Anton Chekhov, Dogville-style - Film academy Poland - Cinematography, filmmaking courses in Poland

"What you are looking for, is the emotional logic of what's happening between the characters" - says director Maciej Ślesicki to a hall full of students. The set for Anton Chekov's The Cherry Orchard has been built entirely within the main hall of WFS. There is a TV screen to the side, so that the students, sitting beneath a giant light reflector, can better see his interaction with actors. 

"You'll have a mirror here" - Ślesicki says to one of the actresses. "We'll shoot you from the front and the side". Editing students make notes on the future coverage as he talks. "Now, this is the bit when you realise you're both doomed, the house has been sold, your sister has been here for a year and he hasn't proposed, you're both ruined, let that sink in."

The rehearsal moves on to the next part of the scene. "Ah, there goes the brooch bit", he comments on the script, "It's bull! These days you'd cut that from the screenplay. But in this exercise, we have to make it work somehow".

The challenge is to make a theatre play work as a screenplay – with minimal set design, costumes and makeup, the emotions between characters laid bare in a spare environment.

The workshop takes three days, five departments and several camera teams. Day one is the rehearsal, going through the text with actors, deciding on coverage and camera blocking. "There's got to be movement between them, you can't have the actresses sit on a couch for 15 minutes", he says of an early scene between The Orchard's sisters characters. "We have to make them move, how do we do that?" Ślesicki asks the audience of students. "Maybe one of them is a bit more touchy-feely, wants to give her sister a hug, but she keeps running away around the room". Under the watchful eye of lecturer Mikołaj Jaroszewicz, cinematography students keep adjusting lights around the hall.

The text proves too long to go through in one evening. "We're all really tired, and I'm going to start talking nonsense soon", Ślesicki tells the crowd. "We'll just have to figure it out as we go. You'll be doing a lot of that in your professional life", he adds.

The play will be shot on day two and three, all the way into the early morning, with the glass roof of schools main hall prohibiting day time shooting. Besides the main camera team, second unit will be working on behind-the-scenes materials. All the footage will then be passed to editing students.

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