"A Courtship": A Peep Behind the Scenes
WARNING! Spoiler alert! Do not continue unless you have seen "A Courtship!"
There's a new film out there about Biblical Courtship, a documentary that shows the story of Kelly, a 30-something-year-old single woman who has committed her life—and spouse hunting—to God. Since her parents aren't into courtship, Kelly's asked another family to “do her courtship,” which means that she's asked the father to be her spiritual dad, the mother to be her spiritual mom, and the kids to be her siblings. These people will be her family for all intensive purposes, acting in their respective parts. I'm the oldest of those kids, Savannah. Kelly moved in with us when I was six years old, and when I was 12, Mad Twin Productions asked to do a documentary about Christian Courtship, and about our family's lifestyle. The film is called "A Courtship," and chronicles Kelly's relationship with a young man, Ross, and their ensuing courtship. The film is now available on iTunes, and at specific film festivals around the country.
Making this film was an amazing experience, and I have some great memories of it. My family and I have gotten to do things that we never would have done otherwise (like going to a film festival, being followed around by a camera crew, etc.). We've come out with some great friends, and I'm happy to have gotten to play a role in the making. And while this film is a good portrayal of Christian Courtship, there's a real story, as is true with every story,. The documentary crams a whole year of our lives into 71 minutes, and a few things might have been left out. I mean, the interviews alone were "National Treasure," "Peter Pan," and "Return to Neverland" long...at least, that's how I remember it, since that's what I was doing: watching movies with Annika.
But before we take a peep behind the scenes, allow me to introduce everybody.
The Cast and Crew.
Kelly Boggus: Thirty-something-year-old Christian ballet teacher who's handed over the responsibility of screening potential guys to Dad (or Ron, for the rest of you).
Ron Wright: My dad. Oh, and Kelly's spiritual dad. My hero.
Dawn Wright: Mom. And Kelly's spiritual mom, logically, since Dad's her spiritual dad. My confidant.
Savannah Wright: Oldest child of the Wright family, and the writer of this article. Age then, 13.
Annika Wright: My little sister, best friend, and the youngest child of the Wright family. Age then, 10.
Ross Leavitt: Kelly's potential suitor, student at Michigan State University. Also works as a piano repair guy.
Paul Leavitt: Ross's younger brother. Age then, 18.
Martha: my pet chicken who got a brief shot in the camera. Characterized by a flopped-over comb.
Costars: Linda Austin (Kelly's mom), Bob Austin (Kelly's stepfather), Casey Stanfil (Kelly's sister), Summer (mine and Annika's friend), Carrie-Grace (also mine and Annika's friend), the Meerman family (family friends).
Amy Koen: Director, producer...okay, she did almost everything.
Evan Eames: The Director of Photography, fly on the wall, silent stalker.
Other crew members: Andy (cameraman),Valarie (cameraman-er, woman), Joe (cameraman), Jordan (editor).
Behind the Scenes .
Well now that you've met everyone, I can tell the story.
The film was made over the course of a year, with 20 filming days. Amy would fly out, usually with Evan as the cinematographer, and film us doing all kinds of things. I know it doesn't seem like it, but filming is grueling work. Yes, grueling. Not sure why, but we were plumb tuckered out by the time they left. We always loved it, though. The best times were when the cameras were off and we were just people—thrust together under strange circumstances, but friends nonetheless.
So, how did a professional film producer end up making a documentary about Christian Courtship, and my family of all people?
Well, Amy, an
movie producer living in New York, was having lunch with a friend of hers who works with a publishing company. This friend told her about some book someone had given her about this crazy thing called arranged marriage. Amy, intrigued, went home and looked up arranged marriage on Google. One article lead to another, and eventually someone erroneously connected arranged marriage with courtship, so she started researching courtship, too. That eventually brought her to Before the Kiss. From there, she emailed Dad, saying that she wanted to do a documentary about courtship.
When Dad first saw the email from Amy, he thought it was spam. He says that his mouse pointer was hovering over the delete button, but then he noticed that the sender had included a phone number. He decided to check it out. A one-hour phone call later, and it was determined that Amy would bring out a film crew and start a documentary. We didn't fully believe it until they were knocking on our front door.
So, we have a subject, a cast, a crew, and are filming away. The only thing missing for a real look at courtship is a suitor. Enter Ross Leavitt.
The first time we met Ross and his brother Paul, they came over to our house for dinner. Ross, Paul and Kelly had met a year ago at a party, but Paul didn't remember meeting Kelly. That attributed a bit of the awkwardness seen in the meal scene, but it wasn't all that awkward from what I remember. We had told them that Amy wanted the man's view of courtship, and that they we going to be interviewed. But Amy sensed a potential suitor, so the cameras were rolling as they walked in the door. You can even see the surprise on Ross's face as he's walking in!
