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 →
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 →
Moscow is still in the throes of a beautiful autumn. Crisp and cold with the sun shining through the autumn leaves as you walk about the streets of the city. Yesterday morning awoke to a stunning fiery Moscow dawn. Right across the far side of the city from our apartment, windows were ablaze with the reflection of the early morning sunrise. Several days of trying to complete numerous tasks all in one go and not succeeding. Trying to finish the book Journey to Ogasawara or at least trying to finish the art work and composing to get it ready for publication as an e-book and as a normal book as well. On top of this there has been the preparation of two of the films form the Russian Avant-garde series and also the film “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre”. Ran into some technical problems here and there but gradually they are sorting themselves out. Books have been arriving from far and wide as part of the research process into “The Fairground Booth” project but because of all the other things happening it has been almost impossible to pay it the attention it requires. As far as the project “Japan – Philosophical Landscapes” is concerned there is much material available, it simply needs to be reworked for the internet. I have to admit its taking longer than I expected to get this film ready but there is nothing can be done.
The last few days have been a process of clearing away old obstacles and barriers in order to proceed with a several new projects. A few years ago we spent a fair amount of time in Japan shooting material for a couple of films which I have been working on and editing. The work on this project was interrupted by the Stanislavsky film “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre” which is now complete. After revisiting the Japanese project it is re-emerging as web documentary called “Japan – Philosophical Landscapes”. More information about it can be found here. Also the first part has been uploaded to the internet (see below).
At the same time a new site is being constructed to accommodate the Fairground Booth Project and discussions are taking place as to how best proceed in organising the logistics of the film and its corresponding documentary projects “Carnival and the Russian Theatre” and “Vahktangov and the Russian Theatre”. Once the site is up and running details will be released.
Making my way around Moscow to meetings and checking out various possibilities, cameras etc, for the films. The last few days have been a question of working out a tone and style for the film adaptation of The Fairground Booth. The accompanying documentaries in the project “Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre” and “Carnival in Russian Theatre” are relatively straight forward with the stress on relatively. However a film adaptation of Blok’s play is distinctly problematic. Firstly, there are many stereotypical takes on the main characters -Pierrot, Columbine and Harlequin which I want to avoid. I aim to find a particular tone and style for the production and this will effect the overall design for the play, costumes set and general look. This will take time so the best thing is to continue with the shooting script and background research to all the three films. This will provide the necessary depth once some of the other questions begin to get solved. Its a similar situation I faced in the film “Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde”. It was the first film I made in Moscow and required scenes showing Rodchenko at work at his desk and other scenes of Rodchenko. For an extended account about the making of this film click here.
In this film I needed to solve two basic problems. The style in which I would shoot and casting the role of Rodchenko. It took a long time and followed a specific process of finding the right person for the role. A similar process is emerging once again whereby there are a lot of questions and and you have to wait for some of the answers.
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)