#LPTRendsFilm: Interview w/Travis Andrade. An online database and mobile app to experience histories greatest…writer Kathryn Mattingly takes you a journey of dreams, clouds, and talent as she introduces you to a filmmaker we know you’ll hear more of, and just one more example of innovation and creative intelligence at work in today’s technological wonderland._______________________
“What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.”
Recently I went to the CloudBiography website looking for information on Ghandi and there it was – at least all the important stuff. For my purposes that would be the highlights of who he was and what he did, and when he did it… rather than the nitty-gritty details of his every angst from birth to death.
You might say the video on CloudBiography kept my head out of the clouds – where daydreaming happens if bored to death by pointless details. The short films are stimulating, interesting and a far cry from high school history class! No monotone voice to deal with either. It’s a pleasant accented gentlemen you can easily envision sitting beside on a hot day while sporting khakis and leaning against some ancient stone wall, pondering the mysteries of life. Or should I say pondering the mysterious of those who lived life so beautifully out-of-the-box?
“All of these historical figures, for better or worse, changed the world.”
Travis Andrade and his masterful team founded this online database, comprised of short videos on approximately 80 worthy historical figures so far. They plan to have hundreds within the year. You can find these informative clips on the well-known greats at: http://www.cloudbiography.com/
Everyone from Beethoven to Karl Marx and the Wright Brothers are there. I learned more from these ‘video cliff notes’ (as Travis fondly calls them) than I ever did in school. Travis and his team successfully raised funds through Kickstarter.com (an online fundraising platform for entrepreneurs) to build a mobile app for their site. Because of this app, Travis and his team have reached several hundred thousand people in over 150 countries between their website, blog and YouTube channel Cloud Bio.
I recently asked Travis some questions about the past that formed him, the present that drives him – and the future he’s planning.
I know that you’re originally from the Bay area, but where else have you lived and where are you presently located?
I live in Brooklyn, NY. At 13 years old my family moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Memphis, Tennessee. I attended High School in Memphis and graduated from Middle Tennessee State University, which is located outside of Nashville.
When were you first interested in history?
I think my interest in history evolved as a byproduct of diving into countless period films and documentaries. I enjoy the experience of witnessing character drama that unfolds as a result of any cultural implications that may serve as story anchors. I find this both in fiction and nonfiction. Even when these stories are of some ancient or medieval culture, the drama still manages to feel fresh and real.
Who are your team for the CloudBiographies website and how did you meet them?
Val is one member of our team whom I met in film school. She’s a filmmaker and web designer. I had the opportunity to make a short film and during post-production in Rome I taught English, both privately and in a few elementary and middle schools. That experience led me to become friends with a married couple who are both teachers. Tim is originally from England and his wife Anne is from New Zealand. About 9 months after moving to NYC, I contacted them to see if they were interested in working with me on a website that hosted short video biographies of historical figures. They both live in New Zealand now, but fortunately we’re still able to work quite well together. We speak so frequently through Skype and email that I sometimes forget they’re thousands of miles away.
What inspired you to research, write and edit short video biographies of historical figures?
I’ve always liked to read biographies of historical figures. Sometimes I had trouble finding a reliable source for this information that was visual and relatively consistent. I wanted the bullet points, the “cliff notes.”
I decided to create a place where people could go to watch a short video of a historical figure that would more or less be a highlight reel of their accomplishments and overall influence. I wanted to keep the videos simple and succinct.
CloudBiography.com is a jump off point and perhaps our site can help people understand who and what they’re looking for.
Are you planning on doing more ‘video cliff notes’ or do you have other interests in mind to pursue?
My real pursuit in life is filmmaking. In LA I worked mainly in the camera department for film and television. I wrote and directed a short film, which shot in Tuscany, Italy in 2010. “Viola” went on to win the Rome Independent film festival. It also played at the Manhattan Film Festival here in New York as well as a few smaller festivals. Here’s the IMDB link http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734564/
I did watch a clip from your film and thought that it was very well done – suspenseful, dramatic, really perfectly timed and artistically directed. When did you know filmmaking in general was the line of work you wished to pursue?
My first job was at a movie theater in Collierville, TN when I was 15 or 16. I worked there part-time for roughly 4 years. That experience had an enormous impact on me. Then I worked at a production company in Nashville while in college. I met a Director of Photography on a music video shoot who was working on some big projects. He was an LA guy who had this unapologetic swagger about him. We were on lunch and he said to me, “So what do you wanna do in film dude? Do you wanna shoot?” (Shoot, meaning be a DP.)
My response was about how I like cameras, but I’m really interested in screenwriting and directing. He kind of smirked at me and finished his lunch. What I didn’t realize at the time, as the words were falling out of my mouth, was that a huge DP was extending his hand and I smacked it away by telling him I wanted the other guy’s job. I felt deflated later when I saw how well he directed his camera crew, how loyal they were to him and how they broke their necks to create the scene he and the director had envisioned.
This and many other experiences all sort of culminated in a decision to go to film school.
Researching and writing about historical figures is a lot different than writing a screenplay. What possessed you to tackle the screenplay for Viola?
Funny enough, I graduated from college with a degree in Journalism, but decided to study cinematography in film school. I didn’t really get into screenwriting until later. There was a SAG strike and a WGA strike when I got out of school. The first few gigs I had were in reality television because the shows I was on were non-union. The technical experience was great, but I was coming home a little unsatisfied. An early draft of my first script was almost entirely written in the early hours of the morning, after I got home from the set.
Do you plan to write more screenplays?
I’ve written scripts for others in the past, but have at least two of my own that I hope to make someday. Screenwriting is essential for absolutely any young director. At the studio level the jobs are often separated. In indy filmmaking it’s crucial to have a hand in creating the characters and their respective paths. It will only help you to realize those characters as you communicate the story to producers, actors, the director of photography, the production designer and other essential crew personnel.
What were your biggest challenges filming your first movie?
With any film the biggest challenges will always be time and money, regardless of scope. We certainly struggled with both of those things.
Did winning the award for your short film open the door for any future opportunities?
To some extent, yes. But I can assure you that the experience itself was far more valuable.
What will you do differently based on what you learned filming Viola?
There are probably too many things to list… but next time I’ll try to relax and have a little more fun!
What are your future goals with movie making?
I’m interested in both feature film and documentary film. My next immediate project will be in the fall. I’ll be shooting a documentary in Burma/Myanmar. We’re planning to begin in a little border town called Mae Sot, in Thailand – and will then head west.
The documentary will focus on the youth of Burma and how they perceive their world to be changing as the National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, struggles to instill democracy in Burma. This change, however slow and painful, is happening organically. Our goal is to take a brief look at the generation that will make that change possible. We’ll be there to observe and document during this critically significant time.
Did you have any especially inspiring teachers or family members who helped shape who you are today as a person?
My greatest teachers are my experiences. But that goes back to both of my parents who gave me every opportunity and always insisted that I dream big.
Travis is a perfect example of how dreaming big can turn into successful achievements. You can find CloudBiographies at: www.CloudBiography.com and on facebook: www.Facebook.com/cloudbio or at twitter: www.Twitter.com/cloudbiography. A clip from the award winning film Viola can be viewed at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734564/.