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The Oldest Attempt of Film Education in Croatia: Zagreb Film Schools 1917-1947

With an ever increasing production, large film companies, such as Pathé, Gaumont, Charles Urban, Messter and Ambrosio in Europe and Biograph, Vitagraph, MGM and others in America, hired new people who were provided training through practice. Special martial arts trainings (swordsmanship, wrestling, box), dance and etiquette classes were organized for actors. Young people across the globe began to take interest in acting because of the birth of the film star cult in Europe and America, at the end of the first and the beginning of the second decade of the 20th century, as well as fairy-tale stories about an accidental success of ordinary girls and boys who found themselves in front of the film camera and soon became rich and famous. Many film schools appeared during the second decade of the 20th century. These were usually private schools founded by actors. Sometimes they founded film companies and young people would pay tuition in search of their way to celebrity. The term school is conditional since these were mostly short- or long-term courses. The first film school in the world was founded in Russia in 1919. This was Vsesojuznij Gosudarstveniji Institut Kinematografii that provided education for actors, directors, cameramen, and film experts of various profiles at the level of higher education. Croatian film pioneers learned about the film in a similar way — they mostly attended photography courses or they were photographers. The first film school founded in Croatia (and the first film school in Yugoslavia and broader region) was the School for Cinematographic Acting and it began its work in Zagreb in 1917. The school was part of the First Croatian Cinematographic (Production) Company Croatia that was founded by Julio Bergmann and Hamilkar Boškovićin Zagreb, in 1917, for the sake of making the film Matija Gubec that had its premiere on the 8th of December 1919 in Zagreb at the Apolo cinema. In 1919, Croatia D.D. (in fact the fourth company with the same name although it is only the continuation of the previous one) issued a request to the Local Royal Government for the renewal of the school for cinematographic acting, considering that it had bought the concession for the school by having bought the previous Croatia company. However, this concession was the ownership of H. Boškovićwho relaunched the school within the new company ”Yugoslavia”. The Yugoslavia’s School for Cinematographic Acting started working in the spring of 1919 and it was opened again in 1922 when its students were engaged in making the feature film Passion for Adventures (Strast za pustolovinama), an adventurous comedy from the actors’ life, directed by Aleksandar Vereščagin. Josip Halla was cameraman and leading roles were Vereščagin and Aleksandra Leskova. Later, there were unsuccessful attempts at film making and film courses by Franjo Ledićand Tito Strozzi. By the end of 1931, the film company Svetloton opened up its Sound-film Studio for Professional Training for Actors. From these examples it’s obvious that the situation in the sphere of film-related professions’ training fully reflected the situation in half-existing cinematography of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Yugoslavia). All these private initiatives and occasional film schools and courses were primarily oriented towards acting as the most attractive film factor and they depended exclusively on tuitions.

In the Independent State of Croatia the production was performed through the state film institute ”Hrvatski slikopis” that developed a relatively large production. However, there is no record of any attempts at organizing a film-related training. ”Hrvatski slikopis” occasionally sent its associates on short- or long-term study tours to Germany, to the company called UFA. After 1945, in the new Yugoslavia, as the first solution for training of members of the Committee for Cinematography of the Government of the Federal Peoples’ Republic of Yugoslavia, the highest-ranking body of the centralized cinematography decided in 1946 to organize one- or two-months’ professional courses in all production companies in all states. By the end of the same year Jadran film in Zagreb organized a Course for Film-Related Professions’ Training. By the end of 1946 or beginning of 1947, the Committee for Cinematography organized the School for Film Acting and Film Direction, later High Film School in Belgrade (at a federal level) and two Secondary Schools for technical professions in Belgrade and Zagreb. The first generation started training in May 1947. Film technicians started training in autumn 1947. Secondary School for technical professions in Zagreb did not start as an independent school but was affiliated to the Federal Graphical and Industrial School as a cinematographic department due to a low number of students. The next step in film-related education in Zagreb was definitely the establishment of the Theatrical Academy in November 1950, that is, (relatively late) introducing film classes in the program (1966), and after that television classes as well. This institution changed its name into Academy for Theatre, Film and Television of the University of Zagreb and later into Academy of Dramatic Art, the name it carries today.

Dejan Kosanović

Cinematographic School in Zagreb (1947-1951) — Remembering Film Education in Zagreb
Searching Through Films of ”Hrvatski slikopis”: Contribution to Lovro Matačić’s Biography
Zagreb Television and Films for the Cinemas: How was Ritam zločina by Zoran TadićCreated?

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