A 10-year high school reunion started the chain of events that led to a critically acclaimed documentary about the 2009 Tour de France.
Jason Berry ’92 (graphic design) had been working at a windsurfing shop in Delaware in the summer and a ski shop in upstate New York in the winter. At the reunion for his Pittsford, N.Y., high school, Berry realized he needed to make a change.
“It was a cold, hard slap of reality,” Berry says. “People have real jobs.”
Two weeks later, he moved to Washington, D.C., and began working for an advertising agency in a position similar to one he had after graduating from RIT. He was promoted to art director and handled nationwide ad campaigns.
And in his free time, Berry became more serious about his childhood hobby—shooting videos of his friends who were skiers, surfers and lumberjacks. The videos allowed him to maintain a connection to his previous carefree lifestyle of skiing and windsurfing.
He showed the movies during parties at his house, and as the movies improved, the parties grew bigger.
Berry’s big break came when he accompanied one of those friends, Dave Jewett, to a lumberjack competition in Alaska being filmed by ESPN. He mentioned his hobby to the ESPN producers and they wanted to see his videos. To his surprise, he was asked to document a timber competition for ESPN two weeks later.
There was one problem, though. Berry was a graphic design major and had no formal training in video production. So he paid a recent graduate of a local college to show him how to use the editing software Final Cut Pro.
“Fast forward seven years and here I am taking movies on tour,” says Berry.
Chasing Legends is Berry’s third documentary following Off Road to Athens and 24 Solo, both award-winning films about mountain biking. For Chasing Legends, Berry wanted to go bigger and the 2009 Tour de France was the answer. He cashed in his retirement savings and partnered with a friend, Ken Bell, who took out a second mortgage on his house.
With a small $150,000 budget and a skeleton crew, Berry and his Gripped Films team struck a deal to follow the team HTC-Columbia. They paid for some footage shot by French television but the team otherwise shot 80 percent of the film, with Berry shooting 85 percent of that amount.
The self-taught Berry then had six months to produce the film, which included working on the orchestral score, editing, writing and color correction.
“I had 700 hours of footage to absorb, study, take notes and edit,” Berry says. “Usually there’s a team of people working on each aspect. In this case, I was doing everything.”
The movie premiered in California last summer and showed in select cities in England, Ireland and in the United States, including in Berry’s hometown of Pittsford and on the RIT campus.
Berry still works hard to promote the film, which despite positive reviews hasn’t made enough money to pay for the cost of production.
“He managed to create the best cycling movie ever made in a short amount of time on his own,” Jewett says. “He has no fear of taking on
Berry isn’t sure what’s next. He would like to make another film on a topic other than cycling, maybe tell a fictional story or recreate a true story. Whatever it is, if the past is any indication, Berry will do it well.
“At the end of the day if someone would say, ‘Do you regret it?’ Absolutely not. I did something big. I pulled it off.”
To get the latest information about Chasing Legends along with movie trailers, videos and photos, go to www.chasinglegends.com.