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Friday, June 17, 2011

Two of Our Editors

Seth Adam Smith (see http://sethadamsmith.blogspot.com/) and Taylor Knuth have volunteered to help us with the Russian Mormons project. Both served missions in Russia. Here's a little iPhone video of them. After they have a rough edit, Jed Wells, our director, will meet with them to talk about the edit and about his vision for the b-roll.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vasya Once Again

While we are waiting for the editing of the videos, I thought I'd post a little unedited iPhone video of another shoot we did. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


As I have contemplated what has occurred here in Moscow over the last fourteen days it has been quite the task to take it all in. We came here with a simple purpose: to create a meaningful project that helped share the voice of latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Russia, to work closely in a mentored environment where BYU students could learn from local Russians, alumni, and each other, and to bring out the best in one another. Along the way we had some bumps and bruises, some lost gear, jet lag, scheduling conflicts, missed shuttles. But it all worked out. There was something definitely in the air about what we were doing. Something that led us, helped us, opened a door here, softened the heart of a bike track manager there. We felt it. We knew what we were doing was more than just making a couple videos and seeing Russia. Now as we leave I feel like I have gained a new perspective. I've come to appreciate the men and woman--the people in eastern Europe. Their spirit and strength have rubbed off on me and I will never be the same. During the last days of our trip we made a visit over to Victory Park, a memorial to the men, women, and children that died in WWII. It's a monument to the strength and resilience of the people of Russia and eastern Europe. It was a sobering experience. Now as we leave I can't help but think about that shared strength and resilience held by the members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia. That same strength will help build the kingdom. A familiar song comes to mind that speaks of Mormon pioneers in America. Come come ye saints, nor toil nor labor fear. But with joy wend your way. Though hard to you this journey may appear, grace shall be as your day... I know that with the first stake being organized in Moscow, the gospel is still only in its infancy--the beginnings. But boy does it have a bright future. The work is hard, but Russia has great men and women of faith to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with their countrymen and the world and its people like we met with, and served with that will make the difference. Ordinary men and women with extraordinary faith will be a shining example to all around them, for a city set on hill cannot be hid. I hope everyone knows how sincerely we appreciate all the service rendered on our behalf and for the faith and prayers that aided us in our journey. We look forward to sharing the finished product with you. Remember this is only the beginning. We've started a rough stone rolling that can only get better. Many thanks once again and until next time, das vidanya!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Strength. More than Athleticism

When Evgeniya Maksimova was a little girl she remembers a man coming to her school one day who said that he was looking for students to train to become cyclists. At the time she was full of energy but not quite sure if she wanted to ride bikes. After seeing her ride a bike, the coach asked if he could speak to her parents. The coach told her parents, "I can make her a champion." Three russian championships later Evgeniya has realized that statement many times. Having retired now from cycling to focus on a university education, Evgeniya is still meeting life with the attitude and faith of a champion. She believes that even though sometimes we are afraid of the challenges that lye before us, God will calm the storm inside of us and help us to succeed. He did for her. Despite all the challenges Evgeniya has faced in her life, God has helped her remain true to her faith, her positive work ethic and attitude, and helped her remain a bubbly happy girl at the same time. According to Evgeniya faith and hard work bring forward great fruits.






Sunday, May 22, 2011

A note from the director


I was home from China five full days when I was packing again in the basement office of our home in Provo. My son was in and out a few times, disrupting my piles of folded clothes and wandering away with important things like lenses. Somehow he didn't put it together that I was leaving. Again. Later on, with bags at the door, I told him he was the man of the house and I needed him to...

"Are you going on a trip?"
"Yeah, Buddy. I'm going to Russia."
"I'm going to work there."
"Is Russia far away?"
"Yeah, Pal. It's on the other side of the world."


"Why do you go away all the time?"

It'll be some time before my son understands why I came all this way to meet these people, to observe them, to come to love them and endeavor to tell their stories out of that love. As of yet, I haven't been very successful in explaining it to anyone.

