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Fred Mortagne & Alberto Della Beffa – About skate videos, filmers and Samantha

You probably heard that Fred Mortagne aka French Fred did some okay skatevideos back when VHS was still a thing. The name Alberto Della Beffa might only be familiar to you if you know a bit about the Italian skate scene but let me tell you, he’s one of the top filmers in Europe at the moment. Together they worked on the new Antiz video. Alberto was out there filming while Fred did the edit. We asked them about how the video came together and also about skate videos in general.

What you guys are doing at the moment besides Antiz?

Alberto: I do a bit of everything at Fotta Skateboard Mag, together with the rest of the crew and I build parks. Like half of the year filming and doing this kind of stuff and half of the year building skate parks.

And what are you up to these days, Fred?

Fred: I’ve been more into my photography because I have a big exhibition in France that just opened last week. And I’m also putting out my book again because I've been wanting to do that for a long time and I was always too busy. Two days ago, I was shooting in Paris for the Raphaël Zarka installation.

How did both of you get in contact with Antiz and how did it start that you worked together on video projects?

F: Antiz is based in Lyon but actually, for a long time, I never worked with them because I was working with Cliché and they were kind of competition. But of course, I knew these guys and Julien [Bachelier] for super long. Only a couple of years ago he asked me if I would be into editing their new videos. I was super down for it because I really love editing, and I wasn’t doing it much these past few years. And then I met Alberto when he was in Lyon before going on a tour.

Alberto: It was fun because Thanos [Panou] and me were in full fan mode and asked every question we ever wanted to ask. But for me it started with Antiz when we did a trip to Lyon with our local skate shop in 2017. We met Julien and the Antiz guys and they have been our tour guide in the city. The month after they came to Italy and stayed at my place. We stayed in contact, I visited Lyon a few times and then Ludo [Ludovic Azémar], the original Antiz filmer, moved on to do other stuff so Juju asked me to join the crew. And at some point he told me that Fred is gonna edit our videos – I was stoked!

Soloskatemag antiz Fred Mortagne

Fred in the middle (left), next to Julien (right)

How did your work process come together then?

F: Well, we're not working directly together cause everything is kind of centralized at Juju. He was really the director who’s like a magnet, gathering all the elements. But we know what we have to do. I love Alberto's filming. It’s super dynamic, right into the action, in a way that I could never film. I’m better at editing and I don’t have time to be out in the streets with the guys.

A: I’m kind of the opposite of Fred, cause I like to stay super close to the action more than I enjoy editing. And I know if Fred is doing it, it will be good.

F: At first, in the editing process, I’m like, what the hell I’m gonna do? Although it’s really well organized. Julien is sending me all the footage and the music. So I get all the ingredients, and then I get in the kitchen.

"I used to be 100% on point when it comes to technique and the best quality possible. Now I don’t care anymore."

This video is 4:3 HD but not all Antiz videos have been, right?

F: Previously it was 16:9 HD.

A: It was my request because I film most of the stuff, we would have had black bars in 75% of the video.

F: At some point we were thinking to add some graphics to the bars but decided against it. The video also has some different formats and at some point I was like, ah, whatever, I don’t even need HD quality. Some stuff was a bit compressed, but then we had some effects, so it was okay. I used to be 100% on point when it comes to technique and the best quality possible. Now I don’t care anymore. It doesn’t matter because it’s all compressed on the internet. And it also gives this more raw look.

It’s not always the most expensive equipment and the slickest look that fits for skateboarding.

F: I mean, everything works, but yeah I’m glad that skateboarding never went into the fully cinematic stuff.

A: People also like the craft behind it and the crustyness. If you’re doing the craziest line in an Olympic skate park, it’s not relatable like a funky trick in a crusty park. That could be you. It’s not about that you die trying a trick but it’s about the idea, that you have.

F: We also asked the team riders for stuff they filmed with the phone on trips, because they film random shit that works pretty good in the video. For me the input from the team is is really important.

The video is the last part of a trilogy. Why a trilogy?

F: Instead of making a long video, it was the idea to make smaller videos, because that works best these days and it gives the new riders time to find their way in. Juju and the art director Marco also had the idea to link the visuals with the boarddesigns. So when you see a board you remember the video or the other way round. It’s important for Antiz to strengthen their image.

