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A foray into Russian film, theatre, and Facebook
August 11, 2011
|Brian Trude (left) and Kevin Lochner take in Hamlet at the Moscow Art Theatre.|
Moscow is home to more than 160 theaters as well as Mosfilm, a film studio that claims to be the largest and oldest film studio in all of Europe. In addition to their permanent residence in Moscow, many of these entities have recently staked out cyber-territory on Facebook.
As part of the St. Olaf Summer Humanities Research Program, Kevin Lochner '12 and Brian Trude '12 traveled to Moscow for two weeks to learn about the craft of Russian cinema and theatre, and how related organizations are using social networking sites as marketing tools.
The duo was led by Marc Robinson, associate professor of Russian and chair of the Russian Department. As he was researching Russian theaters earlier this year, Robinson was intrigued by the recent explosion of theaters and artists on Facebook. "I thought that it would be an interesting avenue for students to explore," says Robinson. "Combining something with which they're very comfortable, Facebook, with the arts."
Much of the two weeks in Russia was spent obtaining interviews with individuals from Mosfilm and various Russian theaters. Generally the team prepped for these conversations in the morning, conducted them in the afternoon, and then attended a theatre production in the evening.
|Lochner and Trude visit Mosfilm's "Old Moscow" back lot with Moscow native Tatiana Mednikova, who was a Fulbright language instructor at St. Olaf last year.|
The connections that the students created abroad provided a firm foundation for the work that they continued in the United States. "Having in-person interaction with people at theaters and Mosfilm was really crucial," says Trude. "Everyone we interviewed was very helpful and open to giving us information."
After returning to the Hill, Lochner and Trude spent many hours transcribing interviews and sending follow-up questions back to sources in Russia. The research that they conducted was largely uncharted, and so ingenuity was key in finding articles and other scholarly work to supplement their interviews.
Lochner is majoring in English with a concentration in film studies, and focused primarily on the film portion of the research. After touring Mosfilm and conducting several interviews there, the group decided to shift the film focus from social media marketing to Mosfilm's online cinema. This venue offers hundreds of classic Russian films that can be streamed from anywhere in the world, free of cost. "I was interested in why they offer such a huge amount of copyrighted content for free," says Lochner. "As well as how they select which films to offer, and who is watching these films."
|Lochner presented the duo's research on campus this summer.|
Trude is pursuing majors in English and Russian, and researched Russian theatre companies and the web marketing that they utilize. "We wanted to find out why Russian theaters were using so much social media, how their marketing departments worked, and how the artistic aspects of Russian theaters influence the marketing and promotional aspects," says Trude.
Lochner and Trude recently presented their findings at the annual summer research symposium. One conclusion that Lochner reached was that while Russia's size, reverence for arts culture, and struggles with piracy would make it an ideal candidate for streaming systems, studios like Mosfilm would need to increase their advertising to fully realize this potential. Robinson is pleased with how the research developed this summer, and sees many aspects of the project that could be continued in the future.