Hollywood Comes to Kyiv.
  Nataliya Portna. Whats On, No.44, December 4-15, 2005

As a former hotbed of cinema Ukraine has produced a disappointingly small amount of films over the last few years. But this could all be about to change thanks to the newly opened Hollywood School which will instruct young locals in the art of film making.

The aim of the Hollywood School, which was set up by the Alliance Chatreau production company and sponsored by Olimp, is not to groom Ukrainian youngsters for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles bur to nurture budding talent. This is done by giving them the opportunity to learn about such things as film production, directing, script writing, acting, cinematography, lighting and editing from experienced hands who have worked in Hollywood for many years. The first to make the trip east was Hollywood film director and teacher Mark W. Travis (pictured), who is best known for his feature film 'Going Under" as well as a number of stage productions. For over 15 years Travis has taught the art of film making and cinematography in countries all over the world and has acted as a creative consultant for several years while his book 'The Director's Journey' and its follow-up 'Directing Features Films' stayed in the best-sellers charts tor a considerable length of time. Travis is a firm believer in the school's aims and is keen to emphasise that it was not set up in order to plunder Ukraine's acting talent. "Why go to Hollywood? I live and work there and I see people who go to Hollywood wanting to be 'validated' by the American system, which concerns me. If a local journalist, for example, wanted to go to work for the New York Times I would have to ask if they really needed to. Probably, simply to be a part of one of the most powerful papers in the world but instead that person can be a powerful journalist here in Ukraine and attract the attention of the New York Times who would turn to this reporter with a request to write about Ukraine, without having to leave this country. The same with Hollywood School in Kyiv" explains Mark.

The American movie man also says that he is much more interested in those students who want to become film makers in order to tell their own stories and express their own cultures and experiences rather than those who are star struck by the glitz, and glamour of Hollywood. He recently communicated with one of his first students, a young filmmaker who wanted to make a film about the population of a small island near Fiji. Mark helped out on the script and finally the film was shot. It was not a success but after more shooting and cutting it was nominated for 'Best Foreign Film' at the Academy Awards. Travis is obviously proud ot" his former charge but the fact that the young director was able to tell his own story is considerably more important to him than the Academy Award nomination. "I would like to encourage people from Ukraine and Eastern Europe to tell their stories! That we know so little of Ukraine is partially our fault but partially it's because we don't hear much from Ukraine and that's why people in Ukraine need to tell their stories to the rest of the world!" argues the director. One of the biggest stories young Ukrainian film makers have already begun to tell is that of the Orange Revolution, an event which caught Travis' attention, even if, by his own admission, he wasn't quite sure exactly where the Ukrainian capital was. He arrived in Kyiv on the anniversary of the popular uprising and was clear!} moved by what he saw: "I was mingling among the crowd and [could feel the spirit of the revolution on Maidan! One of the most positive aspects was that the people simply wanted an honest election. Mavbe they didn't get the most honest election but they got a better one! Due to the revolution people felt that they mattered, that thev had a voice and it could be heard." With the domestic film industry still trying to drag itself out ofits post-Soviet slumber but with a whole new generation of creative talents emerging in the thriving advertising sector, movies could well be the next big thing in Ukraine. For more on this school simply visit www.hollywood-school.com