This project comes at a difficult time for me professionally. I've got a handful of clients who aren't sure why they haven't seen their proofs yet, why I'm not done designing their posters, and some clients, I'm sure, who have moved on to other, more fruitful pastures. But I've stopped worrying about the digression of my career while I'm here. I'm not so concerned, anymore, how these pieces will pad my portfolio or who will notice my name attached to an exotic location shoot.

I am, however, determined to give these Russian people the very best of myself and my work because I know of the good this could do for these saints, and that makes the work not only easy, but truly enjoyable. These are fine, strong, beautiful people and very deserving of the world's attention. An interpreter on the project, Olga Davydova, likes to tease me that everyone we meet is my new hero. And it's true--I have a new hero every day. I can't get enough of them.

I spent some time in the weeks preceding this trip worrying about how it was all going to get done. I should say, I wasted some time. It occurred to me one night, in the sweaty fervor of a particularly needy prayer, that I should stop asking for help. If I claim to have so much faith, why not declare my confidence that the Lord will help, and stop badgering Him about it. From that night to this, I haven't asked again. And the peace that has come through those prayers has been some of the sweetest I have known. I've felt more than once like Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water, and the only way to stay on the surface is to keep declaring my confidence.

We owe much of this project to Charles Cranney's confidence in me. He is unfailingly supportive and it is a pleasure to see him return to his mission and be among his people. We are operating at all because of the (continuing) efforts of Elder Chad and Sister Bethany Packard. If the saints in Moscow don't know it already, they have a gold mine in this missionary couple. Christine Armbruster is an invaluable part of my crew. She is the consummate intern: talented, capable, independent. Low maintenance, high yield. And the unsung hero of this project, the one doing more work than anyone in the country right now, is Jonathan Wright. We have a schedule, equipment, this blog and even a cyrillic alphabet cheat sheet because of him. He's even slated to edit these pieces when he gets back stateside. Please, pray for him.

And when these films are cut together, when they have music and subtitles so that my son can understand them, I hope he will finally know why I went away. I'll let the Russian saints do the talking, because compared to them, I'm only sounding brass.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vasya Sneak Peek

Today we are working on getting the transcript of Vasya's interview translated into English so that we can edit it and post it to the blog. When we are finished we will post the Russian version to the blog and have a link to a subtitled version on Youtube for those that would like to see it in English. It was quite thrilling to film Vasya and his band so we thought we would put a little taste here seeing that not all of it will make it into the final edit of Vasya's story. Hope you enjoy! Here is a link to the full text of Elder Rasband's remarks on talents.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day at the Dacha

I threw together several iPhone clips from our day at the dacha--a wonderful day to be sure. "There is too much to shoot here," said Jed Wells, our director. "It's all so beautiful."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No Matter What Life Deals, You Can Play an Excellent Hand


Early this morning we left Sokol for the outskirts of Moscow to meet one Vladimir Prischepa a retired rocket scientist, the Packards, and Olga our talented translator to all head out of town to Vladimir's dacha (Russian country home or garden). It was a site to see. After spending days in the Moscow Metro system and seeing huge buildings and streets and subways packed with people and cars, suddenly we found ourselves in the open air and scenic pastoral land known as the dacha. After visiting one you can really appreciate why Russians love to retreat to them during the summer months. They are quiet peaceful areas where you can tend a garden and escape the city. Today's visit to the country was not the only refreshing moment of our visit. Meeting with Vladimir, a recent convert to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was truly invigorating. On top of his cheerful quirky expressions, Vladimir's spirit of humility and kindness is really contagious. As a small child of only three and a half years, Vladimir was baptized into a christian church by his mother to save his life and protect him from being suspected a Jew during the Nazi occupation of Belarus in 1942. Unfortunately, in 1944 he and his family were eventually sent to a concentration camp in Dresden Germany in 1944. After the war his family returned to their home only to find it had been burned. Despite having suffered these hardships, Vladimir believes that God protected him. After the war he was able to go to school in Ukraine and earn exceptional grades that led him to higher education in Russia and ultimately to becoming a rocket engineer. During his career he has amassed a staggering 70 patents, helped send some of the first cosmonauts to space, designed rocket engines, and made many accomplishments in engineering--yet you would never know it by being around him. We truly appreciated spending our day with this humble man of faith.




