Film production in Russia

Film production in Russia appeared almost immediately after the cinematograph had been invented (the first films of Lumiere brothers came out in Paris in 1895, and in Russia cinematograph was introduced in 1896; that was also the year when the first Russian film was made). Emperor Nicholas II really liked cinematograph, as the cinema was named back then, and thanks to his patronage this new development was rapidly spread in Russia.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, there were already several film studios in Russia. The most well-known among them were the studios of Alexander Khanzhonkov and Joseph Ermoliev.

"Development of my own film making production absorbed my attention, my thoughts and my dreams entirely. I bought a piece of land on Zhitnaya street, with old houses that could only be considered as a building material. To this piece of land, I moved my studio from Krylatskoye so that I could work all year round now. The works began in the spring, were carried out at a heightened pace, and in June 1912 everything was ready", recalled Khanzhonkov the beginning of his work. It was his studio on Zhitnaya street, which eventually became the basis of Mosfilm.

After the Revolution, the Soviet government quickly understood how valuable the cinema was as a powerful propaganda tool, and in 1919 by a special decree it nationalized all the existing film studios. By the way, the full Lenin's saying about the cinema sounded like this: "While the people are illiterate, the most important forms of art for us are cinema and circus".

In 1923 after the nationalization and the overhaul, Khanzhonkov film studio became the first factory of Goskino. Another factory (the third one) was located in the building of the former Ermoliev studio in the Bryansky alley, not far from the Kiyevsky railway station.

Their consolidation in 1923 laid the foundation for the future Mosfilm. In November 1923 the work of the new enterprise began with the shooting of Boris Mikhin film "Na kryliah vvys'" (On the wings up in the sky). The film came out in January 1924. From that time the studio began working as the established creative team, and that date is considered to be the birthday of the studio.

"I came there in 1924, recalled the prominent Mosfilm director Abram Room. - Everything had just begun to take shape. It was a wooden building, very naive, very ancient. Not in the museum sense, just old. It was a little bit cramped in there, not always comfortable, but cozy. Babel, Shklovsky, Aseev came here without invitations, without pay, like it was their job, they did everything, they helped to make the inscriptions, shared their ideas, criticized fiercely. It was our house there, on Zhitnaya, its names changed every two years, and we called it simply "Zhitnaya," and many years after that we recalled this unique taste of the beginning, the youth of the art. We were young. So was the art of cinema to which we were wholly devoted, and we didn't bother about time. The equipment was barely breathing, we had no transport, but Zhitnaya was the place where the films that provided a basis for our cinema were made. We all were very close friends. We argued and fought, but we were friends. Our little screening room was divided into two by a chintz curtain. In one half of the room I edited "Bukhta smerti", and behind the curtain Eisenstein worked. From time to time we moved the curtain aside and watched the work of each other. And we began to argue unimaginably.

Mechanics, laboratory assistants actively participated in all this. We came to the small laboratory, a film developer put the frame with a wet film out of the water, and he was as worried as we were. Everything was hand-made, maybe that's why I still feel the warmth of these hands when I watch old films.

The ideas could come out of nowhere, from our life - maybe, because that small studio wasn't a haven separated from life. The streams of time ran through it like the X-rays, and films were the answers to the questions that time was asking...." In the mid-1920s, together with the famous Sergei Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" such Goskino Factory directors as Lev Kuleshov, Abram Room, Vsevolod Pudovkin came up for the first time. Soon they all became famous.

Cinema became the most powerful evidence of the new life in Soviet Russia. But it was becoming more and more difficult to make films. "A tiny studio on Zhitnaya Street looked more like a photo studio, with its glass sides and purple curtain",-recalled Eisenstein. At the same time many parts of film production - such as printing films, tailoring costumes, etc. - were carried out in other places in different areas of Moscow.

New horizons required new dimensions

Then the decision was made to build not just a new studio, but a fundamentally new cinema town, where all the stages of film production would be concentrated so that all the necessary works could be carried out without a loss of time in the appropriate places; where all the departments could be placed close to each other and where you could do everything necessary for the filming process - shooting, postproduction, film development, and printing, right up to the release of the film.
In Europe, there had never been something like this. In some way, the Hollywood, which the young directors Eisenstein, Alexandrov and cameraman Tisse familiarized themselves with after a trip to the USA in the 1920s, was an analog of this film town. A certain advantage of such approach made the Mosfilm building project a pattern to follow by the other similar projects in USSR. The same approach distinguishes Mosfilm nowadays: adopting the latest technological developments in all the stages of the production process makes our studio the most advanced company in the Russian film industry. On November 20, 1927, on the Lenin Hills (near the village Potylikha) the foundation for a new film factory was solemnly laid. The complimentary ticket described in details how to get to the place where a few years later the buildings of the Mosfilm film studio would be erected. That was the place where the city ended, and the countryside area near Moscow arose - with small village houses, gardens, and potagers. There was also a summer pavilion on the Sparrow hills, where Muscovites came on weekends to spend their leisure time and to drink tea from the samovar admiring the village outskirts of Luzhniki, behind which the electric lights were being lit in the blue evening haze from one outpost to another...

