The inspiration behind the making of the film, Tri.
Tackling a sporting film can either narrow-in on a niche audience, or spread its wings to include a wider audience with its intriguing story line. The movie Tri looks not only at introducing the world of Triathlons to a wider community, but also inspire and motivate with its powerful backstory. Something usually associated with group, not individual sports. It is just that which motivated writer and Producer of Tri, Theodore A. Adams III.
Adams sporting career as a professional soccer player started to take a tole on his body. “I only found triathlon when I could no longer sustain the hits I was taking as a soccer player”, he said. But finding his place once again in the sporting world has not only furthered his sporting prowess now into Triathlons but also set the scene for his newest venture, writing a movie about a sport he knows all too well.
“After completing my first triathlon back in 2011, I was hooked on the sport, so I went online and looked for another race”. This lead Adams to go on and complete four races with a program called “Team in Training” (TNT). But it wasn’t just the thrill of accomplishing such a feat, TNT meant much more to Adams.
“TNT is a program that is organised by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that raises money for cancer research. I found this to be an ideal motivator because I lost my father to multiple myeloma and this was a great way to not only honor his memory, but also support a terrific cause”, he said.
Time working with TNT and his new T3 Honu Multisport Team, Adams was exposed to some remarkable people and inspirational stories. This included those battling cancer and the survivors with their health care providers, the bed stone for his script for Tri.
“The tag line for TRI is, “When surviving cancer is not enough”. That can be interpreted in numerous ways. I originally came up with that line because it pays homage to my friends and athletes who are cancer survivors or who are currently undergoing cancer treatment, but still find the time and make the effort to help others or take on new challenges, like raising money for cancer research or by participating in triathlons”.
Director Jai Jamison also recognised this community full of motivation and inspiration. But prior to signing on with Tri, he had never even seen a Triathlon. And to this date, he is still yet to complete one.
“Being in the crowd watching a triathlon definitely helped me appreciate the sport, and the community around the sport, much more. The positivity of the athletes, volunteers, and people supporting and cheering overwhelmed me. I left that triathlon with a big, goofy grin on my face. I knew at that moment, that I wanted the film to produce the same big, goofy grin for the audience”, said Jamison.
Sports films in general don’t dominate the market, but when a quality story is created in the sporting arena, it’s like wild fire. These films once about Baseball pulled some of the great superstars like Tom Hanks and Madonna in “A League of Their Own” and Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams”.
Now you’ll find an audience more interested in American Football with the likes of Denzel Washington in “Remember The Titans”, Sandra Bullock in “The Blindside” or Billy Bob Thornton in “Friday Night Lights”. Rare is it to see a sports film dedicated to any other discipline, especially something about Triathlons.
While these dominating films of American Football tell the story of individual hardship and team comradely, you don’t think of Triathlons as being a group effort, more individuals striving for greatness. Triathlons are about embracing personal fears and overcoming challenges says Adams.
“I would say 95 per cent of triathletes are not interested in winning the race or even their age group. They are looking to meet or exceed some personal goal or prove to themselves that they can push themselves beyond their comfort zone”.
Adams describes Tri as about the celebration of transitioning within the sport. But this also goes beyond the swim then bike then run, “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”, said Adams.
Tri revolves around Natalie, played by Jensen Jacobs. Natalie goes about her life tucked away in a dimly lit room of a hospital as an Ultrasound technician. It isn’t until a patient confronts Natalie and inspires her to complete a Triathlon. With some mediocre support of her partner, Natalie and her friend Skyler, played by Walker Hays, start their own journey and find a world of inspiration.
“The film takes the viewer on a journey. In this case, Natalie is presented with a number of opportunities to learn and be inspired by others without seeing herself as being a source of inspiration. In the end, she finds inspiration in a cancer patient, only to see that the patient is also motivated by her”, Adams explains.
Not only is Tri an entertaining look at the inside and out of Triathlons, Jamison describes finding inspiration and setting goals are the major themes. “In this instance, the goal is to finish a triathlon, but I believe that message can be applied to any goal or task one is attempting to complete. We want people to see this film, and feel like they can go out and achieve their dreams, or help someone else achieve theirs”, he said.
Finding a way for the actor’s to channel the persona of their characters, or more to channel the emotional and physical strain from training and completing a Triathlon, Jamison put the actors through the physical strain of live Triathlons. He also filmed the events enabling him to get the actor’s true reactions of being in amongst the race.
“Although we didn’t have them run the entire thing, we still had to make sure they were well prepared to take part in the areas of the triathlon we did put them in. One thing that worked in our favor, though, is that our actors got the familiar adrenaline rush and jitters that triathletes get before races, which aided in capturing authentic emotions during those sequences”, explained Jamison.
To help capture the authentic emotion of the actors and the actual sporting events itself Director of Photography, Jendra Jarnagin, worked tirelessly to plan the events.
“We had a whole separate unit dedicated to the planning and logistics of coordinating the climactic triathlon scenes. We had five units and fourteen cameras to make sure we captured as much action as possible”, said Jamison.
But like any project, in particular filming a live sport, there were a wealth of challenges putting Tri together though Jamison says they overcame the challenges pretty well. “Through the experience of doing it, we learned so much, that I feel like we could get even more great material if we had another crack at it”, he said.
Adams explains that time is our most precious commodity. “To take someone’s time to watch a film or engage with them in any way, you should respect that they are giving you a part of their life that they can never get back”
And it was Adams goal to tell the story to not only be engaging and entertaining but “one that would take the viewer on a journey that would have them walking out of the theater smarter and more inspired than when they arrived”.
While Jamison feels another crack might give the film even more great material, the received awards could say otherwise. Adams has been deeply humbled by the awards but says the letters and messages they have received have touched him.
“One of the most touching notes I received that literally choked me up was from a woman who told us her sister wears her TRI movie tee shirt every time she goes to her chemotherapy treatment” said Adams.
What you find in Tri is not only a story of a young lady lost in her world looking for that next something. You also find a real representation of the courage and inspiration of what is perceived as a solo sport, but is greatly much more. Adams feels the message that resonated with the audience is to “step outside of yourself and follow your dreams to fruition”.
Tri is now available in Australia world wide ready to motivate and inspire you to that next goal.
Interview & Article by Jay Cook