How HSE University’s Newly Launched Film Institute Will Work
The founders of the HSE Film Institute have described it as an alternative to acknowledged film schools, a brand-new approach to cinema education, and a place to learn acting skills under the industry’s best teachers. On November 22, HSE University Rector Nikita Anisimov welcomed renowned Russian film producers, actors and other industry professionals to an event dedicated to the new institute.
The presentation was opened by Andrey Bystritskiy, Dean of the Faculty of Communications, Media, and Design, which the Film Institute is part of. He started by congratulating Alexander Akopov, the institute’s director, on his birthday. HSE Rector Nikita Anisimov mentioned another timely birthday: the 29th anniversary of the founding of HSE University. The university is entering its next year with a new area of studies in the creative industries and is responding to the market and society’s demand for professionals in the field. The rector also said that the Faculty of Communications, Media, and Design will be transformed into the Faculty of Creative Industries in the near future, and its programmes will become multidisciplinary.
The founders of the institute define their slogan as: ‘we love creators, but we work for the viewers.’ According to Alexander Akopov, director and co-founder of the institute and renowned TV and film producer, this is the first time in history that a university has focused on the industry’s opinion of who, what and how to teach. To do this, ‘all we had to do was to find the world’s best teachers—and we found them,’ he emphasized.
Mr. Akopov introduced David Howard, founder of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, author of classical textbooks on screenwriting, and head of the institute’s programmes on film production and screenwriting, as well as Svetlana Efremova-Reed, head of acting programmes. Professor Efremova-Reed is a graduate of St. Petersburg Academy of Theatre, an MFA graduate in Acting of the Yale School of Drama, and the Head of the Acting Programme at California State University, Fullerton.
Actress Yuliya Snigir, who participated in the presentation, admitted that she ‘sneaked in here with a personal agenda: to apply for professional development courses and learn from Svetlana.’ In her experience, international film professionals are interested in Russian actors, and ‘Svetlana can serve as an excellent guide to this gateway.’ The acting community was also represented by Nikita Efremov and Anna Mikhalkova, who sent their video greetings.
The idea behind the institute was to create an alternative to existing ‘remarkable, prestigious, successful’ schools, said Svetlana Efremova-Reed. She believes that in addition to employing the traditional techniques of Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg, it is important to use the technique developed by Sanford Meisner. While the Meisner technique is acknowledged globally, his works have yet to be translated into Russian. New approaches to the teaching of acting at the institute will also include the internationally recognized Suzuki method. Initially, programmes will be fully taught in English, since the teachers and advisers will come from abroad. The institute also plans to attract Russian teachers in the future.
‘We have no one-coach workshops. We train professionals who can deal with the challenges of today’s audiovisual industries, with any budget and any conditions and limitations—whether imaginable and unimaginable,’ said Alexander Akopov and Svetlana Efremova-Reed. They believe that the personal experiences of even the best and most successful screenwriters, directors and producers don’t cover the whole variety of tasks that graduates of the institute should be prepared to tackle at the start of their careers. That’s why they will have a new coach each semester, Svetlana Efremova-Reed explained.
David Howard, who attended the presentation remotely from California, talked about his visit to Russia at the invitation of Alexander Akopov and Sergey Selyanov in 2012, when he advised teachers in the film industry. He said that the trip was a good start, and that he now has an opportunity to apply his experience in a more advanced manner.
‘In Russia, one must live long,’ responded Sergey Selyanov, Head of the Association of Film and TV Producers. We live in a remarkable era, he said, since it is a time for implementing ideas. ‘It is very important to us as commissioners: the crop doesn’t ripen quickly, but the seeds have been sown,’ he said.
Director Timur Bekmambetov said that cinema is about more than storytelling. It is first and foremost a technological attraction, and that’s why basic knowledge in this field is essential. He added that ‘cinema is not keeping up with changes in life,’ and that ‘it would be great to have an opportunity to learn the new language of cinema, since we live in a digital world.’
Sergey Selyanov and Timur Bekmambetov will be collaborating with the HSE Film Institute. The institute’s founders are also attracting other key industry experts, including Valery Todorovsky, screenwriter, producer and director; Ruben Dishdishyan, General Producer of Mars Media; Igor Mishin, General Producer of PROFIT studio; and Evgenia Markova, CEO of Roskino.
Film Production (with a focus on screenwriting)
Film Production (with a focus on directing)
Film Production (with a focus on film industry management, organization and economics)
Theatre and Film Acting (Russia’s first master’s programme in acting)
On April 7, 2013, Channel One Russia, together with the New York Film Academy and the Higher School of Economics, will launch the course ‘Modern Production in Cinema and Television’.