Corina Kay Thompson and Professor Thomas Russell, Theatre and Media Arts
In the summer of 2002 I was introduced to the story behind the painting “Troika.” It is a story of compassion between the classes, as Vasily Perov, the Russian artist who created the masterpiece, is contacted by a peasant woman who is the mother of one of the children featured in the painting. With a loaf of bread and some small coins, she tries to purchase the work from Perov. Having already sold the painting, Perov decides to create a separate painting of the boy when he realizes that the child had since died.
Feeling inspired by the story, I scripted a short screenplay of the incident, along with a few others surrounding the piece. Upon completion of the script I began exploring ideas of how to produce it. Realizing that the painting itself, along with a buildings integral to the story, were located in Moscow, Russia, I set my sights on creating an opportunity to film this script there. With contemplation and assistance from professors in both the Media Arts department and the Russian department, I began to see a larger vision of the ramifications of this project; my goals changed from simply creating a meaningful short film to building collaborations between film schools that could lead to further benefit and future projects for Brigham Young University’s Media Arts program.
The Vserossiski Gosudarstveni Institut Kinomatographi, or, Russian State Institute of Cinematography (hereafter referred to as the VGIK) is the world’s oldest and Russia’s most renowned film school. The purpose of this project was to create a working relationship between the VGIK and Brigham Young University’s media arts program through a collaborative student short film production.
The process of making a narrative film, even a short one, is extensive. A well-developed script must be written. Cast and crew must be secured as well as funds. The element of international production adds a long distance difficulty that must be factored in. While simultaneously developing the script through faculty readings and approval I also researched additional sources of funding. I recruited two BYU students from the media arts department, both Russian speaking (one native) to act as producer and assistant director. Their responsibilities were to help me work with students at the VGIK in Moscow to create a working budget, recruit crew and hire actors for the roles.
In order to create contacts between Brigham Young University and the Russian State Institute of Cinematography, I worked with Natalia Ivanovna Getmanyenko, an assistant professor in BYU’s Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages. A native Russian herself, Natalia Getmanyenko was the most useful contact in giving this project speed. Her position on the BYU faculty gave her credence to meet with high-level administrators of the VGIK while she was visiting there in December 2002. Those she met with expressed interest in the proposed project and welcomed future information regarding it.
However, in late January of 2003 all Brigham Young University International Study Programs to Russia were cancelled for an indefinite period of time. The ramifications of that decision on my project were such that it could no longer bear the official endorsement of the University. Working through appropriate channels, my faculty mentor, Thomas Russell and I met with Sandra Rodgers, the International Vice President to discuss the possibilities of this project continuing with BYU’s approval. However, after much thought and deliberation she informed us that it would be too difficult to approve this project while denying other projects based in Russia.
On an individual student basis, the VGIK was less interested in collaborating on this project; the appeal for them was the opportunity to create a connection with a respected American university. They were, however, still receptive to the idea of future collaborations on this project or others. In May 2003 Natalia Getmanyenko returned to Russia and met again with administrators from the VGIK in order to give them the Russian translated version of my script “Troika.” They approved of the script and encouraged my efforts to collaborate with students there. However, this would not be a project connected to the university, and by this time most of the VGIK’s students would be leaving home for the summer.
Having graduated in August of 2003, I am not longer a student of Brigham Young University. Although this project did not see successful completion within my studies at Brigham Young University, successful contacts have been created and maintained that could lead to future collaboration between the schools. My own contact with the VGIK has also created personal opportunities for the future as I am currently researching the possibilities of graduate and post graduate studies there.