With media platforms like YouTube and Netflix continuing to attract more viewers and content creators, consequently, there has become an increased demand for talented filmmakers who can create visually captivating pieces of art.
For Ryan Thielen, this rise in demand has coincided nicely with his lifelong passion for cinema and filmmaking.
Thielen is the Director and Executive Producer of Triglass Productions in the Twin Cities. His company is currently making videos for professional sports teams in the NFL, NBA, and NHL, but none of this would have been possible if not for Thielen’s filmmaking background.
As a young man, Thielen always had an affinity for sharing stories through video. This included creating videos for the sports teams he played on.
“I started editing at a young age. I edited all of my teams’ videos,” Thielen says.
Over the course of the next few years, Thielen then began to develop a passion for the big screen, which was highlighted by a specific movie he saw at his local movie theater.
“I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker after I went to a Martin Scorsese movie called The Aviator,” he says. “I still have that ticket. That was the moment where my whole reality melted away and I was absorbed into the universe entirely.”
After graduating high school, Thielen then enrolled at St. Cloud State University, where he majored in film studies and minored in marketing.
His four years as a Husky only further enhanced his love for cinema.
“I was all in, but no one knows what their path is because there is no set path in filmmaking, as far as how to get from point A to point B,” Thielen says, acknowledging the challenges that awaited after graduation.
After going through a number of interviews with various companies, none of which offered Thielen the opportunities he was seeking, he took the less conventional route and immediately started his own film company, the aforementioned Triglass Productions.
As expected, Triglass Productions’ infancy was littered with obstacles.
Thielen was still developing as a filmmaking talent, but he knew that to expand the company, he had to outsource his weaknesses and find a partner who was more skilled in sales and other aspects of running a business.
At that point, Thielen sought out a former high school classmate, David Vanderwarn, who also had just graduated from college.
But there was a problem with this strategy:
Vanderwarn already had a job lined up with an established company.
“It was a full-time salary. It had benefits and all that good stuff,” Thielen says of Vanderwarn’s job offer. “He wasn’t willing to jump on board because he felt it would be foolish to throw that away.”
Still, Thielen knew the type of talent that Vanderwarn possessed, and he was not ready to let someone who could vastly improve his company get away.
“With the little money I had, I promised him that I would match that salary from the start, which really meant that I had about three months to make it work,” Thielen says.
Perhaps surprisingly, Vanderwarn turned down the lucrative job offer from the established company and went to work for Thielen.
Early on, Triglass Productions navigated the competitive videography landscape by doing work for smaller clients, the idea being that this would keep them afloat until they could land bigger clients and paychecks.
Thielen says that during the first year his company continued to make ends meet through accepting smaller jobs, and then, through consistency and a stroke of good luck, Triglass Productions landed a deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
It was a major opportunity for Thielen, who admits that he never planned on becoming so involved in the sports industry.
“I had no intention of going into sports. It just happened that way because the Vikings were our first big client. From there, my filmmaking background is what set us apart, and that’s why we are who we are today,” Thielen explains.
At present, Vanderwarn handles the business component of Triglass Productions, working with clients and even taking care of the taxes. This allows Thielen to deal exclusively with editing, color grading, and other aspects of filmmaking.
“I try to stay as connected to our big projects as possible,” Thielen says, and with an impressive clientele base consisting of pro sports teams like the Golden State Warriors, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Philadelphia 76ers, it’s no wonder that Thielen is enjoying the trajectory that Triglass Productions is trending in.
“I like it because they are not corporate videos. I have a little bit more creative freedom and the niche we have carved out for ourselves is more in that storytelling direction, so it fuels my filmmaking side. That being said, I am still pursuing film.”
This is because regardless of how many notable sports entities Thielen packs into his oeuvre, he will always be the same young man who fell in love with a Martin Scorsese epic.
He says elevating Triglass Productions to the point where they are making movies in Hollywood would be the equivalent of an athlete making it to the highest level of sports, but he also recognizes that getting his brand to that level is no easy feat.
“That [Hollywood] is the end goal. That’s where I’m trying to go, but It’s a long path,” he says.
“Outside of Hollywood and filmmaking, I would also like to work on big commercials. I have developed a reel and enough experience over the years to be able to work on Nike commercials, or a similar level of advertising works. That’s also a career path that I’m exploring as well.”
In the last year, Thielen has had exploratory conversations with other companies about coming on as a director.
Nothing has been solidified yet but partnering with a proven production company could be another big break for Thielen and Triglass Productions.
“Typically, directors like myself get signed to larger production companies. This is something that only in the last year has become plausible, and some of those discussions have happened. That might be another step toward my goal, but I don’t know. It changes a lot.”
While Thielen patiently waits for the future of Triglass Productions to gradually unfold, he says that other videographers and companies have approached him hoping to glean advice.
Even though he is flattered by the outside attention, Thielen says that he is constantly reminding aspiring creatives that there is no clear direction that a filmmaker can take in order to become successful.
“The problem is that in this industry there is no defined path, but one piece of advice that I would give to people is do what you want to do,” he says.
“If you want to make films, find a way to go make films. If you want to make sports videos, find a way to go make sports videos. If you sit around all day making corporate videos or just mediocre videos, you’re not going to be able to get out of that. You are what you are, and the only way to do it is to go out and do it.”
Thielen then refers back to his time collaborating with the Minnesota Vikings, and how he designed a campaign that featured video highlights of all the players the Vikings were trying to get to the Pro Bowl.
“The Vikings didn’t really want to do that. I had to go out and make it happen. I spent a lot of my own money on the idea, which is a roundabout way of me saying if you want to do something, you just have to go out and find a way to do it. And do it your way because no one is going to come and give you that opportunity on a golden platter.”
Thielen’s boldness and creativity on that project paved the way for Triglass Productions to land other opportunities, and now, as he moves into the next stage of his career, it isn’t a stretch to say that the opportunities that await him truly are endless. QS
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