Screenwriter and producer Theodore’ Ted’ Logan III speaks about TRI, which screens at this week’s Boston International Film Festival.
Is this your first screenplay?
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.
Where did the interest in writing come from?
I have always been interested in telling stories in both written form and especially through film. I remember making my first movies back in the mid-1970s with an 8mm camera. I was making animated cartoons when I was in 4th grade.
Though I had always wanted to produce movies, my desire to be Captain Kirk led me to a track to become an astronaut which is why I got my degree in Mechanical Engineering. Ultimately, I wanted to design and fly in my own aircraft. Although I did become a private pilot and rocket scientist, I did forgo my desire to go to space and run a group of engineering companies that support the missile defence program for the US and UK navies. I literally worked on the “Star Wars” program when I was a student at Rice University. In retrospect, I guess I really wanted to be more like Tony Stark, the real Iron Man.
My passion for story telling inspired me co-create the Stan Lee Foundation which is a public charity committed to literacy, education and the arts. Stan Lee is perhaps the greatest storyteller of our generation and had a tremendous influence on me.
So to TRI. When did this journey start for you, Ted?
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.
In April 2011, I found an 8 week program for triathlon training on the internet and did it all in a fitness center. I was going to do my own private triathlon in the gym and not tell anyone. Just by coincidence, I found there was a mini triathlon that happened to take place on the same weekend my training program ended, so I signed up. I was a pretty good recreational swimmer, but I was terrified at the prospected of a 250 yard swim with a bunch of triathletes, followed by a 4 mile bike and 1.5 mile run. In fact, I didn’t even purchase a bike until the day before the race. I remember going to my local bike shop and asking the salesman to show me his cheapest bike. The guy asked me, “When’s your race?’ I said, “Tomorrow!”
After completing my first triathlon I was hooked, so I went on line and looked for another race. I saw the ad for the Nations Triathlon and when I went to sign up, it was full but you could get in through a program called “Team in Training” (TNT). TNT is a program that is organized 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. Also, TNT had a very well structured training program that was developed under the supervision of 6 Time Ironman World Champion, Dave Scott.
After doing four races with TNT, and serving as mentor the last season, I joined the newly established T3 Honu Multisport Team which was comprised mostly of TNT alumni.
It was from my experiences with TNT and T3 Honu that the idea of TRI was born. My time with both clubs exposed me to some of the most inspirational and remarkable people I had ever met. From health care providers to cancer survivors and in some cases, people battling the disease while training for a triathlon. Everyone brought a unique journey to the group.
Since my first mini tri, I have completed dozens of longer races including my first Ironman in Lake Placid in 2013 and my second Ironman Wisconsin in 2014. I am currently training for my third that I will do in Chattanooga later this year. I also became a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.
TRI started out as a “fun passion project” that I was going to do with my friend and attorney, Tara Gorman. She and I were already working on a couple of other big budget films, and TRI started out as a production that would get us warmed up for the others.
That was a gross underestimation! This film definitely took over my life for the past year. I wrote the outline for the film and the initial treatment, then collaborated with a more experienced writer, Monica Lee Bellais, to complete a story. I then worked with Monica on a draft of the initial screenplay. We combined my experience in triathlon with her personal experience as a cancer survivor.
One of the mentors we were fortunate to have on our team was Russell Williams II. Russell is not only a celebrated professor at American University, he is also the first African American to win multiple Academy Awards, one for Glory and the other for Field of Dreams. I asked Russell for a few suggestions for a Director and he introduced me to Jai Jamison.
Jai had not yet done a feature film, but had demonstrated a true gift for story-telling in movies. He and I definitely hit it off from the first meeting. He was candid on what he liked and did not like about the initial script, and made a number of suggestions. As a leader in a collaborative project such as film making, I felt it was important to have an open mind to a different perspective. In the end, I hired Jai to not only be the Director, but also hired him to do a complete rewrite of the script and redirected the focus from cancer survival back to triathlon as I had in my very first outline.
And why this particular story?
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.
Did the screenplay take a while to write or did it just pour out of you?
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 while we were shooting and took another 2 months.
It would not say it poured out of any of us. This was truly a collaborative effort.
Were you familiar with the subject or did you have to learn about triathlons?
I was intimately familiar with the subject. Many of the mishaps that occur during the training a 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.
You produced the movie through your own company, is that right?
Yes, I am responsible for gathering the resources for the film and took responsibility as the Producer.
Did you have investors fighting for a bigger name star at any stage?
It is always nice to have actors who will bring an immediate audience, but we focused our efforts on the story. We have a few award winning actors, like Tim Reid, who certainly bring a lot of credibility to our team.
What’s the plan for the movie – I see it’s playing at festivals?
The plan is to show the film in select theaters in North America as a start, but we are looking for broader distribution world-wide. We are currently scheduled to screen in over 15 theaters that are near triathlons or endurance race events. We expect to be in over 100 theaters by the end of the summer.
We have already received a number of proposals from North American and international distributors and will make the final decision after the first festivals.
After the theatrical run, we will be selling the film digitally and expect cable, video on demand and television later this year or early next year.