The Water is My Sky

St. Louis, Missouri | Film Feature

Documentary, Sport

Brian Tremml

1 Campaigns | Missouri, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $7,940 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

116 supporters | followers

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THE WATER IS MY SKY is a feature length documentary that shares the experiences of elite competitive swimmers through the stories of two individuals from the same hometown, competing a decade apart, both chasing their dream of becoming the best swimmer in the world.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

The water does not discriminate race, gender, religion or class and all have equal opportunity for success. Our story highlights an underserved sport that promotes diversity like few others can and aims to promote inclusion through its focus on multiple characters from varying backgrounds.

The Story

Every year thousands of elite competitive swimmers isolate themselves from the outside world beneath the surface of cold, blue water, training for hours on end preparing for a single race whose outcome can singlehandedly label their entire season a success or failure. They repeat this demanding cycle year after year, surrendering their lives in hopes of experiencing this elusive perfect race. Yet long after their days of competition are complete, all that remains is an unbreakable bond to the water, which over time becomes a second home to them. THE WATER IS MY SKY is a feature length documentary that shares the experiences of elite competitive swimmers through the stories of two individuals from the same hometown, competing a decade apart, both chasing their dream of becoming the best swimmer in the world.



In the span of a decade Middletown, New Jersey, produces two Olympians, both undersized athletic superstars and both in the sport of swimming. Tom Wilkens and Connor Jaeger each make significant improvements late in their careers, which propel them to the top of America’s swimming rankings as they prepare to graduate from college. By pursuing careers as post-collegiate professional swimmers, both encounter the struggles of reaching the pinnacle of success in a sport outside of the mainstream landscape. Rather than chasing fame or fortune, Jaeger and Wilkens revel in the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world and push the limits of their potential.


(left: Connor Jaeger; right: Tom Wilkens)


The film’s narrative unfolds through two storylines, weaving through the past and present: Wilkens, long since retired and now coaching his son’s YMCA team reflects on his career and how it continues to shape his adult life, and Jaeger, a current professional, attempts to qualify for a second Olympic Games while enrolling in graduate school with eyes on a life after swimming. We hear from each character as they describe and encounter both the positives and negatives of a life devoted to swimming, a sport built around monotonous training that builds to one meaningful international competition every four years. The film mirrors the experiences of swimmers from around the world, as we bear witness to the pure joy of personal victories, the crushing pains of defeat, and the shared love of the water that is universal to the sport.



THE WATER IS MY SKY concludes not at the Olympics, but in the aftermath, once the sport has disappeared from headlines, and times, places and records that once seemed important have all been forgotten. What endures is the water, the singular component bonding all swimmers to one another.


(left: editor/writer Kiel Nowakowski; right: director/producer Brian Tremml)



From the first time I picked up a camera and learned how to edit clips together on iMovie, I have wanted to produce a film that accurately depicts the journey of the elite competitive swimmer as a way of giving back to the sport that has provided so much to me. 


As a former swimmer and current coach, I feel strongly that swimming offers many stories that celebrate the best and purest parts of what makes sports important in today’s culture. Swimming is a brutal, demanding, and unforgiving sport that prepares its athletes for success in adulthood like few others can. 


In choosing to highlight Tom Wilkens and Connor Jaeger, we have crafted a narrative encompassing several elements common to the everyday, year-round swimmer. In fact, I see certain parts of myself within both of them, and this will be my hope for all swimmers who see the film.


From the outset, I did not want to highlight the sport’s superstars, for I feared that framing a film around individuals with excess amounts of talent would end up as a celebration of superior genetics. Instead, I wanted to find athletes both successful and relatable. By using their stories as a metaphor for thousands of other swimmers encountering similar challenges and difficulties, we have created a film representative of both our characters and the sport itself. Through our film, viewers will gain a better understanding of the individuals who decide to become swimmers and appreciate what the sport teaches them on a broad scale.



With your help, we are seeking to secure enough funding to carry us through the final phase of our production journey. We are done capturing footage from our character's respective stories and the film has been edited into a rough cut.


Upon reviewing this cut, we felt a burning need to plan and execute one scripted shoot with the sole focus on capturing the most beatiful moving images of swimming possible. These images will be used throughout the film as ellipses as we transition between storylines and serve as an underlying metaphor for our grand theme which is focused on the sport itself and the connection between swimmers and the water.


With this shoot completed, we will be able to turn our rough cut into a final cut and fully move forward into post production with eyes on a forthcoming release!



