‘Producers Will Wait in Line for Our Graduates’
This year, the HSE Film Institute is welcoming its first applicants. How does the Institute teach screenwriters, directors, actors, and producers? How do the Institute’s degree programmes differ from those of other specialised universities? What’s a better way for students to enter the industry—arthouse or mainstream films? How will the industry deal with the economic crisis? , Director of the HSE Film Institute, answered these questions and more in an interview with the HSE News Service.
HSE University traditionally provides students with high-quality education. The Film Institute was created on the initiative of HSE University together with the Association of Film and Television Producers—the largest association in the industry, which represents 42 companies. The Association has been studying world film educational programmes for a long time. Unfortunately, the European model, where the director is the boss of the movie set, dominates in Russia; as a result, cinema turns into an endless creative experiment.
We focus on a model that works very well in Hollywood: so-called ‘spectator cinema’
Arthouse fans say the word ‘spectator’ contemptuously, while we say it proudly. At any level of complexity, cinema should arouse viewers’ interest, it should pay off and thus earn the right to exist. Our industry has state support, and it is often said that there is no state support in the USA. However, the USA has led the market for a century, and extra money is spent on creative experiments there.
In Russia, commercial cinema also needs state support (particularly for distribution), because Russian films face fierce competition from the USA, where films can have budgets of $150 million. However, we have won the battle for the television audience: 85% of this audience watch Russian series. Among other things, the Institute's degree programmes will be aimed at a new part of the industry: streaming services, which also release films and TV series. This part of the industry is now in the investment phase—subscriptions don’t cover all the costs yet.
During the recession, television will suffer the most, because advertising has been reduced. But we already know for sure that the government is ready to support the industry, in particular cinemas, which will face a drop in demand due to major world players leaving the market. The support model was worked out during the pandemic. However, there has been no big drop in the audience yet. Of course, the situation is difficult, but we have a plan to overcome it. In addition, today there is a niche that has not been used anywhere else: screening TV series in cinemas. For example, you can show several episodes in cinemas that will then be released on streaming services, and then on TV.
The Film Institute's programmes are tailored to the industry’s requirements. We know exactly who we need: screenwriters and directors, producers who know how to work in the narrative paradigm
Our ultimate goal is to make the viewer experience emotions. There will be an extended programme for actors. In addition to the Stanislavsky system, many different acting techniques have been developed over the last hundred years, such as the Sanford Meisner system adopted in Hollywood. The creators of the programme plan to fully equip actors with skills, teach them to master speech and the body, and train them to interact with directors and work with the camera.
What makes the HSE Film Institute different from other film schools? Well, before you can do a loop-the-loop, you need to learn how to fly an airplane. And before you make an arthouse movie, you need to learn how to do elementary things in order to avoid elementary mistakes. And the Film Institute will teach the fundamentals.
Another difference is that there are no single-coach courses at HSE University. With all due respect to the masters, any individual’s experience—be it Fellini, Tarkovsky, or Spielberg—is a limited experience. There are visiting teachers from abroad, like actress and lecturer Svetlana Efremova-Reed, screenwriter, script director, and Hollywood consultant David Howard, and other specialists. All agreements with them remain in effect.
Applicants often ask how to prepare for admission to the Institute.
The admission committee analyses applicants’ potential by studying their portfolios, conducting interviews, and assessing their erudition
For example, they ask applicants to tell them a story from their life and they say, ‘you can tell us anything, as long as we believe you’. The admission committee includes both Russian and American teachers.
Members of the Association of Producers will want to see graduates of the Institute among their employees. Producers will wait in line for our graduates. If we are talking about student directors, we have agreements to give them the opportunity to take part in the filming process, to shoot a scene. It’s risky, but there is no other way to get into this job.
In honour of HSE University’s 30th anniversary in November 2022, the RT television channel made a documentary film called 2052: See the Future. The film is dedicated to the university’s research achievements and how they will change the world in the decades to come. The film was released this year in English and Arabic. The first festival screening of 2052: See the Future took place as part of the 7th Gagarin.doc International Festival of Cinema, Science and Contemporary Art.
On April 19, the HSE Film Institute held a press conference on the topic of ‘Achievements and New Goals’ at the HSE University building on Pokrovsky Bulvar. In addition, students of the Actor educational programme presented the results of their first year of studying.
One documentary and six animations created by HSE Art and Design School students were shortlisted at this year's St. Anna’s Festival. The annual Young Cinema Forum attracts the attention of aspiring film professionals from all regions of Russia, as well as the CIS, Europe and America. Students of the HSE Art and Design School told the News Service about the ideas behind their works, which were selected by the professional jury, and what it was like to work on them.
The film Alive Inside by American director Michael Rossato-Bennett discusses the surprising results of treating Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders with the help of music. The director first got the idea to make the film after he met Dan Cohen, a volunteer at a nursing home.