Here are some shots of the crew.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quite the Crew

We had a wonderful few moments on Wednesday with Timur and Vasya. Jonathan Wright has been keeping up this blog well with a contribution or two from me (Charles Cranney). Each member of the mentoring group is unique and their talents combined to make what we hope will be an inspirational product. A special thanks to Jed Wells, our director, for leaving his wife and three children and his free lance business in directing, filming, and designing to become our mentoring lead here. What a wonderful, talented volunteer! Here's a behind the scene shot of Vasya's band and our crew on last night's shoot (direct from my iPhone). Today we head out to a dacha for a shoot with a retired rocket scientist.

Feeling the Vibe. Reflections on the Atonement.

Today was a wonderful day. Where do you begin when every moment you encounter someone or something that kind of blows your mind. Being here over the last few days we have met and worked with many many wonderful people. Meeting and working with the saints here in Moscow has truly been a blessing. Their faith and willingness to open their lives and homes to us is humbling. Today was no exception. We met again with the charming Timur to wrap up his story and get some final shots of him in the metro. We also wanted to go to a place that was contemplative and that would go well with his story. So Timur suggested a park near Bolotnaya Square that has a sculpture he is very fond of. The title of artwork is  "Children: the Victims of the Vices of Adults."
I was blown away by the message of the sculpture. Depicted are 13 vices in the form of figures that take various shapes and hold different symbolic objects. The vices represented are drug addiction, theft, prostitution, alcholism, ignorance, irresponsible science, indifference, propaganda of violence, sadism, for those without memory, child labour, poverty, and war. These are just a few shots of the scene. It was very moving and made me think how much the Atonement of Jesus Christ has played in not only Timur's life, but my own, and everyone else. Thanks Timur for a great day! After that we caught up with Vasya to film some of his band practice. They were awesome and really left all of us kind of skipping out the door. As I think about this trip and realize that we are more than half way done with the shoot I just feel very grateful for all the support and effort that has gone into making this a reality. There is a great work being done here and it wouldn't be possible without our sponsors and most definitely the beautiful Russian saints. Thank you all for everything you have done for us and for being who you are. A city set on a hill truly cannot be hid (Matt 5:14-16).



We also wanted to just share a raw clip so you could hear Vasya and his band. (No editing or sound engineering has been done). These guys rock!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

With the Lord, All things are Possible

Timur Kodivor has quite a story to tell. Falling from a 5th floor building at age 10; losing his father at age 14 and then his mother a couple of years later; spending some time in a Russian prison—and then finding the Church through an uncle and the Book of Mormon, Timur Kodirov’s life is one of courage and change. Now, after serving as a missionary, he is preparing for higher education and starting his own business. We noticed a Russian version of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and his follow up book on the eight habit. Timur wanted us to shoot him in a nice office space, but the crew was quite taken by his humble apartment, with a view. From his window one can see three of the seven sisters.

Having a Balance in Life

Tuesday was an exceptionally busy day for shooting, from the morning to late evening, getting back home after 10 pm. Our candidates today were Vanik Arutyunyan and Timur Kodirov.
As a local leader of the Church, attorney, businessman, and 6th-degree Shotokan master, Vanik Arutynyan has the discipline, spirit, and meekness to find balance in is life. We enjoyed the interview and then shooting some of his Karate. A gentle and accommodating man, he personally drove us from the metro stop to his studio on this rainy and drizzly day. On Saturday, we’ll film him with some of his students. The picture here is Vanik with his wife, Ludmilla.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sharing Your Talents

Today we spent our day with Vasya (short for Vasily) Sapozhnikov talking about his passion for music and for sharing it with others. Vasya is not only a talented vocalist and musician, he also has a talent for helping others believe in themselves. At the Central church building in Moscow Russia, Vasya directs the non-auditioned single adult choir for the Moscow district of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also teaches primary, a Sunday school class for children. Vasya believes that when you help others to develop new talents like singing you are really helping them believe in themselves and gain self confidence. He believes that while not everyone is blessed with the same music ability, those who put forward the effort to come to choir can feel unity and strength as they share a common desire to serve and do their best. According to Vasya, singing in the choir is a lot like our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. While many find it hard to sing, coming to the choir helps them grow and become better. In a similar way sometimes our faith isn't very strong, but when we come to God and Jesus Christ and try to follow them, they help our faith grow and become stronger. Vasya is a vocalist, a teacher, a choir director, a rock musician, and he's a Russian mormon. Stay tuned to see Vasya's video coming soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Preparation for Our First Shoot