Given the current climate of doping, paying amateur athletes and sexual assualt scandals running rampant through the world of athletics, I feel that now more than ever our film is pivotal to provide a Case for Optimism by highlighting all that is positive about the sport of swimming. It is necessary to reassure audiences that hard work and dedication still mean something and that not all segments of sport have been tainted. 


Please consider joining our team so that we may bring this inspirational story to life!


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Underwater Camera & Housing & Lights

Costs $3,500

This is the total amount it will cost to rent the necessary equipment for our scripted shoot

Underwater Cinematographers

Costs $2,500

This cost will be compensation for the cinematographers who will work the scripted underwater shoot

About This Team


Brian Tremml (Director & Producer)

THE WATER IS MY SKY is Brian Tremml’s directorial debut and is 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.


While at Iowa, Brian served as Production Assistant for Northland Film’s 2013 film GOLD FEVER, and immediately began pre-production for THE WATER IS MY SKY upon graduation.


Kiel Nowakowski (Editor, Producer & Writer):

Kiel graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012 with a degree 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.


Tommy Haines (Producer/co-Editor)

Tommy Haines has been producing documentaries for the past decade and has screened his films at festivals such as AFI Docs, Doc NYC and International Film Festival Rotterdam. His latest film, 2017’s SAVING BRINTON screened at more than twenty festivals throughout the year and is slated for both theatrical and broadcast runs in 2018.


Haines’ debut feature, POND HOCKEY, chronicles rink rats in their return to outdoor ice and has been dubbed “the best hockey movie ever” by ESPN. The film has been broadcast to over 2 million viewers in North America on PBS and the NHL Network.


He has also directed Northland Films’ FORGOTTEN MIRACLE, GOLD FEVER and HUSKER SAND, while contributing to AJ Schnack’s documentary series MIDTERMS.


Will & Brooke Blair (Original Score)

Brothers Brooke and Will Blair are accomplished composers for film, television, web and public installations. As long term collaborators with director Jeremy Saulnier, the brothers scored his first feature, Slamdance 2007 Audience Winner MURDER PARTY, followed by the Sundance, Cannes, ITFF favorite BLUE RUIN, gaining them a Public Choice Nomination for the World Soundtrack Awards in Belgium, and an inclusion in ASCAP’s Composer Spotlight at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The Blairs returned to Sundance in 2016 with both Saulnier’s follow up thriller, GREEN ROOM, starring Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin, and I AM YUP’IK, a short documentary exploring a vibrant basketball culture in rural Alaska. The brothers have continued to balance their work with tense thrillers such as Joel Kinnamon led EDGE of WINTER and the stark black and white drama LIVE CARGO, with feature documentaries including a Jon Brion inspired score for MAGICIANS: LIFE IN THE IMPOSSIBLE and a sting-heavy accompaniment for director Don Argott’s BATMAN AND BILL to be released by Hulu in 2017.


Spencer Gillis (co-Director of Photography)

With his 2013 short film, GUN, Spencer marked his directorial debut by premiering in competition at the Sundance Film Festival. GUN screened at over fifteen festivals worldwide earning the Grand Jury Prize at the Atlanta Film Festival along with Best Actor and Best Narrative at Hollyshorts Film Festival. His latest short film SWEEP (2015) premiered at the prestigious Aspen Shortsfest and went on to play at thirteen festivals.


As a co-founder of 2.35, Spencer has produced award winning narrative and documentary short films as well ass directed work for VICE media. He has also screened his work and lectured to film students at colleges around the country like Cornell, Denison and Florida Atlantic University.


Spencer’s professional background includes experience as a camera assistant spanning more than twenty feature films including SHAME, BLUE VALENTINE and OUR IDIOT BROTHER.


In 2012, Spencer transitioned professionally to camera operating. His work illustrates a wide range of shooting styles: reality television shows for DISCOVERY, TLC, and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, webisodes for 30 ROCK, and more recently on THE LEFTOVERS, THE GET DOWN and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.


Elias Koch (co-Director of Photography)

Elias Koch is a filmmaker living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Originally from Switzerland, he joined California-based Go Project Films in 2007. There he helped create several short documentaries behind the camera and in the edit, among them LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH, CELERITAS and THE OCEAN INSIDE.


In 2013, Elias created his directorial debut, SHAPED BY HAND, a short doc about a Canadian farmer preserving a way of life from a bygone age. That same year, Elias went freelance to diversify his cinematography and editing styles. 2016’s AT THIS TABLE marks a return to Elias’ roots of filmmaking: the telling of stories about people with their own unique expression of what it means to be alive.

Current Team