USSR State Institute of Cinematography

American Cinematographer, August 1974 | Go to article overview

USSR State Institute of Cinematography


In Moscow, the first and largest university of the cinema art in the world has 1,600 students at a time in training to learn all of the creative disciplines of modern motion picture production.

There exist in the USSR two major schools of cinema dedicated to the training of professionals for the motion picture industry. One of these is the State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow, which has the task of preparing specialists in the creative disciplines of cinema. The other is the Institute of Cinema Engineers (LIKI) in Leningrad, which trains film technicians.

The USSR State Institute of Cinematography, the first and largest university of cinema art in the world, was founded in 1919 and has, from its very inception, been regarded as the foremost national school of film technique. For more than half a century it has trained specialists in all of the artistic skills of motion picture production: screenwriters, directors (for feature films, documentaries, scientific, educational, animated and television films), cinematographers, actors, production designers, film historians, critics and economists (organizers of film production and distribution).

Feature films are released by twenty film studios of the USSR. About forty studios turn out documentaries and popular science films. At all of these studios one can see people wearing badges in the shape of a film frame. These people are all graduates from, or students of, the Institute of Cinematography (the VGIK).

During the 55 years of its existence the Institute has trained more than five thousand Soviet and 225 foreign filmmakers.

Each year more than two hundred young people become students of this film school. They are chosen by the Examination Board out of an enormous number of applicants. The board selects those who have proved their right to be film-makers, who have greater abilities, a deeper vision of life, keener thinking and vivid imagination.

In some of departments-scriptwriting, directing, camera, art, cinema research -long before the entrance exams the applicants take part in a preliminary competition. Each applicant submits his or her own work which has to be of a specific character for each faculty: an essay or a review for future film critics, drawings and paintings for art directors, scripts, sketches or short stories for scriptwriters, stories or amateur films for directors, photographic portraits, landscapes or any genre photos and sometimes also drawings and paintings for future cameramen.

The first success at the competition is marked by the statement sounding like a password: "Admitted to the examinations."

What are these examinations like?

At the directors faculty the examination starts with a discussion of the works submitted to the competition. Then the applicants have to see a film and analyze it thoroughly. Next step is writing an essay on a given theme or a short story about the most striking episode of one's own biography. This is to test the life experience of young people, their vision of life and ability to reflect life creatively in their works. A future director has also to recite a story or a poem and to perform a sketch on a given theme; since he will have to work with actors he must know the elements of acting.

The applicants to the camera department take an examination in the theory of photography, shoot a short reportage or a scene on location and photograph a portrait or a plaster model in the studio with light effects.

The talent of the future actors is tested through a special series of examinations in several rounds. They recite poems, fables, short stories. There is a special exam in performing sketches, and another in diction and rhythm. All requirements are summed up in a very serious final test-filming a scene with live recording.

Scriptwriters' and critics' examinations are alike in many ways. They start with a discussion of the works submitted for the competition. …

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