In The Snow By elena bernier

Anton Greene, a sophomore at Community and Huron High School, did not have a typical fourth grade. While the other fourth graders of Thurston Elementary School were memorizing their multiplication tables, Greene was running back and forth through the deep Ukrainian snow. He did not have today’s modern parkas to protect him from the bitter wind, nor any of the other comforts that the 21st century provides in the winter. Instead, he had on threadbare clothes typical of the 1930s, in which the movie that he was starring in was set.

Greene says people to this day still ask him how he got the part of Peter, the protagonist of the award-winning Ukrainian film The Guide. It all started with a simple email in the summer sent out to Ukrainian families in Michigan. Director Oles Sanin was looking for a young Ukrainian-American boy of about 15 or 16 years old who could speak both Ukrainian and English. They needed a boy that would fit the part of Peter, the son of an Ukrainian-American engineer who is killed in the turbulent environment of Soviet Ukraine. Orphaned, Peter escapes from the police with a blind folk minstrel, who Peter guides through the turbulent country.

There were over 2,000 auditions, and yet Greene was chosen. He didn’t even fit the age requirement, as he was nine years old, but he and his parents decided to give it a try and sent in his audition. For a few months they didn't hear anything back, and the audition gradually sunk to the back of their minds. But then, in the fall, they got a response. They progressed to a Skype interview, where things apparently went well because in three days’ time Greene was on a plane to Ukraine. As he flew over the Pacific Ocean into the unknown, he remembers being excited.

Greene, currently a sophmore in high school.

And in a few weeks time, Greene found himself thigh deep in the Ukrainian snow. Even though this was his first time ever acting, he didn’t let his nerves get the best of him. “For me, it was pretty easy to act. I didn't have very many lines so it wasn’t that hard,” Greene said. He felt like he was pretty similar to Peter. He just acted naturally in front of the camera, not really having to change a thing about himself.

Greene spent the next four months in Ukraine. They filmed all over, from the countryside to Kiev (the capital of Ukraine.) Greene doesn’t remember being homesick or missing his parents. He had his grandma with him the entire time, which was enough of home to keep the loneliness away.

Greene would describe a typical day on set as something like this: “I’d just be in my trailer, on my iPad playing some game, then they’d call me out, tell me what to do, then I’d do it, and then they’d film. It wasn’t really that complicated. They’d also served lunch, breakfast, and all the meals. Not anything too crazy.”

Greene notes that Ukraine didn’t have any regulations for how long a child could be on set. So one time he was on set for 16 hours.

The hardest part of his whole ordeal was the scenes in the snow. “That really sucked,” Greene said. “My character was a kid in the 1930s so he didn't really have that many warm clothes. It was pretty bad, but I got through it.”

Their last day of filming was on Greene’s birthday, Dec. 20. That day yielded more than a couple feet of snow, through which Greene, of course, had to run through. But despite it all, the last day was a sad one for him. “I got really used to the people there, all the staff and stuff, and I became really good friends with them,” Greene said. “It was really sad because I was probably never gonna see them again.”

For Greene, that experience changed his life. “I definitely would be a different person if it wasn’t for [the movie],” Greene said.

Filming the movie was also a great learning experience for Greene; he felt more connected with his heritage than ever before. “It taught me a lot about the history of my country; I didn't really know it at all until that movie,” Greene said. “It definitely made me realize the pain that [my family] went through because there was a lot of that in Ukraine's history. And if it wasn't for [the movie], I wouldn't have known exactly what it was like, or how bad it was. I’m just really glad I did it and learned all of that.”

Despite it all, Greene was excited to return to his normal life in Ann Arbor. He successfully passed fourth grade, even after taking four months off.

Two years later, in 2014, the movie was released. There were premiers all over Ukraine, building up the film’s popularity as each one commenced. The biggest one was in Kiev, where Greene met the Prime minister of Ukraine.

In addition, there were also premiers in Ukrainian communities in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Toronto and Chicago. The premiers were a bit tedious for Greene. He got interviewed too many times to count. “It got so irritating, I kind of started to hate it,” Greene said. In total Greene went to about 18 premiers, where he had to watch the movie every time.

Soon, The Guide gained international recognition. At the Odessa International Film Festival, the actor playing the blind minister, Stanislav Boklan, won the award of best actor. The film also won the Jury Prize for Ccinematography and was nominated for the Grand Prix — the award for best movie. At the Warsaw International Film Festival, the film was also nominated for best movie as well. In addition, Ukraine submitted it as their entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but unfortunately the film was not nominated.

Greene often gets asked if he’s planning on starring in another movie, and his answer is a simple no. “It was a great learning experience for me, [but] I wouldn't do it again,” Greene said. “It's not that it wasn’t fun, because it was really fun. It’s just not my thing.”

Nowadays, Greene’s thing is music. “I really love music, and I grew up in a household where [there was] music constantly,” Greene said. Both of his parents are music professors, and both play instruments. Green's instrument of choice is the saxophone, which he plays in Community High School Jazz band. Looking to the future, Greene hopes to find a career that mixes business and music. And although he has a lot on his mind now, there's always a part of him that’s running through the snowy fields of the Ukrainian countryside.


Created with images by pparnxoxo - "View from my bedroom window."

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