Translated from Russian into English by Julie Delvaux © 2012

MIKHAIL ROMM ON FILM DIRECTORS

Romm: Indeed, if it is so difficult to make a film, then why is a director’s waste so rare? For, usually, once the film is
started being made, then it will, in one way or another, appear on screen, no matter how helpless, professionally
weak, or barely gifted director was making it? What is the explanation of this persistent miracle?
You see, when I speak of the difficult work of a film director, I mean the work on a good, expressive film, on a work
of art. As for mediocre work, anyone can make it, using the standard filming methods.
It’s not difficult to rehearse and satisfactorily film a short 10-20 sec. long extracts of a script instead of establishing
the rhythm, movement, and the sense of a larger scene. Working on a shot, a director who doesn’t pursue lofty
goals, only cares for the spectacle to be true to life and natural, that all actors are visible, that the main character is
in the foreground, that all lines are pronounced in the established order, etc. It’s not at all difficult to rehearse the
simplest, primitive movement in such short space of a film. Should later there be troubles gluing together these
single shots, pieces of a bigger film, an editor will come to the rescue, cut something out, maybe there will be some
additional filming or even re-filming, various close-ups will be added, and, provided there was a decent script, the
film will come together in general terms. This is the first circumstance that helps an average, weak director.
The fact that the film takes place not only on the set, but also outside the studio, in the exact living conditions, is
hard to deal with, if you pursue the lofty goal of achieving a unique style, profound meaning, and originality of
perception. A not-so-serious a director is helped by exactly the same means: Nature, trees, sky, landscapes, and
vividness.
Indeed, cinema is a very young art, and it still possesses the pristine magic of the moving picture. A spectator still
likes seeing the beautiful landscapes, sea, the clouds, the horse races, temperamental runs, etc.
The same magic applies to scenes with actors. If actors are good and interesting, they will attract spectators,
regardless of the director’s mistakes. An expressive person appearing on the screen has an incredible power of
attraction, and often actors help to gloss over many directorial faults.
Finally, there is one more circumstance that saves the director, and it is the cost of making a film. The material’s low
quality becomes clear not instantly but, say, towards the middle of filming process. By this time the picture has
already cost the State hundreds of thousand rubles, if not more. And so the help arrives in the guise of the entire
studio mechanism, and countless advisers, consultants, and artistic directors start sorting out the mess. All together,
they push the film forward – not unlike how in the past the soldiers en mass pushed the cannon out of the marsh.
So, the director’s job is both difficult and easy. It is difficult if we mean true art, and it’s fairly easy if we speak of the
average cinema production that debuts on the screen and vanishes without a trace in a few days.
Had it not been the money question, then, between us, all this average cinema production should not have seen the
daylight at all. And I am sure that under the Communism when the monetary system becomes obsolete, there will

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be no bad films. When they see that the film is about to be bad, they will politely but firmly hand the material back to
its author to keep for "good memory".
Question: Can one become a director without graduating from a special institute?
Romm: Yes, he can. Most of the world’s directors, including Russian directors of the older generation, did not
graduated from any institute. Eisenstein came to the cinema from theatre, Pudovkin used to be an actor, Dovzhenko
was a painter and teacher, Pyriev and Alexandrov were actors, Yutkevich was a painter, Raizman was a director’s
assistant with no formal education, Ermler was a political correspondent at the frontline before coming to cinema,
and I used to be a sculptor.
Question: Is it true that directors are very conceited?
Romm: There is such sin... There are modest people among film directors, just as in any other profession, but,
between us, the malady of conceit does exist.
Say, an ordinary modest student graduates from the Cinematography Institute and finally gets his first film to make.
The moment it happens, you see a beret on his head and a pipe in his mouth, although prior to this he was wearing
a cap and smoked normal cigarettes. The beret and the pipe seem to him the indispensable attributes of this "free
occupation" person, a unique artist, someone special, different from ordinary mortals.
It should be said that after some 10-15 days of filming, having experienced the brutal reality of cinematographic
problems, he leaves behind both beret and pipe and behaves himself like the simplest, if somewhat embarrassed
and scared, worker. Towards the end of filming he usually seems to be the humblest person on Earth.
But then the film is released, and if it gets reviews or, God forbid, is sent to an international festival, - again you see
the beret on his head and a stamp of genius on his face.

Translated from Russian into English by Julie Delvaux © 2011

Los Cuadernos de Julia – Arts and Culture blog http://www.loscuadernosdejulia.info

MIKHAIL ROMM ON THE TYPES OF CINEMATIC SHOTS

1. Long (or the most generic) shot. This means that in this shot we have either a very large room in its entirety, or
such an expanse of landscape that it can be seen far and wide. A human figure in such shot will be barely
noticeable. Say, for example, if it is a crowd of people storming the Winter Palace, then individual figures in such
long shot will fuse into a moving mass.
2. Generic shot. This is either a large room, but not as huge as before, or, if we are filming outside, a part of the
street or a part of landscape, yet not as expansive. As you can see, there is no critical difference between the long
shot and the generic one. When we say "the long shot" or "the most generic shot", we merely want to highlight the
scale of the view. As for a man, it will still be a small figure. The prominence will belong to either the architecture of
the room, or to Nature, or a street.
3. Middle shot. This is a part of the room, a part of the street, a Nature spot. If we are filming at the theatre, these
will be two or three boxes, or a few rows of the stalls, or a part of stage. People are better seen in the middle shot.
Architecture or Nature no longer dominate a person, and the person's image is clearer. Say, if "The Religious
Procession" by Ilya Repin is the long shot, then "Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan", also by him, is the middle shot.
4. The next shot, according to the scale of viewing, we may call the group shot. People dominate this shot, while
the room or an outside space are less prominent. Repin's painting "The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to
Sultan Mahmoud IV" may be regarded as a group shot.
The next few shots do not require much explanation. In all these shots the person acquires more and more
prominence, while the surroundings become less important. The latter is practically non-present in the close shots.
5. Knee-long shot.
6. Waist-long shot.
7. Portrait shot (the head and a part of chest).
8. Close-up (only head).
And, finally, the closest shot, scale-wise, is:
9. A detail. It can be an inanimate object (spectacles or a block of cigarettes shot to fill the entire screen), or
animate, i.e. belonging to a human body (a fist, a person's eyes).

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