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UCalgary Alumnus Highlight: Events Transpiring Before, During, and After a High School Basketball Game

By Ava Zardynezhad, October 4 2020—

Events Transpiring Before, During, and After a High School Basketball Game is exactly what it claims to be. The title of the film, however long, perfectly prepares the audience for what they should expect.

Written and directed by Ted Stenson, the film follows seemingly separate stories that come together as the day progresses. The events are centered around a basketball game involving a less-than-mediocre high school basketball team, whose players are more concerned with the existentialist nature of The Matrix than playing the game. Additionally, we follow an assistant coach’s attempts at implementing an NBA level offensive technique with the team, a radical theatre group rehearsing a version of King Lear, “intended to push audiences out of their comfort zone”, a referee on the brink of divorce, chasing an escapee Shih Tzu around the school, and my personal favourite – a lone janitor going through his afternoon routine while reciting the occasional Shakespearean soliloquy.

When asked about the inspiration behind the script Stenson says that he wanted to make a basketball movie that was different from traditional sports films.

Behind-the-scenes: A photograph signed by all of the cast members. // Photo by Mariah Wilson.

“The idea was to tell a sport story that had a sort of different perspective, that wasn’t really about a game and didn’t have these kind of cliché benchmarks that most sports films have,” Stenson explains. It’s goal that he has achieved wonderfully.

“When I was in high school, our teams were always really bad. The people that played sports at my school [weren’t] really the kind of stereotypical jock scenario. There was no cachet attached to being an athlete at my school. That was another thing I wanted to show in the movie – that different side to the athletic experience.”

Stenson, a Calgary-based filmmaker, is a University of Calgary alumnus.

“[Events Transpiring] actually has a U of C connection in a way,” he said. “When I was an undergraduate student there, I wrote a play about a basketball game that took place in real time and it was just focused on the bench.”

He was involved in the filmmaking community at the U of C through NUTV and was inspired and influenced by his mentors and supervisors here at the U of C, notably award-winning writer, Clem Martini.   

The film is lighthearted and quite witty. There is an air of casualness around the characters. Even when they’re taking on what seems like important feats, planning elaborate schemes, or even chasing a Shih Tzu around a school, it seems as though this kind of thing happens on a regular basis and it is not out of the ordinary. The overdramatic efforts of the assistant coach – portrayed by Kim’s Convenience’s Andrew Phung – to successfully run the “Triangle Offense” with a high school team, with no prior practice, on game day, adds to the intended sarcasm. In addition, the subtly hilarious script, the clever cinematography, and the brilliant portrayals on behalf of the cast, make for a humour-filled movie experience.

Photo of Andrew Phung with other cast members during a break from filming. // Photo by Mariah Wilson.

The movie was shot here in Calgary, at Queen Elizabeth High School. The film is blessed with resourceful production design, somehow managing to create an artistic backdrop of a Calgary high school.

“We had to do pretty much nothing; we were pretty lucky. I graduated in 2002, so it was a little bit later than when the events of the film take place, but [the school] hasn’t been updated since I have been there, certainly, so it fit the time period.”

Even though the film is set in 1999, the general atmosphere doesn’t feel that old, a phenomenon that was created intentionally, as Stenson did not want to make the time period too obvious.

Similarly, Stenson wanted to create a generic experience with the location and hoped the setting would have a feeling of universality.

“I always really wanted to make it clear that it was set in Calgary but at the same time it should also have the feeling that this could kind of take place in…any high school, anywhere in the world,” he says.

But despite Stenson’s intentions of creating a film experience that would be universal and accessible to all audiences, there is something unapologetically Calgarian about Events Transpiring. Maybe it is because every public high school in the Calgary Board of Education looks the same, or because of the rare sprinkling of characters listening to a Flames game on the radio, or it may even be the subtle details like “Terry, from Calgary” calling in to share his thoughts on the game.  

“I hope people feel it’s an unconventional, charmingly unique film,” Stenson says.

And that is exactly what it was.

Photo by Mariah Wilson.

You can stream Events Transpiring Before, During, and After and High School Basketball Game online until October 4th, through the Calgary International Film Festival website.

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