Visualizing St. Petersburg

Visualizing St. Petersburg
US / 2011 / Color / 12 Min.
Produced by: Sasha Prokhorov
Producer/Writer/Director/Editor: Jes Therkelsen

Introducing students to video production in study abroad programs is incredibly enabling; the filmmaking process forces them out of their comfort zone, stretches their limits, and pushes them to interact in ways they would not have otherwise. Viualizing St. Petersburg has the potential to serve as a model for other study abroad program that want to challenge their participants to make connections, to pay attention, and to be creative.

For the past three years, William and Mary’s St. Petersburg summer study abroad program required students to write research papers on a site of memory within St. Petersburg that exemplified the notion of collective space and social representation. As William and Mary’s environmental filmmaking-in-residence, I’ve sought to incorporate media production into current research and coursework across disciplines on campus. Through the Reves Center Faculty Fellows Grant, students have attained hands-on experience in international documentary filmmaking.

“Making a documentary is a lot of work, but it’s exhilarating after you interview someone,” says Sophie Kosar ’14, whose project focuses on the controversial construction of a Marine Façade on the western shores of the city. “You realize you had to forge this connection with your subject; you had to do this yourself.”

Will Lahue ’12, whose project explores Smolensky Cemetery as a negotiated space for Russian orthodoxy and Goth subculture, realizes the benefits of working on his film. “I’ve gained a more rapid acclamation into Russian society. Just running around getting things done, meeting people; it’s been a challenge. I’ve needed to accomplish a lot in Russian and that’s been good for me.”

“The biggest thing I’ve gained in this project is confidence in networking with people,” says Monika Bernotas ‘12. “It’s amazing how many people have returned my emails to say they would be willing to help out.”

On November 29th, 2011, these documentaries were screened to the larger William and Mary community. In March, 2012, they were exhibited at the Slavic Forum at the University of Virginia.

Read student papers and watch videos.