"Get up, Go, Film" – Behind the Scenes of Big Stories

When you scroll a multimedia story or use an application, or study at an online course, we don’t always get to think of the process of producing a product (for education, art or museum). The outcome is by all means important, but why not getting behind the scenes of a project? Let us share the experience o the "inner workings" of project implementation such as the month and a half of shooting, fifty hours of interesting discussions, dozens of kilometers of city walks with eleven Lviv artists, and only four people on the team. 

During several weeks, the production team coordinated by Bohdan Shumylovych, a film director Olha Povoroznyk, camera operators Andriyan Veremiyenko and Myroslav Trofymuk worked on the block "City and Art on the Edge." The project is part of educational online platform "City and the Past in the Digital." The resource is going to offer to school teachers and university lecturers some practical tips and materials to teach 20th century history and culture through the lens of local stories and micro-histories, approaches to develop new topics within curricula, toolkits for practical skills with digital tools.  

The block "City and Art on the Edge" aims at theorizing the approach to different art practices of Lviv in the late 1980s. The team implemented a model of "person – city – stories" and combined a human (artist), urban space (Lviv) and narratives as art and about art, and tried to identify practices of art conceptualism of the 1980s-1990s.

Participants were happy to share the secrets of shooting, teambuilding, and challenges faced in the process of work on the block "City and Art on the Edge."

About the process

"We are not merely recording interviews in one place. Artists try to recall the sites that used to be important either for them personally, or for their creative work. We walk along the city, watch them, and then film them. Why do we take this approach? Later, viewers could visually anchor the picture, see how the locations look today, trace how people used to interact with specific spaces before, and how this is happening today. In the process of filming, some unexpected stories and memories of artists come to mind. It is valuable for learning by doing. For example, everyone believed that the first exhibition in “Dzyha” was by Andriy Sahaydakovskyi. Tonia Denysiuk told us that it was a collective display. During the interview with Yevhen Ravskyi, we learned that it was his exhibition. All of the memories are sawn together like patches of fabric into one canvas of the history of "Dzyha" – Bohdan Shumylovych says, the project co-coordinator. 

One of the ideas of the block was to show that artists do not live in imaginary worlds. The same as other citizens, they exist within this reality and space – they cross, adjust to their needs, and work herein. Some might find it a revelation.

Working with artists

When choosing protagonists (Olena Turianska, Andriy Sahaydakovskyi, Heorhiy Kosovan, Serhiy Yakunin, Vlodko Kostyrko, Vlodko Kaufman, Antonina Denysiuk, Mykhaylo Frantsuzov, Andriy Boyarov, Ihor Podolchak, Yevhen Ravskyi) we avoided "official painters" who worked in the Union or taught at the Academy of Arts. They have already been vastly covered in biographies, presented at exhibitions and shows. The team was looking for the "creative alternative" who belonged to non-formal art groups in Lviv. For example, Vlodko Kaufman was part of the "Shliakh" group, and had not crossed paths with the group of Heorhiy Kosovan, Platon Silvestrov, or Ihor Shulyev. They did not have any direct contacts, but there were mediators who were involved in different environments. Tonia Denysiuk was connecting several such groups. Informal communities were shaped according to certain preferences, approaches, and practices of art (literary, ethnic origin). 

It is obvious that the creative layer of alternative artists was shaped by the very system and its policy. In the 1960s, the old city in Lviv was overcrowded. Several families used to share one apartment, in the basements, in attics. In 1970-80s, they started settling into new flats, and the housing stock in the city center became available. People could not continue living in such conditions as went against the idea of better life of Soviet people. Since that time, they have started distributing the rooms to people of art to have their art workshops there. Artists could rent an attic or a basement for a small rent. It was sufficient to show a diploma of the Academy of Arts, or a membership card of the Union of Artists. It was the time when many artists received their workshops. The door to a small room was hiding an entire universe where the ideological system could not interfere. It was one of the reasons to create an alternative circle of artists and the concept of art of the 1980-1990s in general. 

After the interview, we realized that an art workshop was the place for comprehensive implementation of an art process. However, for some of them, such as Vlodko Kaufman, it was not an important place. He could randomly create (in a park, at an institution, in Dzyha, etc.) and make the so called nests in any space. Antonina Denysiuk told how urban pace impacted her creative work. She was born in Zamarstyniv and walked across the entire city to get to school. The walking experience impacted her perception of the dynamics of the city and its citizens. 

Teambuilding

When you work within the strict timeslots, you always face challenges. The team started recording interviews in August. However, because of summer break it was not the most favourbale time for filming. The first thing they needed to do was to make a team. This is how the cooperation started with the film director of the following videos – Olha Povoroznyk. "Once I was fantasizing on a documentary about Lviv female artists. When Bohdan showed the list of characters o me I realized I would contribute to something important. We composed our production team very quickly. We got onto Lviv tram on the go" – Olha says.

“I tis important to distribute the responsibilities to all. I was the person who produces and adjusts the content. A person who talks to artists, and sets a vector for conversation. I was in charge of the content, while the film director was responsible for the form (she controlled the angle of shooting, planes, passages, and editing). Camera operators took care of the technical part. However, even the rented equipment was not able to prevent misfocus and problems with the light. All episodes were taken in one take. We did not have a chance to re-take it. Next, the post-production followed. We needed to listen through 50 hours of the recorded talks, match the sound with the video, and edit it all together. This is where arguments emerge between a film director and the camera operators. Discussions, agreements, arguments are the routine work-related processes impossible to avoid” – Bohdan says. 

There were also some ridiculous and surprising moments. We needed to drink alcohol and coffee with some artists. Shooting within the public space always attract attention of the passers-by. There were cases when we were threatened by intoxicated or aggressive citizens. They felt we were shooting them, even though we only focused on the protagonist. We would often shoot in unusual locations, such as Lychakiv cemetery, Gunpowder Tower, the pond at the Veterinary University, apartments and workshops of artists. Sometimes, it was the same place. It was important to catch the artists’ moods, to grasp the artistic flow of shooting.

“I was most thrilled by artists who we closely talked with, and lived through their experiences and shared part of their lives. Our production team was like gate-crashers who interfered with their space. However, they hosted us very warmly, were open and hospitable. The characters of this project were different in their philosophies, aesthetics, lifestyles, character, and values. Nevertheless, all of them live within the same space, like all of us. It could be Lviv, or it might be merely a World. And it gives a lot food for thought” – a film director shares. 

Outcomes

In the end, we are going to have eleven Html-stories about Lviv artists with digitalized collections of artists, critical texts, and videos. On the basis of the collected materials and the conducted research, virtual online city walks will be designed. We opted for a video format from the very beginning because it is most immersive for the visual world. A video-interview, the same as books, can impact people’s imagination. In addition, in partnership with the UCU Culture Studies Program, we are discussing the format of including the block into the study course “Culture and the City.” When students of culturology work with the materials, it would enable them develop new research competencies, experience of working with the sources, and practical skills to design their own narratives on cultural heritage from a perspective of local practices. All the developed materials will also be presented on the education platform webpage.

This is how Bohdan describes the process, the team and his feelings in the process of filming.

Process: get up, go, film. 

Team: melancholic creative crowd.

Feelings: anxiety, excitement, satisfaction.

 

Numbers:

11 artists

4 team members

1.5 months of shooting

50 hours of interviews

40 Gb of materials 

Dozens of weeks for video editing

Thousands of steps walked 

hundreds of kilometers travelled

The most important – valuable experiences behind the scenes. 

 

TextAlina Dziubko