Broadcasting couple turn Trans-Siberian Railway trip into documentary for PBS

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Ann Craig-Cinnamon and John Cinnamon have been to more than 100 nations, all seven continents and all 50 states, but they are always seeking a new adventure.

When they learned about the Trans-Siberian Railway, they were intrigued.

“The trip was 16 days, starting in Moscow, going through Siberia, Mongolia and ending in Beijing,” Ann said. “It’s the longest train ride trip in the world. It sounded fascinating, so we decided to do it.”

The couple, who are Geist residents, took the trip in April 2019.

“Ann had the idea that this is going to be such an interesting and epic trip we should document it somehow,” John said.

The result was creating a documentary, “Journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.” The documentary was completed by April 2020, but airing was delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It was aired for the first time on Indianapolis PBS station’s WFYI in October 2020 and had a few more airings. It will air again at 7:30 p.m. April 22 on WFYI.

The couple’s 30-minute documentary film by the Indianapolis broadcast veterans has been chosen by American Public Television for national distribution to PBS stations across the nation. The film will air on more than 250 stations, including top 10 markets, and will reach more than 80 percent of the U.S. population. Ann said other PBS stations have the rights to air it during a two-year period.

“Knowing that our film will have a national audience is beyond anything we imagined,” John said.

Ann said the couple watched travel documentaries and broadcast veterans. The Cinnamons knew they could take photos, write and do voiceovers. They did not have as much experience collecting video before the trip.

They met with Clayton Taylor, WFYI vice president of production, before leaving to see if there was interest — and there was. Taylor also suggested people to speak with before leaving.

“They gave us some things to look at when shooting, video techniques,” John said. “That gave us some insight on what to be looking for and how to shoot it and how to get it mic’d up for audio.”

Ann said they also talked with another documentary filmmaker.

“We bought some new equipment and we just went for it,” said Ann, a member of the Indiana Broadcasters Hall of Fame. “We did all our own shooting. John did the majority of the actual video and I did some of it. We took a lot of still photos. We did lots of interviews with people from our Russian guide, who was with us the whole time, another person on the tour with us and the guy who ran the dining car. We asked him the favorite part of his job and he said, ‘Meeting people.’

“We asked him his least favorite part, and without hesitation said, ‘Drunk Russian men.’”

They interview a Mongolian tour guide who told them he didn’t make enough money as a doctor working in a hospital to support his family, so he got into the travel business.

“His English was great, his Russian supposedly was even better and, of course, his Mongolian,” Ann said.

The Mongolian guide was a big fan of the NBA.

“We told him we were from Indiana and he said ‘Reggie Miller,’” John said. “He said, ‘He especially likes dudes who shoot the 3.’”

Fishers resident Philip Paluso helped with the editing process when they returned.

“He added a lot to it and made it super creative,” Ann said. “We were really proud of the product. The takeaway we hope people get when they watch is that people are people. They might have different cultures and different governments, but basically people are people.”

John said they have the same interests and do many of the same activities as Americans.

Among their previous adventures were gorilla trekking in Rwanda; hiking the Himalayas to see Mt. Everest; snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos; and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

In October 2020 amid the pandemic, the couple traveled Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“That’s going to be our next documentary,” Ann said. “We were in Ireland when the pandemic broke out and we were sent home.”


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