Anyway, Dad, my sister and I were trying to rescue a stray chicken at the end of our street (that's another story), and were off feeding her when the Leavitts came. We watched them drive past and thought, “that's probably them.” We then ran back to our house, and arrived soon after they walked in. Dad wasn't really glaring at them as they walked in, as seen in the film. Something you should know about my dad: he's a huge goof-off. He was joking and playing with them. When Paul introduced himself (“I'm Paul.”), Dad was messing with him (“Your name is Impaul? What an odd name.”). He does that with everyone...especially when it annoys the person.
While we're eating supper, you may notice a bowl of gourds on the table. Odd thing on a full dinner spread, right? Well, before the meal, Amy hid a microphone in the bowl, intending for it to stay on the table while we ate so that she could get good audio. You don't really want to put electronic devices in mashed potatoes. Well, she neglected to tell the rest of the family. So us younger folks were setting the table, and we knew to leave the bowl alone. Mom comes walking past, sees a bowl on the table, and moves it to the kitchen island. Kelly notices that the bowl is not on the table where it's supposed to be, and moves it back. Mom walks past again. Bowl is back where it was. She takes the bowl, a bit annoyed, and puts it back on the island. Well, I'm working away and see the bowl is back on the island. Chuckling a bit, I put it back on the table. Then Mom comes back, sees the blasted bowl back on the table, again, and huffs, grabs the bowl to put it back.
“WHO keeps putting this bowl on the table?” she demands, using the Tone. We quickly explained about the microphone, and all was well, but to this day, we crack up when we see that bowl.
We hit it off so well with the Leavitts that they stayed until like one o'clock...a.m. Amy and Evan even went back to the hotel, and still they stayed. My sister and I finally went to bed, and when we woke up the next morning, Dad was sleeping in our room (being an awesome protector, as usual). Ross and Paul were crashed on the living room couch. I remember just cracking up. They were living in Ann Arbor, which is across the state, and didn't want to drive all the way home in the dark. They told us that they'd be gone by eight in the morning, but lunchtime rolled around and they were still here. They did that a lot, staying over Thanksgiving to Black Friday. They even helped us put up our Christmas tree...it was great. We really loved being around them. By the way, Ross loved my mom's turkey dinner, which is no huge surprise.
Now this is really silly, I know, but I want to clarify two things about myself. The first addresses the part where my dad mentions how well Ross's younger brother, Paul, and I got along. We did! It was great; we read the same things, listened to a lot of the same music, and even had many of the same tastes in food (we both disliked mushrooms). In the footage, though, I am seen gazing at him with this giggly expression on my face, as I have this massive crush on him. I didn't. Not to complain, but he was putting his fingerprints all over my $100 sword, my baby. I saved for it for about a year, and I am extremely careful with it. Fingerprints drive me absolutely bonkers. So in reality, I was gazing at my shiny, pretty sword, wishing he'd hold it by the hilt and not the blade. :P
One time, Paul told us about these other friends that they had, and as a young man, he had a very healthy appetite, so these friends gave him a serving bowl to eat out of. They all thought it was a big joke. So the next time they came over, Annika and I got a tiny fruit bowl, a little baby spoon, a pickle fork and the smallest glass we could find. Top it off with a kid's chair, and you've got yourself a prank. Paul saw his name tag at the place setting, and in a moment of true younger-brotherness, swapped seats with Ross. Ross was very gracious and joked about it, saying, “Are you thinking that I eat too much?” Ha ha!
The second part is about the first part of the film, where there is footage of the my family talking to some friends about courtship. I mention that I am not planning to go to college. While that's true, I believe that the purpose for my life doesn't revolve around finding a career and that everything else will simply fall into place; marriage, family, and God's calling are not secondary. Instead of training for a career, I'm preparing to be a mother and a wife. Until that time when I am married, I will work to follow God and his calling on my life.
Later in the film, Kelly is shown vacuuming, dusting, hanging out laundry, and feeding the chickens while Mom reads, and my sister plays with her dolls. Being a true middle-ish-child, I would just like to say that contrary to what the film portrays, Kelly is not our maid. We all clean the house, and we all have laundry duty. She isn't the only one who does dishes, and we don't make her do all the cooking. In fact, she rarely goes out to the chickens...that's my domain. I've even been nicknamed the “Mother Hen.” Hey, those birds are pretty low on the food chain; they need some kind of protection.
We all are hard-working people. We cut wood, pick berries, garden and more. There are a lot of deleted scenes with us all working together and doing various activities around the house.
As I'm sure many of you already know, homeschool is much more fun than what is depicted. We do a lot of hands-on experiments and we read cool stuff. The only thing that is remotely boring is math, and since we use Life of Fred, it's actually pretty cool. That scene was set up for us to film just a sample of school, so we weren't in the groove.
