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NIDA Design students witness the Murder of Rasputin

Designed, directed, edited and produced by NIDA students over 12 months, The Horrific Murder of Grigori Rasputin or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Tsar is a hilarious short film.

The Horrific Murder of Grigori Rasputin

Photo: The short film took 12 months to create using locations in Sydney.

After 12 months intense work, NIDA students released a nine-minute fantasy comedy at its first showing at the Golden Age Cinema in Sydney.

Designed, directed, edited and produced by NIDA students and industry professionals, The Horrific Murder of Grigori Rasputin or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Tsar is a hilarious comedy about the notorious Serbian Monk and how he may have met his terrible fate…probably.

‘There were many challenges in trying to recreate winter in Imperial Russia in Sydney Australia in the summer,’ said Master of Fine Arts (Design) student Gabrielle Rowe, who helped to drive the film forward to completion. ‘As you can imagine, budget restrictions were a complication that rendered snow impossible!’

‘We borrowed every book and every DVD we could find relating to Russia at the time Rasputin was around,’ said Gabrielle. ‘The NIDA Library has an extensive collection of resources for costume research which we found extremely helpful. We photocopied images and screenshots from films and each of us began building our own bible of references, depending on which scenes and characters we were designing or directing.’

Fellow director/designer and third-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) student Clare Staunton also valued the resources available at NIDA. ‘These images allowed us to have an authentic base in our work to create the Russian world, which we then added to with creative license to build upon the story,’ she said.

‘The most useful resources were definitely photographs taken in Russia in the period where the script is set in 1916,’ said Gabrielle. ‘We were lucky that photography was around at that time and we were able to gain a deep understanding of architecture, clothing and lifestyles of Russian people, including photographs of the Russian Royal Family and Rasputin himself.’

‘One short piece of video footage from Russia in 1916 was filmed on the streets of St Petersburg which gave us a great deal of insight into what the everyday person might have looked like walking through this magnificent city.’

The team spent hours driving around Sydney scouting for filming locations. ‘We needed a "grand dining room" but we didn’t have the budget to hire one,’ said Gabrielle 'so we ended up travelling all the way out to Katoomba to the stunning Carrington Hotel who were generous enough to offer us a significant discount. To find a Russian bar on the outskirts of St Petersberg, two of the designers drove around western Sydney asking people for ideas, and we ended up coming across the Denbigh property in Camden by chance, speaking to someone in a bakery who knew the property owners.'

‘We also had to find locations within a two hour drive from Sydney,’ said Clare. ‘This made finding a Russian forest extremely difficult. We ended up convincing the producer (our Tutor) to allow us to shoot at Belanglo State Forest where we found dense pine trees, as close to a Russian forest as we could get.’

The film is funny and quirky. The team researched the structure and style of numerous films, searching for techniques in design, editing, cinematography and acting which could be used to bring life to the script. They drew on inspiration from different films including The Three Musketeers, Inglorious Bastards, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brave, Dirty Dancing and Labyrinth with David Bowie.

‘These moments informed the film in ways such as the colour palette, the smash-cut editing style and acting style and direction,’ explained Gabrielle.

NIDA Acting Head of Design Julie Lynch welcomed current and past students to the showing, and congratulated students on the quality of the film. The cross-disciplinary project took over 12 months to make and involved 37 actors and designer/directors from NIDA’s the Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) courses and Diploma of Musical Theatre. The film script was by Master of Fine Arts (Writing for Performance) student Michael Costi with development and completion supported by award-winning designer James Croke and cinematographer Stuart Edgeworth.

See a teaser of the film here.

Project lead by: James Croke
Directed by:
Christopher Baldwin
Ella Butler
Damien Egan
Kyle Jonsson
Heather Middleton
Gabrielle Rowe
Clare Staunton
Written by:
Michael Costi
Art Direction and Additional Costume Design:
Aislinn King
Brianna Russell
Camille Ostrowsky
Grace Deacon
Kate Beere
Kelsey Lee
Lucy McCullough
Olivia Rowlands

Cast (in order of appearance)
Ivan - Ross Walker
Victor - Oliver Burton
Bar Extras - Damien Egan, Jeremiah Wray
Dimitri - Michael C Dimitriosti
Rasputin - Kyle Kaczmarczyk
Homeless Beggar - Scott Pirlo
Tzar Nicholas II - James Raggatt
Maid - Kate Beere
Waiter 1 - Damien Egan
Prince Felix Yusupov - Hayden Maher
Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovic - Jarryd Clancy
Princess Irina - Georgia Blizzard
Young Royal - Natalie Freeman
Young Royal - Laura Djanegara
Chef - Gabrielle Rowe
Bear  - Heather Middleton, Kyle Jonsson, Ella Butler, Grace Deacon

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