HSE Cinema Club: An Interview

An interview with Olga Sharapanovskaya, the new head of the largest film discussion club in HSE

HSE Cinema Club: An Interview

"HSE Film Club "35mm" is the place where everyone can watch a movie and discuss it with other people." Valeria Zlodeeva wrote about the club in 2019 in our magazine. Today we continue our converdsation with the new head of the club.

Olga Sharapanovskaya

Olga is a third-year student of Design at HSE.

Hi, Olya, can you please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi everyone, my name is Olya. I'm a third-year student of design at the Higher School of Economics and I'm the leader of the "35 mm" film discussion club.

Please tell us how you got your position in the film club?

I learned about it when I was a freshman, when the club was represented at the HSE day in St. Petersburg. My friends and I were immediately hooked by the fact that the guys hold meetings and discuss cool cult films, which is exactly our kind of thing. We were planning to attend for a long time but ironically the first time I went to a meeting I was already a member of organizing team.

Well, that's a pretty strong approach!

Ha, yeah! But more seriously, I really love movies and the cinema culture in general, I've always been the main movie guide in my friends' company. I always wanted to share this passion with my friends, and to learn new things from other people as well. I guess being involved in film club activities is the perfect match for me.

Was it difficult to be selected for the role of leader? What was the selection process like?

I saw the questionnaire in the film club group and decided that I will not lose anything if I try my chances. I described my interests and told them that I was studying design. I was immediately contacted and asked to write a review of any of my favorite films and also to make a poster for the upcoming meeting.

If it is no secret, what did you write your review for?

I was writing a review of an anime that at one time really impressed me - Satoshi Kon's "Perfect Blue". I was inspired, so the review came out well, as did the poster. The guys liked it too, apparently, and I quickly joined the team. At that time, due to the pandemic, there was a lot of work to do to run the club’s VK community, so I jumped right into it.

Who else is involved in running the club? How is the workflow structured?

There are four of us: Nastya is a master behind our Instagram, she is extremely talented and does great work at keeping it fancy, Aidan has an excellent understanding of Asian cinema and periodically writes articles for us related to this sphere. Rina is our veteran; she helps with guidance and gives different vital advice. Me personally is in charge of the VK community and collaborations with subscribers and other organizations.

Can you briefly describe your club for those who know nothing about it?

Our main activity is an informal meeting where we and the guys discuss the film, announced priorly. Sometimes we watch snippets of movies to accompany the discussion with a visual. We love the lively discussion and the cozy atmosphere that develops at these meetings. Not everyone is ready to start sharing their ideas right away, but we always work to get participants interested and open up. At the same time, you can just listen to the discussion, and no one will force you to speak if you're not in the mood. And last but not least, we also serve tea with sweets!

Besides the meetings, are there any other features?

We also run the mentioned VK community with meeting announcements, articles from our subscribers and partners, film selections or resources where you can learn something about the world of cinema. Our Instagram has the same information, but in a pocket-sized format and with great visuals.

As the former active attender of the club meetings I can say that you always choose wonderful and unexpected topics: from Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man” to obscure short films. How would you describe the repertoire you are trying to maintain in your club?

Oh, we really love art house but at the same time we quite often focus on cult classic. We also bring up majorly unknown movies which bear a statement just as we did on one of our last meetings in collaboration with Foreign Students Association. We were discussing the movie called “The Deceived Woman” it is an Uzbek film that touches on many serious social and religious issues. So, the repertoire is quite colorful, however, we try to bring up something which is not in the cinema at the moment to make discussions more unique.  We also listen to the suggestions of our attendants and often vote on which movie we will focus on next in our VK community. Thus, last time “The Big Lebowski” was picked – it was quite a fun.

Sounds like fun indeed! Did the pandemic change the way your club operates?

That’s a good question! We actually managed to adjust and for the lockdown period we moved to Zoom and MS Teams. I have to admit that these meetings attract less people, but they are also easier to arrange so the differ in their topics, for example, we had a Halloween party held in zoom which was quite lively. Now, fortunately, we are coming together offline again, but in case of a lockdown we have something to offer.

Great to hear that! Speaking of offline meetings, do you invite speakers to give lectures on a specific topic? I remember that the club used to collaborate with HSE professors and even with the people outside the university. My personal favorite was the lecture on symbolism of westerns by professor from faculty of Philology.

I’ve heard of it too! To be honest, inviting speakers is a tough thing to arrange both because of the pandemic and time constraints of the speakers. This year we didn’t have such meeting yet but we are trying our best to arrange something interesting. I already have a set of contacts and hope to make a good use of them. On the other hand, we have more upcoming collaborations with other HSE clubs. The next topic is music and we will be joined by the HSE music club members who will share their favorite movies and soundtracks with us. I can also say that in some cases the organizers can act as the lecturers especially if the topic is someone’s specialty.

I can also remember that you used to arrange the festival of student made short films. Any plans on bringing it back?

The festival was great indeed. It even had jury and the prizes! It was, however, very hard to arrange even during pre-covid times and now its fate is even less certain. At the moment we are trying to focus more on improving the regular meetings and raising the quality of content on our social platforms. But we sure hope to bring the festival back one day.

Wish you luck with this challenge! I have a question about the accessibility of the meetings for the foreigners. Will it be comfortable for people who don’t know Russian or not really confident in using it to attend?

We would be happy to greet foreign friends in our club actually. I’d say that HSE in general is a place where majority of students can speak English so the language barrier will not be a problem. On behalf of organizing team, I can say that we are capable of conversing in English. At the same time our club could be a great place to practice Russian if someone wills to.

How many of attendants do you usually have?

We always book the largest audience with a projector. This helps with the playback of different media files, as well as creating an unusual atmosphere of the cinema hall. So, the number of participants is almost unlimited, in case a lot of people come, we can even use microphones. But usually about 20-25 people come. During exams, there may be even fewer of us, but this does not hurt the conversation. Still, we are always happy to meet new people as it is one of the most exiting features of running the club.

Can you let the readers know how to contact you and find the information about the upcoming meetings?

Of course. New events are usually announced every 2 weeks. There's always a link to register for the meeting and all the information about the date and location. Feel free to subscribe to our pages and attend the meetings alone or with your friends. We look forward to meeting new movie lovers!

I can also recommend visiting your club to anyone willing to have some good time. Thank you for the interview, Olya and I wish your club all the best!

Thank you!

Interview by

Dmitry Kotov