with wild fires billowing in the hot summer
wind and temperatures of up to 40 degrees, those lazy dreaming Russian
summers seem like a thing of the long distant past. Which is something
Chekhov was already hinting at in The Cherry Orchard.
We left Moscow as the heat started to become unbearable and headed out
to a an old soviet style holiday rest complex. It was built as a
Pioneer camp for soviet school children but has been converted into a
kind of holiday complex for adults. There we escaped the worst of the
smog and smoke from the fires. I took the main computer with me and
was able to get a considerable amount of work done especially on the
Stanislavsky Film "Stanislavsky and the Metamorphosis of Russian Theatre".
The script is more or less fleshed out and ready for recording. I have
a good narrator in mind, James Langton, an English actor who lives in
New York. He has just completed the narration for the other film I have
in post production "The Japanese Garden – Art, Landscape and Meaning".
The title may appear elsewhere under a different variation until I can
settle on a version that I am happy with. James delivered the final
text with the corrections I had requested and I can now start to
complete the film. Excellent narrator of text and I am very happy with
the result. I will work on "Stanislavsky and Metamorphosis" parallel
with the Japanese film. Now back in Moscow and coping with the
On Monday in Moscow, Copernicus Films managed to complete an important interview for the up and coming documentary film about Stanislavsky's life and work in theatre. Anatoly Smeliansky, the rector of the Moscow Arts Theatre School,
kindly agreed to be interviewed and give his thoughts for a documentary
film about the Russian theatre director Stansilavsky which will be
released later in 2010. The film is in the final stages of pre
production. Next week we will travel to the UK in order to record the
voice over and a further interview with an eminent figure and writer on
Stansilavsky in the English language. The film is being made with the
cooperation of the Rose Bruford college of acting and the Stanislavsky Centre
which is one of the largest archives of Stansilavsky outside of Russia.
The Stansilavsky centre has made the archive available to Copernicus Films for use in the film.
Since I am starting a new blog on this format then its worthwhile starting with some new projects which are in the wind and progress so far. Its also by way of an introduction to those who may not be aware of the activities of Copernicus Films. Hopefully the information will gradually fill in the bigger picture as we go along with later posts. Copernicus Films has recently completed a 6 part series about the Russian Avant-garde called "The Russian Avant-garde – Revolution or Renaissance" which was shot on location in Russia, Germany and Japan. The films include titles about Alexander Rodchenko, Kandinsky, Meyerhold the great Russian theatre director and Mayakovsky the Russian and Soviet Poet.The next stage will involve a new film about Stanislavsky of which I will write more later, plus two films about Japanese art. The films about Japan are in post production at the moment. The main task to be completed is the voice over and some studio shoots. I will begin to post more information as time goes by. At the moment a trip to the UK will take place in April to record the voice over for the Stanislavsky film provisionally titled "Stanislavsky and his Legacy" plus some interviews. The other project which is almost at fruition is a small book about a visit to the island of Ogasawara, some thousand kilometres south east of Japan and situated in the Pacific ocean. It is an account of a journey I undertook whilst making the film "David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde" which is about the Russian avant-garde painter and futurist David Burliuk's two year visit to Japan in 1920 before finally emigrating to America in 1922. He travelled to the island to paint and recuperate after a gruelling journey through Russia and Siberia . The first draft is almost completed.
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)