Kelly and Ross's first “date” was actually at Kelly's dance recital. Non of those scenes happened until after Ross broke off the relationship. There were times when it was a little awkward, but it was helped by the fact that we had a whole party of people that came, including Summer and her mom.
Besides that, we would never escort Ross to his first date with Kelly, in fact, they wouldn't have had any dates until they were married. In our method of courtship, the couple will spend time together in a family environment. That way, they can see how the other person interacts with his/her parents and siblings, and get to know the family that they may be marrying into.
You may have noticed that Kelly looks pretty anxious for us to get to the venue. Well, she was actually suffering from a bee sting, bless her heart, and was really, really wishing that we'd hurry up, since we had the salve with us. She was really glad to see us when we got there.
Ross totally didn't get my sense of humor. At all. It was really funny. I rode with him after the first “date” when we went for dinner afterwords, and I was trying to be funny, but he was totally not getting my jokes. Paul got them, though. Don't get me wrong, Ross had a sense of humor, but mine can be a bit...off the wall at times. I guess I really can't blame him.
There were also several times where we had colossal falls, mostly from the crew. One time Amy was holding the boom for a shot, and she had to stand on a stack of chairs. She leaned out too far, the chairs tipped, and crashed to the floor, taking her with them. It knocked the wind out of her, and all she could think about was her upcoming trip to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and how a broken rib would effect it. Thankfully, it didn't break, but it was really exciting. Falling chairs, falling people, falling equipment.
Evan also fell a few times. Okay, many times. I can think of as least three. Once, he was filming in Africa before he came to film us. He got on a flight from Africa to New York, stopped at his apartment, dropped his old suitcase in the door where his wife was waiting with a new one, kissed her, and caught a flight for Grand Rapids. He was exhausted. That day we filmed the scene where Dad asks Ross about not having Kelly's first kiss. Poor Evan fell asleep behind the camera, and we didn't use fancy tripods or anything; he had to hold it. He fell over, woke up and caught himself before there was much damage, and continued the shot, but needless to say, he went to the hotel early.
Another time was when Kelly was with her family. They were filming the part where she's talking about courtship with her mother and stepfather, and Evan was sitting on the armrest of the couch. He moved a bit and...fell over. When you're on camera, you kind of learn to take the crew's antics in stride and continue the shot.
The last time Evan fell was when Ross tells Dad that he doesn't think that courting Kelly is a good idea. They were mopping the floor, and Evan slipped on the wet surface. Yikes!
Toward the end of the film, Mom is shown trying to break Ross and Kelly up after Ross's friends experience a terrible tragedy. Ross's take on the event was quite different from ours, and while Mom was upset about it, she didn't try to end the relationship. We all loved Ross and wanted the best for him and Kelly, and sadly, it was not marriage.
I know it's surprising, but Mom's actually not as religious as she appears in the film. She's a great, down-to-earth kinda gal. She listens to Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson, and likes movies with violence (yeah, I don't really get that one either). And she's funny. Really funny. She wants a pet dinosaur, but she'll settle for a rat. She still plays with dolls. All in all, I'd want to be her friend, even if I wasn't her daughter.
And, um, there's the really shocking and insensitive part where Mom tells Kelly that she might never get married. *gasp* How could Mom have been so mean? Well, strange as it may seem, that's a running joke in our house. Kelly even jokes about it. After all, she is 37 now, and she's not married yet. If you happen to know anyone, though...
We're actually really funny people. We all have a good sense of humor—just ask Amy. Okay, well, some of us could use a little help, but for the most part we're great. There's hours of footage of us cutting up and ruining film with our jokes, particularly Dad. We've asked for a blooper reel, just to see all the crazy things we did.
When two people get married, the rest of the family will have to deal with the new family member. Now obviously, it's a lot easier on everyone if the family likes the new person. Dad really liked having boys around. He lives with four girls, and things get a little difficult on him sometimes. It was nice for him to have some guys to play with, so in a way he gave his heart away to Ross and Paul.
And as cute and funny as the part is where Kelly's asking all the questions about the relationship, and wondering what on earth she missed, she would never have said that in real life. That part was filmed after the end of the courtship and while obviously every girl would think that, Kelly would never have voiced it, and neither would we.
Kelly's very mature when it comes to these types of things. In fact, the whole courtship thing was her idea. In fact, we didn't want her to move in...but that another story.
One of my favorite parts in the film is where we're sitting and chatting about courtship with our friends from church, Summer and Carrie-Grace. The sweetness and innocence of those girls is a true testament to what our lifestyle does: gives the world amazing, sweet kids, patiently waiting for that special day when they will finally give away their first kisses. Both girls are still saving their kisses, as am I.
