vimeo festival + awards was created in 2010 by vimeo :: The countdown for the second edition has began. In the meantime, check our special coverage 2010 as media partner of the festival: interviews, jury, winners and films. :: welcome to inside vimeo awards
*By Risotto Negro
Ted Tremper is the director of Break-ups, the winner project of “Original Series” category selected by Vimeo Festival + Awards. The films show a couple breaking up, and the acting is based on improvisation. I fell in love with this project since the first video (Katy & Ted) and I can’t stop showing it to people. Seriously, take a look.
I was born near Seattle, Washington, but we moved to North Bend when I was 14, same town where David Lynch shot Twin Peaks. I’ve also lived in Japan, Connecticut, and now Chicago. I am on a cruise ship right now, the Norwegian Cruise Liner Star, that is traveling back and forth from LA to Miami via the Panama Canal.
I moved to Chicago to pursue a Master’s degree in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with the secret agenda of studying improv. I had always been interested in shooting film, so I decided to spend almost all my time taking classes in the Film/Video/New Media department. I started offering the older (and better) generations of improv performers to shoot their shows. I became a free cameraman/director for anyone who asked. Watching and performing improv has also taught me an amazing amount about directing actors. In the 3 years I’ve lived in Chicago I’ve seen well over a 1000 shows and probably performed in about 500.
I used to do my morning meditation practice on the bus into work. During one of my practices, I imagined what would become the first image that you see of Katy and I in the series. I had never improvised with Katy before, but I was a big fan of her work, so I told her my idea: I want us to improvise a break-up and just keep it honest. I don’t care if it’s funny or not.
My Canon 5D had arrived about a week before so I called up Bobby Richards, wonderful camera person I know, and asked if he’d like to shoot and learn how to use the 5D in the process. At that point, I didn’t have a lenses or audio equipment, but that’s a whole other story. The next week, we met in the Trump Plaza, shot for 45 minutes and we were done. I edited and posted it on my facebook profile. I began using the series as a tool to work with performers I had been admiring for the past 3 years. Luckily, outstanding performers kept saying yes and people seemed to become more and more excited by each subsequent episode.
I think in hindsight I was looking for a way to make improvisation comprehensible to people outside it, people like my family back home in Seattle. The general public’s understanding is: It’s when you guys make something up and try to be funny, right? I don’t think a lot of people realize how powerful a tool it can be for getting to really beautiful performances (that are still hopefully pretty damn funny).
The teachers I’ve had at iO, The Second City, and The Annoyance (Craig Uhlir, Susan Messing, Jim Carlson, Bill Arnett, TJ Jagadowski, Holly Laurent, Noah Gregoropolous, Norm Holly, Rich Sohn, Rebecca Sohn, Mark Sutton, Mick Napier), as well as watching performers like David Pasquesi, TJ Jagodowski, Michael Patrick O’Brien, the members of The Reckoning, Cook County Social Club, Armondo, Carl & The Passions, the girls of Virgin Daiquiri, Middle Aged Comeback, and especially 3033, have immeasurably improved my quality of life. The hardest part about being on tour is not seeing them perform several times a week.
While shooting, I’ll have the actors start by improvising 10 minute takes so they can find their characters and relationship. I’ll be keeping an eye out for moments where we might be able to dig deeper into their emotions or otherwise make notes of moments I found interesting. I’ll ask them to re-improvise certain segments. After usually an hour of those longer takes, we’ll then work to condense all of what we liked most into a four-minute-long single take.
Thus far, no episode has taken more than 3 hours to shoot, cost more than $16, or had more than 3 crew members. The Canon 5D Mark ii camera we use is remarkably versatile both in terms of its ability to shoot in low-light and remain inconspicuous. The audio equipment is small enough that it can fit into a woman’s purse, so we’re able to shoot anywhere. When I invite an actor to be in an episode I literally say: “We can do anything you want. Think of something you think is impossible, and we’ll do it.”
The actors are absolutely amazing, they are responsible for instantaneously creating all of everything you see on screen. They are completely free. I then have one of the hardest and most enjoyable jobs in the world: Taking about an hour of brilliant performance from people I love and condensing that footage into about a 4-minute episode.
Feedback has been pretty amazing. Every day I receive an email or a comment on one of the videos about either how funny or heartbreaking they found a given episode. I try my best to respond and thank every viewer for watching, but right now on this cruise ship, internet is extremely difficult to come by.
There simply isn’t another video sharing site that looks as good, has as strong of a community, or focuses on supporting content as much as Vimeo. I was on tour when I found out about the Festival, and I finished uploading the video 25 minutes before the deadline closed. Embarrassingly, I could not receive the award in New York. I had to record a video acceptance in a Starbucks because it was the only place I could get internet. From what I hear, it got some good laughs.
I am a voracious eater! I’ve actually had a 3-pound hamburger named after me at one point in my life. If I had to chose a perfect day of eating it would start at Chase’s Pancake Corral in Bellevue, Washington for breakfast, then Nuevo Leone for lunch, a wonderful Mexican restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Then Japan to Saizeria (an almost cartoonishly bad/amazing Italian chain restaurant in Japan) for an afternoon snack, then have a huge Thanksgiving dinner cooked by my dad in North Bend, Washington. If I got hungry in the middle of the night I would probably get pizza from Augustino’s in New Haven, Connecticut or Thai food from The King & I in Bellevue. Oh boy, it’s embarrassing how easy it was to think of all that food.
I am tremendously in love with my girlfriend Natalie. We usually spend our time exploring Chicago, eating too much food, laughing a whole lot and making new friends. If I could do that professionally I would quit everything else. I also enjoy performing and watching improv more than anything in the world. There is nothing like it.