There is a lot of vintage stuff in the video, where does that come from?

F: It was given to me by Juju, which I believe was given to him by a friend who did it for a wedding or a birthday. It’s this three hours long video to pick from. There’s a lot of really good stuff I would have never found myself.

And why is the video called “Samantha”?

A: Because of a soft porn poster we found in Athens and then for every photo we shot, we were hiding it somewhere. We kept it the whole trip and decided that the next video will be called Samantha.

“Festen”, the second video in the trilogy, starts with the nollie heel from Marco Kada, which ended “Puta Calor”, but you didn’t connect the new video in this way.

F: In the first video, we kind of teased Marco’s introduction, which actually happened in the second video. In the second video is David's introduction, that then happened in the third video. So in that way there is similarity.

And right at the start of the trilogy you slammed on your head Alberto. What happened there?

A: That was the last day of tour on Cyprus. We were filming this line down this slightly downhill road, and it was these four stairs, but they become five and the extra stair just comes out of nowhere. On the third try, I was too close to the stairs and I blew up really bad. I had a star shaped wound of my head but I didn’t black out, I didn’t have a concussion. I went to the hospital and they fixed it with 15 stitches.

F: I wanted to show your slams in the video cause that shows the way you get into the action and that it gets dangerous.

I heard you’re tough Alberto and that you’re the last one in bed on tour cause you capture the footage every day.

A: I’m super scared of losing footage. But I wouldn’t say that I’m the last in bed, because the guys that go partying stay out longer.

What I also heard is, Fred, that you are super fast in the editing process.

F: No, normally I’m really slow. I’ve been editing videos for 25 years but if you put me next to a professional video editor, he will be laughing. Ali Boulala came to my place one time, saw me editing and was like: “What are you doing?” and showed me some shortcuts. I work my own way but it’s true that with these Antiz videos, I’ve been editing much faster. That’s also because all the ingredients were already gathered. I don't have to look for the music or the graphics.

How did the production of skatevideos in general change from back in the days? Is there a huge difference or did it basically stay the same?

F: I think there’s not so much difference. At some point it was changing a lot, but then we came back to the standards. I actually wish there would be a bit more difference. I think there’s room for more creativity, for more variations. But we’re humans, we like to follow the standards. And also in the industry, people don’t want to take too much risk. That’s why small companies boom in the beginning because they come with no rules and just put out stuff. All the creativity comes more from the smaller companies.

"Ali Boulala came to my place one time, saw me editing and was like: “What are you doing?” and showed me some shortcuts."

How do different budgets change videos?

F: I don’t work so much with companies, but from éS or Flip video times, of course, there’s big budget variation. But you can make a video without much money. Sometimes there’s even too much money. Most important is the dedication of everyone involved.

A: There are also way more companies then back in the days and the market is more fragmented. And like Fred said, the crazy ideas you never thought about are coming from the smaller brands or local crews. For example, I’m a big fan of Fritte [Söderström], who does the Jante videos. Nobody has ever filmed like this before. He is the king of the 16:9 fish eye. You see so many kids trying to emulate Strobeck and the Supreme mood, and they all look the same. We’ve been seeing it for years now. There's no point of keep going that way. When I see Fritte’s videos, it’s surprise after surprise and that’s the most fun to me. That is what I look for in a skateboard video.

Like you said, the last years have been dominated by Strobeck’s aesthetic, while 20 years ago it was the look you helped creating Fred. Will it always be like that? One filmer doing something new and then everybody is copying it?

F: I think everyone should do their own thing because it will be much more interesting. I always think it kind of sucks when there are big trends, because, there’s no point to do it again. One person is already doing it really well, so just do something else, which will stand out even more. Because if you just copy something, then you’re just following.

Soloskatemag antiz alberto della beffa

Alberto in the middle

But it feels like skateboarders are a bit reluctant to change sometimes because we also use old cameras, like the VX or HPX or Super 8. Are we not willing to change or too nostalgic?

