New book from Michael Craig “Blok, Meyerhold and The Fairground Booth”

Announcement of my new book “Blok Meyerhold and The Fairground Booth which was published a few weeks ago. The book is now available on Amazon. Blok wrote the play The Fairground Booth in 1906 in the wake of the 1905 revolution which was seen as a precursor to the 1917 October revolution. As Blok himself said it seemed he “dragged it up out of the police department of his soul”. The play itself was received with a mixture of derision and delight when it was first performed by Blok and Meyerhold in 1906.
Blok and Meyerhold’s production of the The Fairground Booth was one of those seminal plays which changed the whole direction and context of theatre in Russia. Meyerhold’s subsequent innovations had an impact not simply on the course of Russian theatre but also to a large extent influenced the direction in which other directors developed their ideas and work. The Fairground Booth was a prototype for the explosion of theatrical innovations spearheaded by Meyerhold but it also inspired such directors as Tairov and Vakhtangov.
This book is not intended as an interpretation of the play as such but is written with the aim of creating a context in which this enigmatic and often overlooked play can be understood and enjoyed.

Over the next few months I will be adding material to this blog as a suppliment to the book. Many of the themes in the book such as the theatre within a theatre and Blok’s other plays and their significance for theatre will be addressed as part of a continuing flow of information  connected with this book. If you wish to purchase the book more details can be found here or by clicking on the thumbnail on the righthand  side of the blog.

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.

Day and Night in Chekhov Country

The early evening and night in the Russian countryside is a unique phenomenon. Mute in its stillness but full of sound and movement as if the earth itself has come alive. Humming and buzzing with  life. A myriad of creatures, birds and insects live out their fate and the forest stirs with unseen movement. It is the time when the emotions become attuned to the world and it seems we hear the fullness of its shifting chords and languid phrases. It is the time which Chekhov often chose in his plays to reveal the heightened awareness of the characters, where they re experience life’s betrayals and traumas as the intensity of the night encloses around the already enclosed world of the dacha.
Anyway that’s enough lyricism for one blog – on with the work. I work all day now, writing and sifting through the material for the films. I work better in the open air and even better when it rains for some reason. The long days give ample opportunity for prolonged activity and for thinking through ideas. Step by step the plans are beginning to take shape, gradually gaining coherence as well substance. Early days still but good progress.

"Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre" – Internet Distribution

The release of “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre” is now a few months in the past and the process of distribution is now becoming more actual. There are a number of posibilities on the horizon but as yet its too early to talk about them until there is some kind of concrete proposal or development. For the time being there are two distribution outlets which are working quite well. The first is Amazon which most people know about. Here theDVD can be purchased or the film downloaded or rented.  However the second is a new internet platform for film makers –Dynamo Player. It allows users to sell their film on the internet for a limited period of time for competitive rates. It also allows the film maker to add any amount of additional material associated with the film, for instance interviews background footage etc. which can add value to the original film and give the project a wider perspective. The player itself can be embedded on any web page or blog so feel free. There is now a dedicated web page for the Stanislavsky film where the extended interviews with Jean Benedetti (Honory Patron of The Stanislavski Centre) and Anatoly Smeliansky (Dean of the Moscow Art Theatre School). Here is the link:  or click on the player below:

Click on the “playlist” to see all the options.

Plans are afoot for new projects and announcements will be made towards the end of the summer when the details are a bit more worked out.

Return to Moscow

A long time has passed, or so it seems, since completing 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 premiere has been documented elsewhere and there is even a few clips which can be seen on YouTube. The film itself can be watched also on YouTube.

From the premiere of “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre”

What kind of character this reflection is taking will become apparent with time. Having relaxed in the UK for a few weeks, coming back to the energetic pace of Moscow is always disorientating but certain elements are beginning to take shape. One thing that becomes clear is how out of control the process is despite the fact that you think you are controlling all the elements and progress. Its only after getting my head out of the editing process that the true significance of the film can be seen. Its too early as yet  to make any confident conclusions or pronouncements. The most important thing for now is promoting the film. That is paramount at the moment and it requires a great deal of work and attention. In that sense many of the discussions which are taking place over the internet and elsewhere by such people as John Reiss , Ted Hope, Chris Jones and by independent film makers such as Oklahoma Ward and David Baker as well as many others are very apt. The divison between marketing your film and making a film in  the new environment for independent film makers, is a fine line, if it exists at all.