By the end of January 1931, the first and the third film factories of Soyuzkino began to move in the new building the construction of which was at that moment far from complete. On February 9, 1931 the grand opening of the new film factory took place.
In March, it was united with the Moscow sound factory in Lesnaya street and was named Moscow united factory ''Soyuzkino" on behalf of the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. Despite the fact that the factory was only one-third built colossus that seemed not to be ready for shoots of any kind, the work in it began immediately.
However, the unexpected problem appeared - films were becoming sound, but the project according to which the Mosfilm was being constructed was developed in the 1920s, when the films were silent. So the built accommodations were not designed for making synchronous sounds during the shoots, and the making of sound films under these conditions was very difficult for the workers of the studio. Some serious works on the acoustics and soundproofing of the first four shooting stages were carried out only after the war.

In the first decades of the Mosfilm existence, the films that we still enjoy watching were shot. After "Vesyolye rebyata" (Jolly Fellows) Grigory Alexandrov released such amazing comedies as "Circus" and "Volga-Volga", in which Lyubov Orlova starred, the actress beloved by many people. In the same years, Ivan Pyryev shot the comedies " Traktoristy " (Tractor-Drivers) and " Svinarka i pastukh, " (They Met in Moscow), in which a leading role was played by the another star of the Soviet cinema of the 1930s, Marina Ladynina. Valentyna Serova played in the Konstantin Yudin film "Devushka s kharakterom" (A Girl with a Temper), and she charmed the audience. And we still admire the great role of Faina Ranevskaya in the Tatyana Lukashevich film "Podkidysh" ( The Foundling).

The war changed everything

In September 1941, when the Germans were advancing towards Moscow, all the film studios according to the decision of the government were evacuated to Almaty. 950 workers of the Mosfilm refused to do that and went to as the volunteers in the divisions of people's militia and the third special Moscow communist rifle division. 685 of them were awarded the orders and medals. 146 never returned.... As for the studio buildings on the Sparrow hills, only one of them continued to work as a special workshop in which the group of masters, engineers and a hundred of teenagers fulfilled the military orders - made the parts of the projectiles and the assault boats.

At the end of 1941 the local Almaty feature films studio united with the evacuated Mosfilm and Lenfilm studios to form the Central united film studio of the feature films. In hard conditions the film making was quickly established: instead of stages, the "Shapito" circus was used, under its massive dome the large mock-ups and backgrounds were placed. The films were shot in the poorly equipped accommodations, and there was a severe shortage of actors, technical workers, film, equipment and so on.
At that period the question arose about what to do with the unfinished films, shooting of which began in peacetime - for example, "Svinarka i pastukh". The director Ivan Pyryec recalled:"I decided that there was no point in continuing shooting our purely peaceful film. Many members of our film crew signed up for the army, and I received a draft notice too. I informed the director of the studio about that and the next morning I came to the recruitment unit. But when we - "the reserve" were examined, registered and arranged, the studio car arrived in the yard... They "extracted" me from the line, sat me in the car and drove me back. It turned out that there was an order to continue shooting of the "Svinarka i pastukh" by all means and to "book" me while we shoot. For four months, while the enemy planes attacked Moscow, we were shooting our film... On October 12 we handed "Svinarka i pastukh" to the Committee executives, and on October 14 we had to evacuate to Kazakhstan with the studio urgently.

People at the front being in the most severe conditions needed a rest more than in peacetime. That's why during the war the film making became the military production - despite everything that happened the funny comedies or the films that could support the fighting spirit, were being shot at those years, and many famous actors visited the front as a part of the special front line brigades. At the end of 1942, as soon as it was possible, the decision was made to restore the Mosfilm studio. It was necessary to resume operation of all the production and technical and subsidiary workshops, the creative and technical workers began to come back from Almaty. The old workers of the factory demobilized after the injuries were sent to the studio. In addition, a small art and craft school was created to train new staff. By the end of 1943 all the main studio workshops worked with a full load. A total amount of films created on Mosfilm during the war is about twenty, including the famous "Ivan Grozny" (Ivan the terrible) by Sergey Eisenstein, "Nashestvie" (The Invasion) by Abram Room and the other.
On the 20th anniversary of the Victory, the obelisk was installed on the main square of Mosfilm in front of the main building in memory of the deceased workers of the studio. They left it to defend Moscow and died for freedom of the Motherland. Every year in May the solemn rallies take place here, and the veterans of the Great Patriotic War are honored on these rallies. Nearby there is a monument. It was built specially for the film "An Optimistic tragedy," but it remained the forever as a symbol of indestructible courage.

