Premium luggage and accessory maker Tumi has been associating its brand with The Perfect Journey for quite some time, where people tell personal stories about travel while showcasing its suitcases. The mix of personalities, gorgeous locations and stories matches perfectly with the travel products. Recently, the Perfect Journey campaign was extended to include a competition where 10 filmmakers were selected to tell their travel stories and how the Tumi 19 Degree suitcases were part of those adventures. All 10 short films can be viewed now on YouTube and Tumi’s dedicated web page, The 19 Degree Experience.

Minos Papas, filmmaker, writer, director and producer at Cyprian Films, New York
Minos Papas, filmmaker, writer, director and producer at Cyprian Films, New York

Minos Papas, filmmaker, writer, director and producer at Cyprian Films, New York is one of those 10 creators, and his short Perfect Journey film focused on a pair of professional dancers—Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina—as they traveled from New York City to Mexico, showing their moves at picturesque locations.

“It was sort of like a road movie,” said Papas, recounting the making of the film, which was a journey in itself that took his crew to a small fishing village in Mexico, through tiny oasis towns, to beautifully colored bus stops and even on a 15 mile stretch through a cactus forest.

When asked how he became involved with Tumi, Papas explained: “I was approached by the Tribeca Film Festival, which reached out to all its alumni filmmakers from its short film department because I had a film in Tribeca in 2013 called, A Short Film About Guns. It was a documentary about the global arms trade and the need for an arms trade treaty that won best online short in 2013.

So, they reached out to their alumni for this competition by Tumi. I worked together with my fiancée, Liz Sargent, and we sent in a proposal that featured two ballroom dancers, Denys and Antonina, who are two-time US ballroom dance champions. We were selected along with nine others to make an up-to-three-minute spot for Tumi featuring its new Tumi 19 Degree suitcase.”

When asked whether Tumi provided any instructions or directions for how the bag should be presented, Papas said, “No, they left it very open, which was great. They had already started a series of films with producers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, and they had made five or six films by the time of the competition. That provided a sort of guideline for us, but basically, the concept was that each filmmaker had to propose a personality to follow. We selected these two ballroom dancers because they tour the world, travel a lot, live out of their suitcases, and wear these amazing costumes that they transport in those suitcases, so we thought it was a perfect fit. Tumi also gave us a title, The Perfect Journey, and that is a title that is at the head of every film in the series.”

Papas further described working with Tumi. “Tumi gave us a lot of freedom,” he said. “In my experience with this project, I was afforded pretty much carte blanche to do whatever I wanted within the confines of what I had proposed and what they had approved. It was a great experience, and I think Tribeca and Tumi deserve credit for picking up filmmakers from all over the country and giving them this opportunity.”

So, how did Papas become connected with the dance couple? “The cool thing is that it was totally random,” said Papas. “When you live in New York, you’re surrounded by so many talented people. We had been forwarded an email from a friend of a friend asking if there are any filmmakers who were willing to work with these two amazing ballroom dancers. That coincided with the competition, so Liz and I met up with Denys and Antonina, went for coffee, and just hit it off.”

When describing the short film, Papas said, “I like to call it a documentary-style spot or documentary-style film. We didn’t want to showcase the suitcase in a way that was unnatural or contrived. We really did use it in a way that the dancers do and it was more about these two. I was more intrigued with this couple than I was with the suitcase, because they’re people and they’re amazing dancers. We put them in situations that aren’t typical for ballroom dancers. They tour the world and perform at the highest level at gala competitions all over the world, but we took them to a tiny fishing village in Baja, Mexico called El Sargento. There, we had them perform for school children—most of them had probably never left that village and had never seen live ballroom dancing before—and the kids just loved it.

It was very much about the dancers, bringing dance to those who have not experienced it in that way, and removing the elitism from the whole dance scene.”

With that being said, does Papas consider his Perfect Journey film a kind of commercial? “I didn’t want it to feel like a commercial,” he said, “I wanted it to feel like we were visiting a small slice of life from these two performers. Even though it does feature a commercial item, I feel that it is more of a film than a spot. I think that if someone watches it, they’ll enjoy it for that factor. It’s not really about pushing the suitcase, even though the suitcase is there.”

Papas then discussed how importance authenticity is to brands such as Tumi. “I’m excited that lots of other brands can watch this and the other nine shorts because it’s a great idea, and I think more brands should be doing it,” he said. “The less contrived it is, the better. We’ve seen certain soda and beer brands try to do things that are very contrived and it just doesn’t work. People are smart to that, and being contrived can be very insulting. So, Tumi’s approach was really spot-on—bringing real-life characters in—and I encourage everybody to go see all the films on YouTube or Tumi’s site because they are all unique and don’t feel contrived at all.

“I think more brands should take advantage of filmmakers like me and the others involved in this competition. We can bring them very interesting stories to further their online campaigns.”