AN ALBUM, A FILM, A CONCERT, A PLAY
The Russian Winter is an ongoing multi-platform theatre project, bringing together; film, live music, projection mapping, theatre performance and utilising current online promotional trends. The projects birth was in the winter of 2012, where myself and film director, Jim Roper, were approached by composer Adam Coobms and songwriter John E Vistic, in a seminar/pitch in our final degree year. Organised by our tutor at The University of The West of England (UWE), Dr Judith Aston, the project’s had a concept album, at it’s heart. Influenced by the great Russian novel, The Master and Margarita, written in the 1930’s by Mikhail Bulgakov, the concept stood as a modern protest or reflection on ‘the corruption of power and the dictatorship of love’.
“That this is happening at all is a tribute to the richness and energy of Bristol’s musical world – some 60 players giving themselves to one man’s leftfield dream, fleshed out by Adam Coombs’ excellent orchestration and driven by excellent visuals from UWE’s art department.”
Over the following year, myself, Jim Roper and theatre director Micheal Sides, unpicked the lyrics and concepts within the songwriting, to write a script divided into 12 sections, accompanying the album’s 12 songs. Over the this time and though-out 2013, our crew expanded and gained a talented and courageous cast, to shoot the 12 short films over the width and breadth of Bristol’s urban landscape. Our ambition never ceasing, locations included public buildings, motorway underpasses and and old semi-derelict theatre, all legal and health and safety protocol was adheared to but there was still very much a guerilla attitude in the crew!
Although involved as scriptwriter, actor, set designer, costume designer, lighting designer, DOP, director and producer, my final credit is as Promoter. Explaining a little more on the role, I coordinated a number of promotional events displaying the core elements of the multi-platform project, VJ film projection, costume performance, poetry, live music and set design. Alongside this, I created a stream of content for the social media marketing campaign and to promote shoots where extras where needed. These ‘pop-up’ style events blended fact and fiction to keep the audience in a state of immersion, a dress code of ‘Soviet Kitch’ was encouraged.
For the promotional events, a line up of Balkan themed live music was arranged, the live video projection mapping and a set dressing was in keeping with Russian Bohemia circa 1930. Documentation was then fed into a social media campaign, updating a rapidly growing fan base. Using a theatrical tone of Communist comradeship, this dialogue built up to our main live show in Jan 2014.
Fundraiser Event and Pop-Up Theatre;
Video Promo, myself as Director, DOP and Editor;
The climactic scenes in the film element of the show, occur as a decadent masquerade ball, where our hero and heroine face their nemesis and the story is concluded. For this shoot we needed a good number of costumed extras, promoting this as an event in its own right served both to promote the show, test out technical elements and film the necessary shots. Themed as the ‘Devils Ball’, extras came dressed in decadent costume, an air of exclusivity was promoted. The venue, All Hallows Hall, in Bristol, was transformed with a bedraggled splendor, using borrowed decor from The Black Cat Bar, that tours many festivals in the South of England, complete with iron chandelier and miles of rich velvet fabric.
Devils Ball Shoot stills;
The Russian Winter live show was a triumph of music and theatrical splendor. The visual elements where displayed in projection and performance and the music was performed by a full 60 piece orchestra, including a rock band, conducted by Adam Coombs. Running for 3 night’s in Bristol’s famed concert venue, Colston Hall, the show was attended by just under 1000 people and received rave reviews from the Bristol press.
I consider The Russian Winter my most valuable creative experience to date. The nature of mutli-platform project creation, pushed me to my limits of storytelling and story code cracking and my resourcefulness in acquisition and creation design materials. To make a narrative function over multiple platforms and craft forms, a strong underlying message and/or character conflict must be established and maintained, combine this with a bold visual style, the narrative pieces begin to take shape and the conceptual glue begins to bond. Another lesson I learned from the 3 year production is how the support and nurturing of creative collaboration (especially on a zero budget) becomes key for success in this field and if you are prepared to push through with an idea you believe in, success will be waiting.
Interview with John E Vistic and Adam Coombes, myself as Videographer;
Interviews with creative director Judith Aston, myself as Videographer;
Live Show Rehearsal promo, myself as Videographer;