A: I think we like something we can relate to. So once we see a videos we really like, we somehow try to replicate it, and for sure add something to that. If there’s this filmer you really like and you text him and he tells you the setup he uses, you want to do it the same. After seeing Romain Batard’s stuff or [Jan Maarten] Sneep filming really good HD 4:3 stuff, I wanted to try that. And it makes sense to use something that people have already tried because it takes away the testing. You don’t want to buy the wrong camera. I’m super happy I don’t have the P2 anymore. If you have the Xtreme with it, cool. But don’t ever buy that fucking thing. The camera came right in between the switch from miniDV to actual digital stuff and has the worst of both sides with those P2 cards. They’re as expensive as the whole camera and to download the footage you have to go through a program. People just think they have to use this camera and that’s also because of the industry. Cause if you film for a company, the first thing they ask is, if you have a P2 and a Xtreme? That’s what I like about working with Antiz cause Juju was fine with how I film.

F: Just quickly going back on trends, cause in some way I think they’re cool. If you think about music and there wouldn’t be trends, big movements would’ve never happened. If there was one Rock band and all the other bands would’ve done something different, Rock music never would’ve become a thing.

What have been some of the worst trends in skate videos?

A: Skinny jeans. And Trap music shouldn’t be allowed. Now it's a little less but till a couple years ago, I was using Instagram on mute because I couldn’t hear all the trap edits.

F: I don’t really have anything to point out. In a way, everything’s been important for the evolution of skateboarding. So sometimes if you have something not as good, that’s gonna lead you to another one. It’s like in life, a bad experience can lead to something positive.

Did your personal approach to skate videos, how you do them or what you want to express with them, change?

F: Well, the first thing about making a skateboard video has always been the same: After people have seen the video, they should want to go skate, that’s the main thing. If this doesn’t happen, the video sucks. But then, for me, I’ve never wanted to do the same video twice. So if I work for a company, I adapt to what they need. So my vision and my way of working and my process are evolving because I take in all these elements. So I have my general approach, but all my videos are different.

A: I wish I’d have more variation in doing my videos. It has been kind of similar in the past few years, and that’s also because I’ve mostly done smaller videos. Mostly edits for tours where I want to describe the spirit of the tour. So it’s a bit more schematic and I’m not telling the story in a weird way.

"Filmers got more important for the community, for the culture, because they are more actively doing their own stuff."

What would you say were the most important evolutionary steps in in making skateboard videos?

F: For me it was the VX 1000 with the fisheye. That’s when it really changed because the look became really good, it became dynamic. And I was always dreaming that one day everything will be digital so we don’t lose quality like with the tapes. But then with HD it became too nice and finally it’s good that we are back to something more raw.

You already mentioned filmers you like and we talked about Strobeck’s influence. It feels like filmers nowadays have a way bigger importance than 20 years ago. How do you see that?

A: There are so many different video series not related to a company, it’s just this one filmer with a crew and they do their own stuff. And filmers most of the times are the driving force to get people together to go skate and film. So maybe that crew vibe approach wasn’t there before. In that way filmers got more important for the community, for the culture, because they are more actively doing their own stuff.

F: Like you said, the filmers are a driving force and they’re really part of the team. The filmer has a lot of input and can give a lot of motivation. I was going to say, the filmer is a part of the team that’s not in the video, but Alberto actually is in the video.

I’ve seen it more than once that the filmers suggest the spots for the skaters, chose the way to film it and also suggest the trick. Sometimes I thought that certain skaters wouldn’t be that popular without their filmer, cause he’s basically the one that creates all the output.

A: There has to be a lot of trust to do good things. And filmers, most of the times are also crazy skate nerds. So they look a lot of stuff and they get good ideas from all over the world. I always come out with crazy trick ideas that I can’t do. So I ask the guys to do them and sometimes it works. It's really fun.

F: One time I was with Jaakko [Ojanen] and I had a trick idea, but I said it as a joke – and finally he did it. Skaters don’t always think about all their possibilities and abilities and you really have to give them ideas. I know there’s much more potential and it’s about finding the right ways to access that potential. It’s a collective work. If you let some skaters do what they want, some will do it perfectly while others will not reach their full potential.

A: That also happens the other way round. I’m filming a trick from a certain spot and then Thanos comes to me and says: “Albi, why are you filming from there? Come over here!”.

F: For me it was Geoff Rowley or people like him, they know what looks good. They know how to shoot photos and they understand. It’s good when they have this input. It’s like how he saw it in his head. Because if you thought about a trick for a long time, you probably also thought about how to film it.