Despite the difficult war years the film production continued developing, and in 1944 on the special equipment created by the studio, one of the first color films was shot - "Ivan Nikulin, the Russian sailor" (directed by I.Savchenko). In 1946 the film "Kamennyy tsvetok" (The Stone Flower) won an international award at the Cannes Film Festival for the best usage of the color. At that time such masters as Alexander Dovzhenko, Ilia Pyryev, Yuli Raizman, Sergei Yutkevich, Boris Barnet, Lev Arnshtam, Aleksandr Ptushko, Aleksandr Zarkhi, Mikhail Kalatozov and the others were working at the studio. Although in the first decade after the war, as it had been in the war years, Mosfilm didn't experience an influx of the young directors, as well as the whole Soviet cinema, in the mid-1950s and early 1960s situation changed rapidly. These were the years of the new talents. In these years Grigory Chukhrai won the audience with the films "Sorok pervyy" (The Forty-First) and "Ballada o soldate" (Ballad of a Soldier). Sergei Bondarchuk at the first Moscow film festival won a prize for his film "Sudba Cheloveka" (Fate of a Man). "Letyat zhuravli" (The cranes are flying) by Mikhail Kalatozov was awarded Palme d'Or at the eleventh International Cannes Film Festival. Eldar Ryazanov became popular after the films "Karnavalnaya noch"(Carnival Night) and "Beregis Avtomobilya"(Beware of the Car). Georgiy Daneliya and Igor Talankin released their first film "Serezha".

1960s gave us even more new directors: Andrey Tarkovsky shot "Ivanovo detstvo" (Ivan's Childhood) and gave us a fresh look at the Russian history in "Andrey Rublev"; Andron Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky looked into the inner problems of the Russian village in "Asya's Happiness" (The Story of Asya Klyachina); Elem Klimov released an amazing comedy "Dobro pozhalovat, ili Postoronnim vkhod vospreshchyon" (Welcome, or No Trespassing); Marlen Khutsiev shot the iconic film Iyulskiy dozh" (July Rain); Vladimir Motyl practically invented a new genre of the Russian "eastern" by his film "Beloye solntse pustyni" (White Sun of the Desert), Leonid Gaidai won the millions of people with his famous comedies "Kavkazskaya plennitsa, ili Novye priklyucheniya Shurika" (Kidnapping, Caucasian Style) and "" Operatsiya „Y" i drugie priklyucheniya Shurika (Operation Y and Shurik's Other Adventures), Sergei Bondarchuk - with the war drama "Voyna i mir" (War and Peace), one of the most difficult films in the world cinema as far as the production is concerned. At these years Alexander Alov and Vladimir Naumov, Larisa Shepitko, Vladimir Basov, Yury Ozerov, Alexander Mitta, Rolan Bykov worked in the studio and many others. Simultaneously with the young directors the masters of the older generation continued working - Michael Romm shot "9 dney odnogo goda" (Nine Days in One Year), Aleksandr Zarkhi shot "Vysota" (The Height).
In 1960s Mosfilm created the first Russian Television Association, which made the popular TV-series. Here in 1960s-1980s such series, as " Vyzyvaem ogon na sebya" (Call Fire for Ourselves) and "Operatsiya Trest" (Operation "Trust") by Sergey Kolosov, "Adyutant ego prevoskhoditelstva" (Adjutant of his Excellency ) by Evgeniy Tashkov, Malenkie tragedii (Little Tragedies) by Mikhail Schweitzer, "Mikhaylo Lomonosov" by Alexander Proshkin were made.
In 1970s Mosfilm was glorified by the films "Ironiya sudby, ili S legkim parom!" (The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!) and "Sluzhebnyy roman" (Office Romance) be Eldar Ryazanov, "Kalina krasnaya)" (The Red Snowball Tree) by Vasily Shukshin, "Sto dney posle detstva" (One Hundred Days After Childhood) by Sergey Solovyev, "Beg ("The Flight")by Alexander Alov and Vladimir Naumov, "Svoy sredi chuzhikh, chuzhoy sredi svoikh" (At Home Among Strangers) by Nikita Mikhalkov and many others.

Every next decade the studio created new remarkable films - "Ostanovilsya poezd" (The train stopped) by Vadim Abdrashitov, "Idi i smotri" (Come and See) by Elem Klimov, "My iz dzhaza" (We are from jazz) and "Kuryer" (The messenger boy) by Karen Shakhnazarov, "Chuchelo" (Scarecrow) by Rolan Bykov, "Osenniy maraphon" (Autumn Marathon) and "Kin-dza-dza!" by Georgiy Daneliya, "Moskva slezam ne verit" (Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears) by Vladimir Menshov. At the difficult times of perestroika the studio managed to survive the chaos and overall devastation and continued making films, most important of which are "Gardemariny, vperyod" (Gardes-Marines, ahead!) by Svetlana Druzhinina, "Shirli-Myrli" by Vladimir Menshov, "Zvezda" (The Star) by Nikolai Lebedev and others.

For many years, the large-scale research and experimental production were carried out on the technical base of Mosfilm, resulting in the introduction of the new technologies and new equipment in the Russian film making; the studio has a large number of registered patents for important inventions. The success, achieved by the studio, paved the way for a broad implementation of its inventions in other studios of our country. Nowadays Mosfilm film company that went through a serious modernization is open as usual to a creative cooperation while holding a title of the leading film enterprise in Russia firmly.