One thing that can be said in this process is the effect that Moscow has on my work. Moscow can be a difficult place to live and work in. The noise, the climate, the traffic and the general lifestyle all combine to create obstacles and barriers etc. However for me and I know I have said this before, there is a specific energy or atmosphere which exists here and maybe in Russia generally which is creatively stimulating and galvanising.

Tomorrow I will be off to the Moscow State Duma to a friends Photo exhibition which is opening there tomorrow. More about that later.

Stanislavsky Film and Thinking Distribution

Getting closer to finishing film “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre”. No major adjustments required but all the same a lot of work straightening out minor details and mistakes. All my time has been taken up with these tasks so I have had my head buried in the film, leaving no room for anything else. I showed a more or less complete version to Paul Fryer and Andrew Eglinton at The Stanislavski Centre. They have made some suggestions about marketing the film and pushing it and there are preliminary discussions about a showing of the film which would in effect be a premiere. They are looking into the possibilities of venues. Moscow is once again blanketed in snow after we thought that we had seen the end of it and spring had started.

In many ways I feel I am holding back until the film is absolutely ready before launching into marketing and promotion and articles about the film. I have a lot to say but I need to say it first in the film. Then we will see what happens. There is much talk these days of marketing your film and thinking about distribution and promotion well before the film goes into production and during the production. People like John Reiss, Ted Hope and Chris Jones and many others have been emphasising the need for this stage.

John Reiss proposes a special new post on a film specifically devoted to distribution and Internet marketing as part of the film production process. In many ways I am in complete agreement with them. However I still believe the film is the thing.  That is not to say that I have not been actively engaged in this sphere. With this film I have teamed up with The Stanislavski Centre, which holds the biggest Stanislavsky archive in Europe, outside Russia and they have many connections and outlets in the world of theatre.  I have a site devoted to Stanislavsky and theatre which is intended to be resource for the film to stimulate and promote interest.

However I agree with Seth Godin if I understand him correctly, when he says that in the end you have to create something which can be marketed and you have to get down and do that no matter what. The question in the context of  a film is which bit drives the other. Does the marketing/promotion/audience gathering drive the film or does the film drive the marketing promotion/audience/gathering or is this a false dichotomy? As I said at the beginning there is a lot of things to say but the core is the film and I think that needs to be in focus all the time if you are trying to do all these things yourself simultaneously. Once the film  is released I might have more to say about these aspects.

One of the things I want to do when this film is over is finish the book I have written “Journey to Ogasawara”. The book is completed but just needs editing and put together for publication. All in all I have been thinking about writing more – trying to find more to time to write and dovetail it with the films I have been making. 

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.

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“.

Stanislavsky Documentary Film – Copernicus Films – Update

StanislavskyJust back from the UK after accomplishing several important steps in the progress of this new documentary film about Stanislavsky of his life and work. The one major accomplishment was securing the interview with Jean Benedetti, one of the foremost international authorities on Stanislavsky, which will be included as part of the film. After a period of negotiation the interview took place with Jean Benedetti at the beginning of May 2010. Instrumental to this process was the help of Paul Fryer of the Rose Bruford College of acting and Andrew Eglinton also from Rose Bruford College and who runs The London Theatre Blog. Paul Fryer is also curator of The Stanislavsky Centre which houses one of the largest Stanislavsky archives outside of Russia and is a major resource for research into Stanislavsky. Andrew made sure that the logistics side of things were in place as well as playing a main role in the recording sessions which took place at Rose Bruford College and advice about archive material. On returning to Moscow the production will continue with more filming and locations in Moscow as well as negotiations for archive footage. Post production and editing for the film is planned for the middle of June and will continue throughout the summer.