Ross's Lip Story
You may have noticed that Ross has a bit of an unusual-looking chin. Well, there's actually a great story behind it. He'd tell it a lot better than I can, but I'll try to do it justice.
Here goes: he was riding his bike one day, and as he was going over a bridge, he lost control and crashed into the guardrail. No big deal for a young guy, but it would hurt. He picked himself up, and looked down to take account of himself, and noticed his bottom lip, laying on the concrete. He thought to himself, “I'm gonna need that!” and so, he picked it up and put it in his pocket.
Yeah, I think he is a little crazy, but hey, I would've wanted my lip back, too. (Now would be a great time to play Veggie Tale's I Love My Lips).
Anyway, he gets back on his bike and drives himself to the ER. He walks in with his hand over his mouth. The receptionist asks him, “What can I do for you?”
He slowly drops his hand below his mouth so that she can see his lip...or lack thereof. She gasps, and then tells him to come on back.
So he's in the ER, and the doctors wondering what to do, and he's like, “Wait! I've got my lip! It's in my pocket!” He reaches to pull it out...but it's gone. “I had it!”
He wants to leave and find his lip. Can you imagine, the doctors won't let him! So he calls a friend, and asks her (yes, her! A girl!) to go find his lip. Yep, I don't envy her.
Unfortunately, she didn't find the lip. Ross consoles himself with the thought that perhaps a little fishy got himself a nice lunch. Until then, he goes through surgeries and such to help his mouth.
He's a saxophone player, and a lip is a little important for playing the sax. The surgeons took what was left of his bottom lip and stretched it across his mouth. Now while he's playing his sax, he feels like he's playing through the side of his mouth. He was going through the surgeries during the making of the film, thus the scar. I remember they gave him a fake tooth that he could pop in and out of his mouth, and he was so excited to show us. Arrgh, matey! Grow a nice beard and...voila! Nobody can tell the difference.
The Film Festivals
Since the film was finished, we have been invited to Tribeca Film Festival in April, Traverse City Film Festival in July/August, Buffalo Film Festival in October, and the upcoming Rocky Mountains Women's Film Festival in November, and Anchorage Film Festival in December. Wow. That's a lot. We actually were present at Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), and that was a lot of fun. Okay, seriously, there was food everywhere! We had our own driver, and there were parties, and even a special lounge for filmmakers. For a country girl whose most fancy occasions have been weddings and the occasional concert, this was wild! One lady even recognized me in the bathroom, just from seeing the film.
Most recently, we were shown at Buffalo, where we won the Best Documentary award. Best documentary? Seriously? Us? We must have been the only documentary. Whatever the case, I think Amy deserved it, if only for being a good director.
It's been about five years since we started this incredible journey, and things have changed a lot. We're older, wiser, and surprisingly, more famous. Even though the relationship didn't end with a wedding, we consider it a success. The point of a courtship is to figure whether it's God's will for two people to get married. Apparently, it wasn't his will for Kelly and Ross to get married.
About a year after the end of the relationship, Ross and Paul moved back to Oregon to be with their family. Ross has started his own business, and is still not married. And he grew a beard. It looks really sharp. :) As usually happens with courtship, both are welcome back into our home.
Kelly continues to teach dance to little girls. When asked if she misses going to an institutionalized church and being in a singles group, she replies, “No, I really don't. I've been to them before, and I've spent time pursuing guys and I really just want to live my life for God, whether I'm married or unmarried. If he wants me to be married, that would be wonderful. I think it'd be great to be married. But I want him to bring it about, as my whole life belongs to him. I would say the same thing to anybody who says 'Well, since courtship isn't working for you, why don't you try a different method?' The goal of courtship is not to get married. The goal is to trust Him with your future.”
Well said, Kelly. Well said.
Mom and Dad just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, which is a cool milestone. They wanted to go on a cruise, but we simply decided that we wouldn't survive without them. Dad is now working as a subcontractor and Mom still teaches Annika and me at home.
My little sister is still just as cute as she is in the film, although she's grown up a lot since that time. She still enjoys playing with our chickens, the second-generation flock, and loving on the newest addition to our family, Snowflake the hamster.
As for me, I'm taking over Before the Kiss as vice president. I'm writing my first book, among other hard things I'm trying to do. Being the main character in the film, my brief glimpse of stardom was incredible, as all my fans will testify, but I'm content to stay at home and do the work God has called me to do. And answer the piles of fan mail I get daily. Between that and the benefit dinners and television appearances, it's a wonder I have time for anything else.
Okay, so I'm not that popular. Do any of you even know my name?
Oh, well, despite my Hollywood status, which appears to be lacking, I believe that this film was made for a purpose. So far the response has been pretty amazing, more than any of us (realistically) thought possible. Whatever the outcome, I look forward to seeing where God takes this film.
Stay tuned for updates to this page to read the story of how Kelly moved in with us. It's a riot!