When choosing a university, applicants often fantasize about their life as students. Some wish to find new friends and meet their first love; others – to make a groundbreaking discovery. This anticipation of university life is in itself like a trailer for a long-awaited movie. Every future student is anxious to see it and experience its many plot twists.
Even though all applicants must choose a specific educational program, the students at ITMO are free to decide what they’ll learn and study, which career path they’ll aim for, and which hard and soft skills they’ll acquire. The educational experience at ITMO cannot be limited to the usual definitions of “hard sciences” or “humanities.” Here, everyone directs and stars in their own movie. It was this message that the team wanted to relay when making this video. They decided that the short format was the most accessible and familiar to audiences.
“A trailer is an opportunity to tell a story while also maintaining mystery. When you watch it, you imagine the rest of the movie – so, in the end, you see more than just that short clip. For anyone who is applying to university, their story is an important one. It comes with its own plot twists, new characters, and life-changing decisions,” explains Alexander Gostev, the head of ITMO’s Special Projects Office.
Behind the scenes
In the trailer, a straight-A student named Artemiy dreams of studying the humanities, but ends up at a technical university due to a “quantum malfunction.” Now, the young man must complete an “engineer’s obstacle course,” find his path in life, meet new friends, and discover love.
Preparations for the shoot took just over a month. A team of university staff hand-picked a whole slew of specialists: a director, a camera operator, an art director, a sound director, a costume designer, a casting specialist, and many more. According to Danil Krutskikh, a manager at the Special Projects Office, all who heard about the project would volunteer their help. It was in this manner that the shoot was joined by Arseniy Kan, a cinematographer who had shot the original Major Grom short film and produced several music videos for the popular Russian band Leningrad. The crew were especially incensed by the idea of shooting the trailer in the style of the acclaimed director Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Asteroid City).
“Wes Anderson’s manner of working with color and scene composition is instantly recognizable to viewers. Besides, his style is the perfect fit for the format of our story, which focuses on a large cast and the themes of romance and student life,” comments Alexander Gostev.
In order to reproduce Anderson’s trademark style, the team had to find the right locations and props. Together with the director and art director, they toured the university’s main building on Kronverksky Prospect, marking suitable locations for the shoot. Thanks to their bright colors and symmetry, many of the spaces and rooms on campus turned out to be a perfect fit. And for university staff, it was exciting to observe the reactions of crew members who were at ITMO for the first time in their lives: “Universities can look like this? This is perfect!”
Over the course of a weekend, the building became a film set. Students and lecturers were surprised to find that a small apartment had replaced several meeting booths in the co-working area next to the Rector’s office – this, according to the crew, was their most unusual solution. In just a few hours, the props team constructed a living room and a kitchen, and filled them with details – windows, curtains, paintings, wallpaper, and even a shelf with a vase and a coffee grinder – all in the same style and color palette.
Many scenes were filmed in a large classroom on the fourth floor of the building. That was also where the robot musicians – courtesy of ITMO’s Youth Robotics Lab – got to perform their bits for the trailer on a purpose-built stage.
“These robots were a perfect fit for a Wes Anderson-inspired universe, so we knew right away that we wanted to use them. They caused quite a cacophony on set, as they were playing while the director was instructing actors for the scene,” says Danil Krutskikh.
Meanwhile, the coworking space’s conference hall turned into a chemical laboratory, with all the real-life equipment – test tubes, flasks, and funnels. Only the chemical agents were made from watercolor paint.
The cast of the video features both professional actors and ITMO students. One of them, Maksim Kanataev, a second-year student at the Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations, was cast as one of Artemiy’s groupmates.
“I learned about the shoot from a group chat – they were looking for cast members. I made up my mind right away and had my friend, Yan Goryansky, join me. We were excited to take part in a project of this scale, to get this experience, and to chat with everyone involved. I can say for sure that our expectations were met in full,” shares Maksim Kanataev.
As for the main role, it went to Gleb Kallistov, a young Russian actor who regularly performs on stage at Andrey Mironov Theater, as well as on film.
According to the crew, the young actor managed to capture his character perfectly, fitting into the trailer’s mood and completing all the tests of a true engineer. One scene that was particularly difficult required Mr. Kallistov to wear an exoskeleton – however, even this was done in a few takes.
For true ITMO fans, there are a few easter eggs hidden in the trailer. For example, you can hear the university’s name spelled letter-by-letter in English (I-T-M-O) in the score to one of the scenes. It was added as an experiment by the composer, who felt that the musical theme was lacking dynamics.
Among other fun details featured in the trailer is an AI-generated impression of ITMO’s main campus and the functioning exoskeleton created by fourth-year ITMO student Alexey Ledyukov. Anyone wearing the robotic device will be able to easily lift weight up to 80 kg.
Real life vs. silver screen
Have there been any fantastic cases of students getting into ITMO in real life? Absolutely! One such example is the story of Ilya Glebov from Murmansk Oblast, who became the first student to enroll at ITMO via the ITMO.STARS initiative back in 2017. Ilya discovered a critical vulnerability in the social network VK that could be used to hack into the accounts of most users. He received $3,000 in bug bounties and was invited to study at ITMO’s Faculty of Secure Information Technologies for free. This year, Ilya graduated from ITMO with a Master’s degree. During his student years, he won several major CTF tournaments and worked at Yandex.