We had our first day of shooting on Sunday. Our Russian Mormon is Vasily Sapozhnikov, a remarkable musician who teaches children music skills but also conducts the non-audition Young Single Adult Choir for the Moscow District. This video shows Jed Wells, our director, prepping the others for the shoot.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rainy Day, Scout Away

Today we had some scheduling difficulties and decided to go ahead and scout some of the locations that we want to shoot later in the week. It was pretty rainy and cooler today than yesterday. We also just had a look around and ate some tasty meat that I swear was supposed to come with a gold nugget...still looking for it. ...Maybe they misplaced it? Beautiful place.Photobucket

Friday, May 13, 2011

Waiting for Moscow


Somewhere on a cold floor near a deserted gate next to a Chili's in JFK International airport Jed and I crashed after our 4-hour red-eye flight out of Salt Lake City. We were utterly comatose. Jed having just returned from Bejing and not really operating on a functioning internal clock and myself...well, just having stayed up way too late were dead to the world. I remember coming in and out of consciousness due to the large oscillating fan above my head blowing in my eyes and being greeted by the stares of curious observers. One man with a smile remarked, "That fan feels good don't it." Not really being awake I just nodded and mumbled something incoherent. After a while I got up and decided to snap a couple pictures and this is what came about. Man I thought flying to Hawaii felt long... When we arrived in Moscow we came into a brand new wing of the airport. It was very modern and clean. The urinals in the men's bathroom looked like marshmellows or something from a James Bond movie. The other strange thing about the place was that it was completely empty. Not a soul around except our flight...and it was 11 am. I was shocked. Well there was this one cop-looking guard kind of guy that had a hat with a very steep curve on it that can only be described as a skateboard ramp. Imagine a cop hat with an insane amount of vert on it. There was also a very friendly Russian flight agent who attempted to help us find a lost item. His name was Boris or something like that, and then of course Charles, Andrea, and the very capable driver Sasha were there to greet us. Christine told them the situation so they wouldn't think we went missing. After that we went to IKEA for some lunch and trendy furniture...actually just the lunch then back to our lodging to get settled. What a day. I am pooped.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Getting Ready to Leave

Well it's less than 72 hours before we take off for Moscow to go spend some time with Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Moscow Russia. Are we ready for jet lag? An 11 hour lay-over? Lot's of fun? You bet! ...Not sure about that jet lag part, but I am sure we will enjoy meeting with the faithful people of Russia. I have been more excited each day as I have been reading about the people we will meet with. For anyone interested in tuning into the progress of our journey we will be attempting to blog and write about our experience. Here is a little background on the purpose of our visit.

As part of BYU Alumni's mission to help students stay Connected for Good, an initiative has been created to encourage students, alumni of all ages and experience levels, and faculty to engage in interdisciplinary focal practices. The purpose of the focal practice is 3-fold: to do something meaningful, to do something that requires skill and mastery, and to bring out the uniqueness of each participant at their best. Our trip to Russia is one such focal practice. A team of students from diverse disciplines (film, photography, Russian studies, and public administration) are teaming up with young and seasoned alum professionals Jed Wells and The More Good Foundation to make a series of documentary shorts about members of the church in Russia. The shorts will be roughly 2-4 minutes in length and will highlight the lives of ordinary members of the church. We hope to have some video and or photo content available via our blogs during the trip to document our progress. The aim of the is project is to bless the lives of all participants through uplifting mentoring opportunities. It should be a lot of fun. For more info on The More Good Foundation or Jed Wells please visit the links provided.

See link MORE GOOD in menu bar.

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About This Blog

Welcome to the Russian Mormons blog. The purpose of this blog is to share meaningful insights on the faith and beliefs of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia.

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