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Ready for a Big Break

duo brings Ultimate Frisbee passion to screen with web series

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by Lindsey Quinnies

BREAK IT DOWN FOR ME, FELLAS. Ultimate Frisbee afficionados Chris Schasse, left, and James Wagner are the creative team behind The Break Side, a web series about their favorite sport.
BREAK IT DOWN FOR ME, FELLAS. Ultimate Frisbee afficionados Chris Schasse, left, and James Wagner are the creative team behind The Break Side, a web series about their favorite sport.

Back in June, we shared a short story about two locals, UW-Eau Claire student Chris Schasse and his friend and UWEC alum, James Wagner, who were taking off to spend their summer vacation traveling the western U.S. filming a documentary about the subculture adjoining their favorite unconventional sport: Ultimate Frisbee. Chris and James have returned from their journey and are ready to debut the first episode of their documentary series, The Break Side.

The duo play Ultimate Frisbee competitively and set out not only to focus on the sport but also to truly profile players and some of the interesting stories that don’t necessarily happen during the game. The idea was sparked the way many good ideas are: over a scotch and a cigar on Chris’ front porch. After agreeing on an extended road trip, they also agreed that perhaps it should also serve a purpose. The idea eventually morphed into the basics of The Break Side, a title that lends itself to Chris’ and James’ circumstances, which James explains, “In Ultimate, the break side is the side of the field that a defense tries to prevent the offense from throwing to. The defense attempts to force the offense in one direction. The Break Side represents our fighting that force. By me forgoing my full-time job and Schasse forgoing his summer internship, we’re attempting to do something different in life, instead of being forced into the conventional norms.”

“I can’t tell you how fun it’s been to relive the trip through reading the journal I kept and watching the film we took. I hope that’s what people see when they watch the episodes.”
– James Wagner on The Break Side, the Web documentary series he co-created about Ultimate Frisbee

After reaching their $2,000 Kickstarter.com fundraising goal, filming began in early March and the trip began on June 11 with the pair returning in late August. In that time, Chris and James covered Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and Iowa. Since their goal was to profile the people of the Ultimate community around the country, they would arrive in a new city, try to find a Facebook, Google, or Yahoo group or anything to connect with the Ultimate community there and reach out to the players – trying to find someone with a cool hobby, passion, or story to tell. Aside from a few family members, they didn’t know anyone they stayed with or spent time with throughout the summer, but they still keep in touch with many of their new friends. Although they seemed to enjoy pretty much every aspect of their journey (for good reason), James highlights his favorite memory from putting The Break Side together: “One of the last nights of our trip, Schasse and I were sitting on the roof of an abandoned barn, drinking beer and talking about the summer. To our left was an amazing sunset, to our right a full moon was rising, and straight in front of us the sky streaked with lightning. It was like everything that we could have wanted to see, we were seeing in that moment. That’s how the whole summer was: Everything we could have hoped for, we got to see.” Schasse adds that the episodes’ entertaining and engaging attitude allows the view to feel the “energy, acceptance, and passion” of the people they met.

The Break Side isn’t your typical documentary. For starters, it was filmed in a series of episodes versus one long film. Chris describes the filming style as “inspiration-induced control chaos” – basically meaning he doesn’t like to have anything too planned in advance, for the sake of being inspired by the people and environment he is in at the time. “I work best when I step back and orchestrate the people and the environment around me, instead of trying to actually create something that I dreamed up myself,” he adds. “I find the people around me and their ideas to be much more fascinating than my own – and I often try to direct those ideas rather than using my own. It takes more work, but I feel the result is well worth it.”

This filming style is precisely what led to the decision to film episodes instead of one documentary. James says the trip was “way too chaotic” for that style and that although some themes emerge, this style just made more sense to them. One of the biggest differences between The Break Side and many documentaries is that the creators work themselves into the episodes.

Since their filming methods changed as they went, every episode will look different than the last. Chris and James hope people just enjoy each episode as fun and unique and “that they see all the experiences that can be had through travel and networking.” They say they are just two regular guys who decided to have some fun for a summer, and chose to film it and show it to anyone who wants to watch. Their goal wasn’t to produce the perfect documentary film, but to enjoy themselves and have others enjoy what they made.

“Just do what you love and keep a record of doing it,” James says. “I can’t tell you how fun it’s been to relive the trip through reading the journal I kept and watching the film we took. I hope that’s what people see when they watch the episodes – that we were less concerned about making them look great and more concerned about just having fun with it.”

The series will premiere with the first four episodes being shown at the Woodland Theatre in Davies Center at UW-Eau Claire at 7pm Jan 28. These episodes will also be immediately available at www.thebreakside.com. Future episodes will air online each Tuesdays at 7pm.

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