A Feature Length Swimming Documentary | "I can't fly, but swimming is the next best thing."
The Water Is My Sky (exp. 2017) is Brian Tremml's directorial debut and the product of a marriage between a lifelong journey through the world of elite competitive swimming and a passion for independent film. Brian began swimming competitively at the age of 7 in his hometown of Holland, Michigan, and completed his career on the Division I level as a member of the University of Iowa Men's Swimming and Diving Team (2012). While at Iowa, Brian earned a BA in Cinema & Comparative Literature as well as completing an internship with Northland Films, a Midwest-based documentary production company (Pond Hockey, 2008). In addition to working on the film, Brian holds the position of Assistant Director of Competitive Swimming for the YMCA of Western North Carolina in Asheville, NC.
Brian Tremml and Kiel Nowakowski met at West Middle School in Holland, MI, where together they produced their first videos and discovered their passion for filmmaking. They continued creating videos and films through high school and after earning film degrees from different colleges, reconnected in 2013 to begin work on The Water Is My Sky. Brian began principal work on the film while living in Iowa City, Iowa before recruiting Kiel to join him as the project began to take shape. They have since watched the project grow to include more characters and storylines than originally anticipated. The filmmakers are now entering their fourth year of work on the film and hope to have it ready for release in early 2017. Furthermore, the filmmakers hope that the film will be an accurate portrayal of the day-to-day life of an elite competitive swimmer and highlight the positive influence that the sport has upon its athletes.
Kiel Nowakowski was born and raised in Holland, Michigan, where he first began making YouTube videos with his high school friends. This pastime turned into a passion and eventually into a career path. Kiel graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012 with a B.A. in Screen Arts and Cultures; while at Michigan he was awarded for editing at the Fall 2010 student film festival. His interest shifted to documentary filmmaking during the summer of 2011, when he interned with New Animal Productions in Brooklyn, New York. There he worked as a Production Assistant on two television documentaries: Trek Nation and 9/11: The Days After. While living in New York after graduation, he also interned with Blowback Productions and on the film Golf Alpha Yankee (exp. 2017). The Water Is My Sky will be his first feature-length film as an editor and producer.
One of USA Swimming's most unlikely superstars, Tom Wilkens rose to international acclaim following a stellar career as a walk-on at Stanford University ('98). Choosing to join the legendary Santa Clara Swim Club and handing his career over to head coach Dick Jochums and his assistant, John Bitter, Tom quickly established himself as one of the world's best swimmers in the breaststroke and individual medley events. Tom's success in the sport culminated with his qualification for the United States Olympic team for the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. He continued to swim until 2004 before retiring from the sport. Tom now lives in his hometown of Middletown, NJ with his wife and two children. Tom's story is a unique glimpse into the triumph and heartbreak that many swimmers experience over the course of a career. Now far removed from the sport, Tom is able to offer a reflective perspective on what that time in his life meant to him and how the sport shaped his life.
The fastest American swimmer in history in the men's 1500m freestyle, Connor Jaeger's rise to prominence in the international swimming community is equally as surprising as the story of Tom Wilkens--which is fitting, given that the two of them grew up in the same area of New Jersey. After quietly joining the ranks of the University of Michigan Swimming & Diving as a butterfly swimmer, Connor unexpectedly qualified for the 2012 US Olympic Team in the 1500m freestyle--and has not lost to an American swimmer in that event in a major competition ever since. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2014, Connor became a professional swimmer and has continued to train towards the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Water Is My Sky captures both the exciting opportunities enjoyed by professional swimmers as well as portraying the struggles of athletes attempting to make a living in sports relatively low in mainstream popularity.