April 10, 2018 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Although “Tripped Up” takes place mostly in Europe, its ties to Cleveland—and to the CIFF—are profound. Director Laura Watilo Blake is a long-time Festival alum and former Daily editor, cinematographer Bob Reiland is the driving force behind the Festival’s “Meet the Filmmakers” and “Daily Buzz” video programs, and Competitours founder Steve Belkin is the son of CIFF board member, and Belkin Productions co-founder, Jules Belkin.
Don’t think for a second that the film was a shoo-in because of family ties, though. “Tripped Up” is an extraordinary, riveting tale about an unconventional travel agency—billed as “an ‘Amazing Race’ for regular people” by the Chicago Tribune—that takes its customers on wild, whirlwind adventures across the world. Blake and Reiland accompanied a tour group in 2015 as they explored Europe, and their adventures are captured in the resulting film.
Blake was first introduced to Belkin by his mother, Fran, in 2009, shortly after he formed Competitours, and she wrote a piece about the company for a local magazine. Both of them are obsessed with traveling—Blake has been to 101 countries, at last count, and Belkin’s “travel hacking” has taken him all over the world—and she had been considering doing a video series about extreme travelers.
“I am constantly embracing curiosity by exploring the world,” she says, “and getting to know other cultures and places. I am interested in people and their stories, so I suppose that’s why I became a journalist. As you can imagine, it can be pretty costly to follow around these world adventurers.”
Then Fran approached her again in 2015 with the idea of filming a Competitours adventure. Blake decided that it would be “the perfect vehicle for getting to know Steve, his entrepreneurial endeavors, and his unorthodox approach to travel.”
She recruited Reiland early on. “Laura reached out to me to be another set of hands, and quickly it evolved into a full-on cinematographer role,” he says.
The two had known each other for several years at that point; Blake had begun managing the CIFF Media Hub in 2005, and Reiland came on board in 2011, initially to help edit the videos she was shooting and eventually to run the video production wing.
“We worked together for a couple years,” he recalls, “and we stayed good friends. We shot some stuff outside of [the Festival] to prove that we could work well together.”
When Blake reached out to Reiland in 2015, the timing was perfect; he was preparing to make the leap to full-time freelance videography. Traveling to Europe for a 12-day filming excursion took filmmaking to an entirely new level for him, most critically teaching him how to pack, and budget, for location work.
“It was very bare-bones filmmaking,” he explains, “essentially what I could fit into a carry-on. It’s also really expensive to just walk into the closest store in another country, and say, ‘I need a terabyte.’”
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