Update: Autumn Grandeur in Moscow

A brief update. Will follow up on location for Fairground Booth film maybe Tomorrow. Other work continuing on scripts for “Carnival in Russian Theatre” and Vahktangov documentary. Worked most of the weekend updating blogs and internet sites social media etc Plus some experiments in filming with green screens and lighting. Reading Gogol as background material.

Things gradually taking shape on this film project although I’m still no nearer to getting back into the Moscow rhythm since returning from the dacha outside Moscow. All across Moscow rolling dark clouds pass by my apartment window high up on the seventh floor perched on a hill a few minutes walk away from the Moskva River, in a vast panorama of Moscow and it distant environs. Beautiful in its seemingly threatening grandeur. Moscow has expanded over the centuries in concentric rings and it seems like our apartment sits at one of the epicentres of the first ring. The scene outside is a sure sign autumn is here.

Work on "Ogasawara" book close to completion

Last few days quite subdued while taking stock and trying to develop ideas for new projects. A few days working on the last pieces of the book “Journey to Ogasawara” which is gradually taking shape and will be ready to be published as an e-book at first and then as a paperback as well. Am editing footage which was shot on Ogasawara as part of the film “David Burliuk and the Japanese Avant-garde” but which wasn’t included in the film itself. Quite a lot of material as it turns out. I am editing the farewell send off which is part of the island’s tradition, a mixture of Japanese and it would seem Polynesian traditions. I need to add a few graphics and pictures and the e-book will be ready for publication.
Summer in Moscow is a quiet affair with many people leaving at weekends for their dachas so that their is a sensation of Moscow being emptied which on the one hand is a pleasant alternative to the usual frenzied pace which is a character of the city. However it is an eerie sensation all the same. Did some filming on the flip camera around the location for film on which I worked some years ago across the road from the Library of Foreign Literature not far from Taganka. Walked back from there to Kitae Gorod and back home on the metro.

Dosteovsky and a sunny Moscow day

Last few days have been about development of new projects or at any rate thinking about this subject. That’s not strictly true as some work has been going on.

Its a sunny day in Moscow and not much work is getting completed. Too many interruptions what with air conditioners breaking down and other trivia which has interrupted the work flow of the day.

Also reading Bakhtins book “The Poetics of Dostoevsky”. Illuminates many elements of Dostoevsky’s aesthetics with some surprising conclusions. Its remarkable how innovative Dostoevsky was despite the limitations and specific characteristics of his work. I have been reading Dostoevsky since I was fourteen years old and only now do I begin to really understand what a great author he was and what a departure his work was from Gogol and Tolstoy. Utterly different. Strange to talk about this author who explores some of the darker recesses of humanity on such a sunny bright day in Moscow.

Moscow Sunset

Just caught this beautiful Moscow sunset from my window. This is the best time of winter in Moscow. High pressure cold days with clear skies. Working hard trying to finish Stanislavsky film for the end of February so this is an interesting and delightful diversion. Revising and refining the film over and over adding bits here and tweaking other bits as well as ironing out mistakes. All out effort to get finished and released on schedule.

Watch the video below.

Garbushka Day

Two days of warm weather. I took the opportunity of heading off to the Garbushka electronic market in Moscow to check out the lastest gadgetry. Garbushka is a huge wharehouse complex with shops and stalls selling everything electronic or digital from DVDs to cameras to washing machines. Dissappointing sight, hardly any video cameras worth looking at. The venders seem to think that every one has switched over to DSLRs and maybe they are right. It looked like nobody was buying anything. I found a good camera store and had a look at the DSLR Canon 60d. Its worth checking out Phillip Bloom’s review on this camera and other DSLR cameras if you are interested.  If I was going to go down this route thats the one I would buy. Checked out some lights and green screens as well. I took the trollybus back home in the afternoon past the new Moscow City complex which is rising higher and higher with each passing week. Dark gashes of green brown water beginning to appear in the ice on the Moscow River as the mild weather starts to take effect. Toying with some film ideas. Later got into the edit of “Stanislavsky and Russian Theatre”. Good progress and carried on with it today. A major stage in the editing of this film is now complete.

Moscow – Winter in monochrome

Moscow winters tend to become very monochrome in every sense of the word. When you stare out of the window everything looks like a black and white Japanese painting, all misty swirls and opaque brushstrokes. Today is one such day.  The steam pouring out from the tall chimneys of  electric power stations around Moscow adds a misty mystery to the atmosphere as the vapour drifts in copious clouds across the horizon. I’m not sure what long periods of such conditions do to the human psyche – perhaps I’m better off not knowing, especially after fifteen years as a resident.
To go out in -10 with a freezing wind blowing billowing snow off the north east or where ever, is not a pleasant prospect and most sane people avoid it. So what to do. No problem. Firstly I am writing this new blog. This I hope will be an occasional series of pieces or chronicles about a film makers life in Moscow and occasionally just the life of a simple human being who happens to live in Moscow.
Generally however the perspective will be from film making because that is what I do – make films in Russia and from time to time in other places as well – Japan for instance in 2009. As yet I am not sure exactly what shape this blog will take and how the content will develop but it is likely to have a more personal tone with simple and maybe even mundane reflections. However as the artist and photographer Alexander Rodchenko once wrote. “Our task in photography is to make the extraordinary appear mundane and the mundane appear extraordinary”.  Such a philosophy can unearth unexpected and rich deposits of knowledge and insight. So taking this as my starting point, off we go.

