Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Saratov Approach in Calgary

As noted in my post from November, we campaigned pretty heavily to have the movie "The Saratov Approach" shown in Calgary. We needed a minimum of 250 votes online, and in just a few short days we managed to get nearly 400, more than any other city. It took a few months for things to get lined up, but then the show was announced for Lethbridge, Okotoks, Red Deer and finally, Calgary. I was a bit choked that Calgary was going to be the last one to open, but I was happy all the same. We immediately went to work to spread the word to friends and family. It's funny how many people were shocked that I had never told them the story before.

I had been in touch with Andrew Propst and Travis Tuttle since November about bringing the show up here and they had offered to try to come up and make an appearance when the show came to town. Sadly, we had short notice about the Calgary dates, so the two of them were already pretty booked up and it seemed like they wouldn't be able to make it to town. I asked the theatre if they had the flexibility to change its dates if it would help get Propst & Tuttle to town.

The next thing I knew, the theatre had already moved its opening night ahead 2 weeks. They made the change on a Monday, and the movie was going to open that Friday, so we didn't have a lot of time to work with and we figured it just wouldn't work out. Then on Tuesday Travis suddenly told me that he was going to be available to fly up for a Saturday night show. We got the director on the phone and he gave Travis the okay to make the trip. Awesome.

We immediately set about telling EVERYONE about the upcoming event. We had already been working Facebook pretty hard, so we kept that up. Plus we had an email sent to all the church members in our stake letting them know about it. I contacted the local newspapers with the story. We had been interviewed about the middle school rally for the Metro free-circulation paper last year, so I contacted the reporter who had written that story and asked him if he was interested in this one. He was and he wrote up an article that appeared in the Friday paper:

Pretty shameless, I know.

The Canyon Meadows Cinema is a second-run theatre that charges only $5 per show. They almost never sell out, and they only sell same-day tickets through their box office (no online sales). For this event they started pre-selling tickets and I bought 10 for opening Friday and 30 for the Saturday night special appearance. The lady who runs it said she was pretty excited to have this special event, since they rarely get something like this. She happens to be a member of the LDS Church in Okotoks, so she totally understood what we were up to and was very helpful.

Friday night we went to the movie along with my boss & his wife and our admin assistant and her fiance. R said that she was a bit preoccupied trying to predict what kind of reaction they might have to the film, but I was totally dialed in. I was there for me.

It was such an intense experience. I felt like I was there. The scene where they get jumped in the entrance to the apartment was horrible for me. It was EXACTLY like I had pictured it, but the sounds of the struggle put it over the top. I was physically shaken. As for the rest of the film, I think it followed the facts almost exactly. Even though I knew everything that was going to happen before it happened on screen, it was still a really intense experience. One of the things that stands out to me now is how badly this whole thing could have turned out. As a 20-year-old kid, I had never been through anything so serious as this. Looking back, I think I'm almost more scared about it now then I was back then. I'm just so glad that those guys made it out of there okay.

Because I was sitting next to my boss, I tried to hold back the waterworks, but a few little ones still got through. I noticed that his wife was quite emotional. I think it's more touching for someone who is a parent, because that parent-child connection is a big theme throughout the movie. When the credits started to the roll, the audience mostly sat quietly for a few moments. I think a lot of people were moved.

On Saturday I picked Travis up from the airport in the afternoon. He said he would be wearing orange shoes so I could recognize him. I suppose 15 years is a long time and he certainly had changed his haircut since the mission. I think I would have recognized him even without the shoes, though. We had a few hours before we needed to be at the theatre, so I took him up to the observation deck of the Calgary Tower to see the city and the mountains. You know, a lot of people in this world are really scared of standing on glass floors. But not us.

I have worked in 4 different office towers visible in this photo of downtown, including the black-coloured ones in the center of the photo. You can kind of see our neighbourhood in the very distant background atop the ridge on the right, while the Olympic ski jumps at Canada Olympic Park are clearly visible in the ridge on the center-left:

I introduced Travis to Ginger Beef at a Chinese restaurant south of downtown while we swapped details about the kidnapping story. There were details I couldn't remember or didn't know about and he was very interested to hear my side of things. At the theatre he spoke to the audience following the 4:10 pm showing, and he even called me up on the stage to help answer a few questions about what happened in the mission in the aftermath. Travis does a great job with the crowd. He told us afterwards that he and Propst met with this really qualified consultant that Propst knows and they learned a ton about public speaking.

R joined us at the theatre for the 7:20 pm show, where we were pretty busy saving seats and handing out tickets to friends we had invited. We had several high-school friends come out, as well as some more colleagues from work. That show was a total sell-out (350 seats), and people were lined up well before the show to get their seats. There was a huge contingent from the LDS Rockyview Ward in the West Stake, where I had given talk in November as a visiting High Council member about my experience. It was nice to see that other people had taken such an interest in this story.

I watched the film again while Travis went up to the theatre offices to work on something. As with the previous show, he came in when the credits started to roll and took the stage. However, this time he had 3 huge guys with full beards that followed him in and up to the stage. Apparently, one of the producers had been on a film job in Banff with the cinematographer and gaffer that same weekend and were able to make it to the evening show. At first, some of the audience thought maybe they were the kidnappers, which I thought was hilarious.

Once again, I got to come up and help answer some questions. We totally ran overtime and the people for the 9:45 show had to wait outside for a delayed start. Although it wasn't planned, we were all happy to stick around for one more round of Q&A after the late show, since many of those people had tried to come earlier but missed out on tickets. You could tell the producer and cinematographer were really enjoying the opportunity. I loved their description of how they filmed the exterior shots in Kiev, Ukraine on the fly (they couldn't get visas to go to Russia). They climbed on a trolleybus full of people and just let the camera roll. Same thing in a public square, where they had a curious Orthodox priest looking at the missionaries in the background. Afterwards, the cinematographer (Jeremy Prusso) was telling us that he served his mission in Serbia during the 1990s, where he was not allowed to even carry a camera, so he was a bit paranoid about shooting in Kiev. He said that a few police officers walked into the background of one shot they were doing and he thought it was all going to end right there -- but they were totally friendly. The crew went to Kiev with just 10 people on a shoe-string budget and they stayed in a hostel to keep costs down while they were there. Amazing.

Sunday morning we sat around the kitchen and continued to swap stories about the mission and the kidnapping events. I pulled out a few mission albums and let Travis read the journal/letter entries I had compiled.

When R and the kids went off to church it was time for me to take Travis to the airport. We decided to swing by the Temple on our way to take a look. I got a call from someone in our ward, saying that there was a man there who only spoke Russian and they could use my help. I happened to be just outside the chapel in the parking lot with Travis when we got the call, so we ended up taking this man along with us to the airport and back. He had recently immigrated to Canada from Russia and he had really wanted to find the Mormons for the last 20 years. Well, he found two Russian-speaking former missionaries, so it was his lucky day. It was a bizarre ending to a great weekend.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

First Day of Sunbeams

For the last year or so, Katie has been losing enthusiasm for nursery class. You would think she would be sad give up playing with toys when she moved on to Sunbeams, but she was counting down the days. Perhaps it was because she was 3.5 years old and the age gap was growing between her and the youngest children in the class. On the big day, Scott took her by the hand and led her all the way to primary for singing time.

She loved her new class and she has such a good teacher. They have a necklace that they keep at home and every week they make something that they can add onto the necklace that reminds them of what they learned. So cute.