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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

Vakhtangov and the Russian Theater Premiere

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.

Japan – Philosophical Landscapes – First part released

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.

 

New web documentary – “Japan- Philosophical Landscapes” almost ready for release

Some exciting work getting done at the moment. Working on the setting up of two web sites. One for  a web documentary about Japanese art and culture called simply “Japan – Philosophical Landscapes”. The site is still in the process of construction so it is not fully operational as yet with some modules and elements hidden.  It is a project which I have been working on and off for about two years ever since we returned from filming in Japan a second time over a three month period. At last it is taking some shape and I am ready to start releasing it in instalments on the web and have set up a new web site specifically for this purpose.

That is not to say that I have neglected the Russian Theatre project centred around Blok’s play The Fairground Booth and the two documentary films “Vakhatangov and the Russian Theatre” and “Carnival and the Russian Theatre”. I am in the process of building a website which will become the focus of this project with information, blogs and articles to chart it’s progress.
More news as things develop.

Process" in Film making in relation to "The Fairground Booth

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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.