Award-Winning Filmmaker Ed Tis Shot Rainier Beer Commercials

Walter Edward "Ed" Tis, the Emmy-winning Seattle film editor and television cameraman who shot the Rainier Beer commercials starring a bullfrog chorus and a brand-name-spouting motorcycle, faced life like the sailor he was at heart.

He saw it as an unfolding horizon to be explored for fun and profit. Awash with ideas for pranks as well as for perfectly crafted film segments, he mastered the camera as he once had mastered racing yachts and motorcycles.

When he "retired" in 1991 to become the skipper of seafood-tending vessels in the Bering Sea, spending summers working with his son, he was happy to pass his knowledge and joy to the next generation.

Mr. Tis died Sunday (Nov. 28) of lung cancer. He was 56.

"He was such a colorful person," said Linda Tis of Kirkland, his second wife, to whom he was married 27 years. "He always stopped if someone needed help. He did a lot of things and knew a lot of people."

Born in Richmond, Calif., he developed an early love for boats and football.

He graduated from high school in Sacramento, worked briefly at a television station in Sacramento while attending community college, then won a football scholarship to the University of California, Davis.

He played second-string tight end in a semi-pro football league and also played for the Canadian Football League's Ottawa Rough Riders. A rib injury ended his sports career.

Mr. Tis worked as a photographer in San Francisco, raced motorcycles and crewed on trans-Pacific yachts before being invited to join a Seattle crew traveling to the former Soviet Union to film a documentary.

He worked in Seattle as a cameraman for KIRO-TV and KING-TV from 1969 to 1975.

He earned an Emmy in 1970 for his editing and photography on a KIRO documentary that compared Seattle with Los Angeles. He won another Emmy in 1974 for the KING documentary, "Pompeii on Elliott Bay."

In the late 1970s, he had his own filmmaking agency, Filmmakers. He was hired to shoot the Rainier commercials for the Heckler Bowker ad agency.

Mr. Tis contributed ideas to many ads, but specifically came up with footage of a friend running through gears on a motorcycle to the sound of "Raaaii Nieeer Beeeer."

In 1981, when videotape became the norm for TV, Mr. Tis left the industry; he felt video was flat, said his wife.

He lived in California, ran vending machines and built cranes.

But in 1991, he returned to Seattle and the sea.

"His greatest love was the sea," his wife said. "He was only 56, but he lived two lifetimes. He didn't say no to anything."

Also surviving are his children Jason Tis and Romy Tis, both of Kirkland; Michelle Braduch and Jennifer Gonzales, both of Burns, Ore.; and Steve Tis, Vacaville, Calif.; sister, Elizabeth Sleeth, San Jose, Calif.; and six grandchildren.

Services are at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Purdy and Walters at Floral Hills, 409 Filbert Road, Lynnwood.

Donations may go to the Ed Tis Memorial Fund, c/o U.S. Bank Juanita office, 13233 100th Ave. N.E., Kirkland, WA 98034.

Carole Beers' e-mail address is: