Art in Chelyabinsk
Romantic Comedy, set in Chelyabinsk Russia
Screenplay by Alan Nafzger
LOGLINE – When a seemingly untalented painter, an unremarkable writer, a bumbling dancer and uninspired comedian go to their teaching jobs, the impact from a meteorite transforms them into rousing artists.
PRE METEORITE ART IN CHELYABINSK
While every artist in Russia knows that art doesn’t pay, every artist in Chelyabinsk knows that you better have a second job. The four artists in our story are teachers by profession.
Vasily Andronikov (25) – By craft a fine artist and painter, by profession however he is an art teacher at a Chelyabinsk elementary school. He lectures to his students very convincingly. Clearly he loves making art and he loves his job. After teaching the students, he then turns them loose paint. He himself at the front of the class paints. The young people smile and love the class. But when they visit the front of the class they realize Mr. Andronikov’s work isn’t all that good. They are disappointed. In fact, we learn early in the film that many of the student’s work is better than his. He travels after school to the hospital, the city administration building and the other schools; he persuades various people to display his paintings. The officials think the paintings are by the children (as they are amateurish) and they reluctantly agree. Vasily is anguished that his paintings are mistaken for the work of a child. But he loves the art form and continues his work. His students don’t mind him being talentless, because he is cheerful and a fun teacher.
Nelly Vodovatov (34) – By trade an artist and writer; she is also a grammar teacher at a Chelyabinsk high school. She owns a very old laptop computer; her students are amused at its age. She teaches various lessons to her class then gives them a short time to write in their journals. She types letters to Moscow publishers and places them in envelopes. She carefully places stamps on the envelopes and clearly she is hopeful. The students ask what she is doing and she explains. When she is done, she gives the letters to a student who takes them to the mail box in the school office and brings back her mail. There isn’t ever a positive response. She has a defeated look on her face for only a second and then smiles and says, “Oh Well. I will keep trying. AND you students keep trying too. Later she inquires in the office to see if her student hasn’t lost some of her mail. Many optimistic students encourage her as they exit the class.
Vasilisa Kuzmin (24) – By artistry a dancer, but she makes an income as a dance teacher at a Chelyabinsk middle school. The girls in his physical education class are giggling and laughing and having a good time. Their teacher is enthusiastic and obviously a positive force on them. She is inspiring and when she talks about the beauty of dance, they all listen intensely. When she demonstrates a classic dance move, she breaks a flower vase, a desk, a window and her foot. Of course all the girls chuckle, until they realize she has injured herself. She is embarrassed and worries it has been a negative experience for the girls. The school and everyone is supportive but still she deeply feels the need to be graceful and simply can’t.
Spartak Yerofeyev (38) – By nature he is a comedian. He tries his material out on his history classes before performing at Chelyabinsk’s only standup comedy club. His history lesson is more entertaining than his jokes. He tries to entertain the students with humor the first five minutes of each class; they do not laugh. However, when he begins his lesson sometimes they chuckle; he is more humorous when he doesn’t try. He tries his jokes out on the other teachers. He tries them out on farmers, shopkeepers and to simply people traveling on the sidewalk. No one laughs.
They only endure him at the comedy club, as he is the only local comedian. The other “funny” comedians travel to the city from Moscow or St. Petersburg.
AS THE METEORITE STRIKES…
The Chelyabinsk meteorite, changes everything. It is the largest space object to hit since the legendary Tunguska meteorite. It explodes in the atmosphere and several pieces impact the area schools.
One piece enters the art room and ruins Mr. Andronikov’s work in progress; not to worry it wasn’t very inspired. He picks it up and puts it in his pocket. The students run to the windows. The school master announces everyone to get under their desks. Andronikov encourages the students to look at the explosion and to gather inspiration. He reminds them to take note of the color of the sky.
A second piece of the meteorite pierces a manuscript on Miss Vodovatov’s desk. She does get under her desk and she takes a pencil and a journal. She instructs her students to grab their journal also. While waiting for the all clear signal, she feverishly writes. After school, she digs the fragment out of her desk and puts it in the paper drawer.
A third part of the meteorite strikes the mirrored wall in the dance room. Miss Kuzmin is trying to teach the girls with a cast on her foot. The meteorite rolls over to her and she picks it up. When the school principal issues the order to get under the desk, there aren’t any desks for the girls. The young girls all look near panic, until Miss Kuzmin plays the music and tells them to dance. They are pensive at first but eventually it is soothing to their nerves. They endure the crisis. Miss Kuzmin dances flawlessly with her cast. A young girl take out her camera to record the meteorite and then accidentally leaves the camera on while the class dances.
A fourth particle travels through the roof and then through Chelyabinsk on the map which hangs on the wall. Mr. Yerofeyev gets the biggest laugh of his teaching career by pointing out the accuracy of the fragment in their room, “God sure can shot.” He reaches behind the map and pulls a shard of the meteorite out.
