TRI, screening this weekend at the Boston International Film Festival , is described as "an inspiring, emotionally-charged drama" about a medical technician with a history of not finishing things who is inspired by a cancer patient to do for her first Triathlon. The first trailer, which you can view below, suggests a very powerful, encouraging movie.
Natalie (Award-winning actress Jensen Jacobs), an ultrasound tech with a history of not finishing things, is inspired by a cancer patient to sign up for a Triathlon. Natalie is introduced to the strange (and aerodynamic) world of triathletes and meets a colorful cast of characters as she trains for the Nation’s Triathlon. With the support of her new teammates, she digs deep to discover just how far she can push her mind and body.
TRI is the first scripted feature narrative about triathlons that has been developed for theatrical release. Triathlon is the fastest growing endurance sport in the world and was the fastest growing of all sports in the UK in 2014. There are over 600,000 athletes registered with USA Triathlon, and over 3.2 million worldwide.
Although the film uses triathlon as a backdrop, the niche target market for the film is female runners. Of the roughly 20 million finishers of running events in 2014, 60 percent were women.
The concept of TRI is to raise awareness and hope for those who are seeking compassion or understanding while dealing with cancer as a caregiver, a patient and a survivor.
The writing team for TRI includes Theodore Adams III, a two time Ironman finisher and professional triathlon coach who has led cancer awareness programs.
In a few words, what’s TRI about Ted?
TRI is about transition.
Natalie, an ultrasound tech with a history of not finishing things, is inspired by a cancer patient to sign up for a Triathlon. Natalie is introduced to the strange (and aerodynamic) world of triathletes and meets a colorful cast of characters as she trains for the Nation’s Triathlon. With the support of her new teammates, she digs deep to discover just how far she can push her mind and body.
Did the budget and resources available to you dictate what the film would be or is this your original, unabridged vision?
The film was written with a deep appreciation of where and how it would be filmed.
The original budget for the film was unrealistically low. We decided to do filming at three live race venues, which required tremendous resources to get all the shots we needed in real time. Thankfully, we had the full support of the race organizers.
We did have to make compromises because we sometimes had to work in restricted areas that we could not have control of, but the story carries the viewer through much of these parts in a seamless manner.
We also received tremendous support from John Hopkins Sibley Hospital where we did two full days of shooting. Without their support, there is no way would have been able to make this film the way we did.
In the end, we were able to tell the story that was true to the intended version.
What inspired the movie?
This particular story was inspired by triathletes who have lived with cancer, lost someone to cancer, is fighting cancer as a healthcare provider or is supporting a loved one who is fighting cancer today. I have had direct interactions with a number of inspirational people who are true “givers”, people who give all that they can without asking anything in return. The world of triathlon is abundant with these people.
TRI is about transition. There are two official transitions in a triathlon, T1 and T2. A triathlon starts with a swim, then a bike and then a run. Going from the swim to the bike is Transition 1 (T1) and going from the bike to the run is Transition 2 (T2). Some people consider the finish line as the unofficial third transition (T3) because you have completed your transition to becoming a “triathlete” or an “Ironman”. It is a sport that steeps of “transition” in many forms.
TRI is a celebration of that transition for each of the characters in the story. Each character’s story arc is dealing with or addressing a transition that is personal to them, much like we all deal with in our everyday lives.
You’ve been involved in sports for a long time – or had an interest at least. Did writing about something you know make all the more difference?
I was a career soccer player and competed on an international and semi-professional level. When my legs could no longer take the beatings from younger competitors, I needed to find a new sport to stay fit.
So yes, it made a tremendous difference. I was intimately familiar with the subject. Many of the mishaps that occur during the training and race scenes actually happened to me.
My first Olympic distance triathlon was the Nations Tri that is featured in the movie. It’s held in a very iconic location, Washington, D.C., which make this film unique.
I am a two time Ironman Finisher and a Certified Triathlon Coach.
More importantly, the writing team was passionate in telling the story. I came up with the initial idea for the story and the film and collaborated with an experienced screenwriter, Monica Lee Bellais, to develop the initial draft. I then hired our Director, Jai Jamison. Jai is not only a talented director, he is a gifted story teller and I had him do a page-one rewrite of the script.
As a fellow athlete, it was great to work with him to bring out the true essence of the story. I may have come up with the story, but I’m crediting Jai with leading the effort in putting together a tremendous screenplay.
How long did it take you to write the script?
I have written a number of stories and treatments, but this is my first full screenplay. As such, I felt it was important to work with more experienced writers to get the story in the form of a viable script.