Progress with Stanislavsky

  Yesterday was good day for editing even with winter biting in the way that it is in Moscow. Not being able or wanting to go out can be a positive experience.  It gives me plenty of opportunity for editing and working on our present project “Stanislavsky and Russian Theatre” . For one reason or another I needed to spend Sunday around the Tverskoi Bulvar area of Moscow. I decided to shoot some footage around this area as it is associated with the theatrical history of Moscow and visually features in the theatrical archives. The snow had stopped for a while and it was not so cold. The light was perfect for what I had in mind. Soft and muted, giving a vaguely fuzzy and paradoxically warm tone to the images. 
Waiting to receive the second part of the narration for the film from the actor James Langton. After a bit of going backwards and forwards until we settled on a final version. Once this is complete then we will go through the final part of the narration and then should be set for sound mixing. There were some problems with the syntax of the script but these hopefully have been ironed out. 
Using After Effects to animate an old Moscow engraving or picture of a snow scene on Tverskaya, the main street which leads down to the Kremlin.  It is a quintessential winter scene form old Moscow and if it works it will be a very effective piece of animation for the film. From this I have been able to work out a sequence using other engravings and integrating them with footage I have shot already and footage I will be shooting in the near future once the weather lets up a bit.

"Faces of Moscow" Photographic exhibition in Moscow

The snow is starting to melt as the days become warmer here in Moscow. All day the “alpenists” have been nosily clearing snow and ice from the roof of our apartment block. A long day with not a great deal to show for itself in many ways although our Japanese lesson always makes us feel good. Learning Japanese through Russian is a unique experience but I prefer it. It keeps my language skills sharp. At the moment working hard on the editing for“Stanislavsky and Russian Theatre”. Its gradually coming together and hopefully I will hit the end of February deadline.
Yesterday visited a friends exhibition of photographs at the House of Journalist in Moscow. Slava Sachkov exhibited together with the photo journalist Sergie Shevtzov a series of photographs reflecting Russian life and people. Slava has photographed the portraits of many of Russia’s most influential cultural figures including Solzhenitzyn. We have worked together on various occasions and I am glad to say he was the camera operator on two of the films in the series about the Russian avant-garde –  “Mayakovsky” and “Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde” Therefore its a real pleasure to see his work exhibited at this major exhibition in Moscow. 
Below is a selection from the exhibition.
Poster for exhibition “Faces of Russia”



Work and More Work

Worked late into the evening and night on the film“Stanislavsky and Russian Theatre” I’ve been trying to get the first section right. If I can do this then most of the film will follow. Concentrating on the music sound track and the opening chords to the film which are both visual and musical and give a feeling of the atmosphere of Moscow at night. 
Metro very quiet – a definite absence of the usual bustle and crowds which is its main  feature these days.  Seems like many people avoiding travelling after the recent events, tense and subdued. 
Today bright and sunny but very cold. I noticed last night on my way home that the sky was clear and the air super crisp which denoted fine weather for the following day. Its my favourite time of the year in Moscow, in winter that is.
Will work more today on the film. Also working on background material for the film which will widen out the scope of the subject and be useful additional information to go with the film. This is my intention. That is to offer a range of supporting material in association with the film – the full interviews, articles, sites where information about Stanislavsky and Russian theatre in general. This will be in conjunction with The Stanislavsky Centre in London at the Rose Bruford College of Performance and Actingand the London Theatre Blog. In this way the squidoo site is very useful with its lenses and stuff which I am getting to know how to use. It offers an additional hub to theCopernicus Films web site and at the same time links with the web and other social media platforms. I like the way its is set up. At first I wasn’t sure about it but recent improvements have made it a useful instrument in collating and disseminating information about the work. I like the way it breaks down modules into specific subjects and groups them together.

Moscow in Mist

Moscow has been covered in a mantle of mist for the last few days. Yesterday I walked from my apartment down to he embankment of the Moscow river, past the Ukraine Hotel (Now the Raddisson), and the White House on up towards the curved bridge which carries the metro across the river like some fairground attraction every two minutes. I turned back to look at the new Moscow City complex, the peaks of the tallest buildings shrouded in a thick mist like something from a Chinese monochrome mountain landscape painting. Cars swished by in the slush left by the melting snow and as a result of the mild weather conditions. As I was near to the Museum of the East I called into a friend who works there and we talked for an hour or so, both glad that the long holiday is finally over and we can get back to work. I came home later grateful to get back into my work on a film about Stanislavsky – “Stanislavsky and Russian Theatre“.