The older students do not move when told to get under their desks. They simply look under their small desks and then at their teacher The students are mature and will not fit under their undersized desks, “Please raise your hand if you could fit under your desk four years ago.” Mr. Yerofeyev quips, “Nothing makes you as bright as your morning meteorite. And weather forecast for Chelyabinsk there’ll be ice, wind, and three inches of meteorite rain.”
And, “Realy students no need to worry. Mr. Putin just threw a cigarette butt while flying over Chelyabinsk.”
And, “Young Chelyabinsk bachelors didn’t realize what they were doing making a St. Valentine’s Day promise to reach cast down the stars from the heavens for their girlfriends, They didn’t know it would actually happen.”
And, “The Russian Postal Service delivers late as usual, and to the wrong address as well.
And, “This might be the ‘End of the World,’ as prophesied by the end of the Mayan calendar, was just running behind schedule a little.”
While they might otherwise be terrified, the students are laughing hysterically.
THE NEXT DAY IN CHELYABINSK SCHOOLS…
Vasily Andronikov – The next day, the art teacher paints a triptych where the Chelyabinsk residents, are depicted at the moment of the incident. With great skill, he paints them without using models. It is practically magic and his students are amazed. The painting features rescue workers, people injured by broken windows, onlookers with phones, and a half-naked man who ran outside after being awakened by the meteorite. The artist creates his epochal canvas in his classroom and about a year, using his free time and sitting in front of his easel until late at night. A student takes a photo of it and posts it on the internet.
Nelly Vodovatov –. The next day, our Russian grammar teacher teachers her lesson has some students read their journals. And Miss Vodovatov reads her journal. It captivates the students and they really like it. She has some copies of the short story in envelops to various magazines. The students applaud her; they are confident this is her break. They know she will be recognized. Mr. Yerofeyev stops by the classroom to invite Miss Vodovatov to the comedy club that night.
Vasilisa Kuzmin – The next day the cast is off Miss Kuzmin’s foot. She begins to dance and it is magic. The students master all the elements and finally understand what their teacher has been trying to tell them. Nothing is broken and art is made. Mr. Andronikov is there to paint the class dancing.
Spartak Yerofeyev – The next day Mr. Yerofeyevbegins his class, “Just yesterday three Russian football clubs won their European League matches — due to the upset in the planet’s cosmological balance.” The class erupts laughing again. That night, using the tried and true meteorite jokes, Mr. Yerofeyevis a big hit at the comedy club.
THE CHELYABINSK METEORITE’S AFTERMATH…
The city openes an extreme sports park in the meteorite’s honor and erectes a monument. The image of a meteorite be added to the region’s coat of arms. The hotel owners experience a “boom” in business. The area thrives on the attention the area receives. It becomes, for a short time, a tourist destination.
The area becomes crowded with foreigners. Most of the interest is from the Japanese and Chinese. But Americans, Italians and Australians are abundant.
Local merchants offer candy and baked goods with a symbol of the meteorite, as well as stationary, coffee, and tea.
A group of film makers from Moscow arrive to began filming a science fiction thriller about the meteorite. It is going to be a feature film and a big-budget one, that gives an alternative version of events when the meteorite crashed.
The meteorite inspires a 14-year-old Chelyabinsk student to consider the global problem of alternative energy sources. His project even reached the final stages of the national science competition. In the light of the powerful airflow damage to many windows, the student calculates that that the enormous amount of pressure could have been used to generate electricity.
Entrepreneurs in the region register trademarks including Chelyabinsk Meteorite (motorcycle), Ural Meteorite (car), Chebarkul Meteorite (a rail tour of Russia), and Mysterious Meteorite (perfume).
SPOILER WARNING! 🙂
Vasily Andronikov – Our art teacher is invited to display his meteorite paintings at the Moscow Museum of Modern. He travels to Moscow by train. Delivers the painting to the museum and then nervously leaves. They expect him to stay and attend parties and help raise money for the museum. However, he has fallen in love with Miss Kuzmin. His paintings are a huge hit and the arti critics name him as one of the most promising young Russian artists.
Nelly Vodovatov – Our grammar teacher receives an offer to publish her short story in a popular magazine. A publisher calls the school and orders a novel, sends an advance payment, offers her a Moscow apartment and a computer. She politely refuses the offer of the apartment but accepts the check and new computer. She writes a novel about the struggling funny man.
Vasilisa Kuzmin – Our dance teacher is invited to teach and dance at the Bolshoi. She goes and dances in Moscow. She calls Mr. Andronikov and tells him all the news everynight. Eventually she has had her fill of Moscow and returns to Chelyabinsk, her students and Mr. Andronikov.
Spartak Yerofeyev – Our history teacher is invited on several national television shows. He goes on a tour of Russia. He accepts only the Friday Saturday night engagements. Every Friday after school, he makes a mad dash to the airport to find a flight to a different city. He is driven to the airport by Miss Vodovatov.
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