To be clear, I was part of a writing team for the story and the first version of the script with Monica Lee Bellais. After hiring Jai Jamison as Director, I was impressed with his ideas regarding the script and hired him to do a page one rewrite of the screenplay. He did a tremendous job and it was a blast to collaborate with him.
The first version of the screenplay was complete in six months from the time of the inception. The final screenplay that Jai rewrote was completed two months later while we were shooting.
It would not say it “poured out” of any of us. This was truly and collaborative effort.
Do you identify with the lead character?
Yes, I did. I think most people will identify with Natalie to some degree.
This is the story about a person who has a history of not finishing things and who is attempting to step out of her comfort zone and into the world of triathlon where drive, determination and commitment are everything. This is why this movie will appeal to such a broad audience. People all over the world will find an excuse to not complete a challenge or overcome an obstacle. Natalie, our hero, is such a person.
I’ve seen newbies and seasoned triathletes question themselves constantly over whether they can push themselves to complete an event. That is why we say “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”
You have to talk about your cast, and why they were cast?
We were fortunate to have a very experienced Casting Director on our team, Kimberly Skyrme. Kimberly was the regional casting director for the first three seasons of the critically acclaimed Netflix Series, House of Cards.
The casting process was interesting because we had certain actors in mind when we wrote the screenplay. As you can imagine, sometimes those plans work out and sometimes they do not. The key was making sure the actors could bring something to that character that would add to the story. Each cast member was able to deliver what we were looking for.
An issue that was very near and dear to my heart, as a professional triathlon coach, was whether the actors could be convincing as triathetes, particularly the one playing the professional. It was one thing to have a good actor, but the actor was going to be an active participant in an actual USAT sanctioned triathlon with thousands of athletes both professionals and amateurs who did not care who they were and what they were doing.
I was not about to put the actors or the actual participants at risk. People die doing triathlons. That’s a fact. In our case, four of the principal actors had to swim in the Potomac River with 4000 other racers. The day of the shoot was not the time to see if they were comfortable in the water, so I had each of them prove that they could safely enter, swim and exit the water and look convincing. The initial test took place during the casting call. Not all of the actors in consideration passed the test. I later worked with each of them to make sure they were prepared for the race. We had one chance to get it right. There would be no retakes.
In the end, each member was cast on her or his acting ability and how well they fit the character. No need to have a fantastic athlete in the film if they can’t act!
What were the advantages and disadvantages of filming where you did?
TRI received support from the three most important venues for the film. The Luray Triathlon, the Nations Triathlon and Johns Hopkins Sibley Hospital.
We filmed in Luray, Virginia at two triathlons that took place over the same weekend. The Luray Olympic Distance Triathlon was on a Saturday and had over 500 participants and the Luray Sprint Distance Triathlon (half the distance of the Olympic race) was held the next day with about 400 participants. There were another 400-500 spectators for each race which was critical to capturing the ambiance of the experience.
The Nations Tri is held in Washington DC right next to the Lincoln Memorial. It has over 4000 athletes with about 20,000 spectators. The challenge here was dealing with the National Park Service who not only dictated what equipment we could bring on the set, but also how many cameras and support crew would be allowed to film the race and our actors. We did not receive our permits until two days before the race!
Thankfully, the race organizers where extremely supportive and we were able to get some pretty spectacular shots.
We filmed the rest of the movie in Northern Virginia.
There were more advantages than disadvantages such as, close proximity of all the locations and being in an area that is fairly untouched by film-making, it was much more film-maker friendly. There were so many people who were so helpful that overall it helped make filming easier and much more cost effective.
Did you pull a Hitchcock and cameo in the film yourself?
Yes. Both the Director and I have cameos as well as some of our Executive Producers.
Can you tell us the next couple of locations we’ll be able to see the film at?
TRI, has been accepted to both the Northern Virginia International Film Festival and the Boston International Film Festival! The Boston screening will be at the Paramount Thearter at 6:15 on April 16. The Fairfax, Virginia screening will be at the Angelika Theater on April 26 at 7 pm.
TRI has received 8 Nominations in the NOVA International Film Festival!
BEST FEATURE FILM
BEST ACTRESS - FEATURE FILM (Jensen Jacobs)
BEST DIRECTOR - FEATURE FILM (Jai Jamison)
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY - FEATURE FILM
BEST EDITING - FEATURE FILM
BEST FAMILY / FAITH BASED FILM
BEST INSPIRATIONAL FILM
The NOVA Award – FILM
TRI will have its first theatrical release on May 5 in St. George Utah and the Megaplex Theater. Other locations can be seen on our website: www.triforcure.com.