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How to become a skateboard filmer – Dennis Ludwig

Posted in: Interviews

Dennis Ludwig aka Ludi just loves skateboarding! He always knows the latest videos, spots or word in the street. He does, because he is always out there, filming. No matter if it’s in the streets of his adopted hometown Barcelona or on tour with the Titus team that he’s also managing – Ludi is always on it to capture what’s happening.

Soloskatemag dennis ludwig photo dennis scholz

Photo: Dennis Scholz

How did you start with filming?

We were a couple of friends and filmed us doing stupid things even before skating. Then we played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and then started skating and always filmed ourselves doing it. In the Rollbrettmedia forum I informed myself, but then it took me a long time to convince my parents to buy me a VX.

"I still lived on five to ten euros a day for the first few years"

When did you realize that this could become a profession?

Very late at my case. In 2009 I got my first payment for filming some tricks for a Place DVD. Then 2011 was my first real tour as a filmer. Until 2014 I did an apprenticeship as a media designer and filmed on the weekends on the side. The training was mega stressful and I thought, when this is over, I will got to Barcelona for a while. I saved up some money and then moved here. Actually I wanted to look for a job, but then people noticed that I was in Barca and had time to film. In the first half year I went on three tours and realized that maybe I didn’t have to work at all. From year to year it became more and more, but I still lived on five to ten euros a day for the first few years. I couldn’t treat myself to anything, but I had the fun of my life.

How do you live on five euros a day?

I had an insider tip, a Boccadillo shop. They had a fat tuna sandwich with salad and fries on top for two euros. That was always a whole meal. That’s how you just made ends meet. Broke life, but the sun was shining and I could go filming.

When did you earn some money?

In 2017/18 it started so that I no longer had to worry about not being able to pay the rent. Every year it got a little bit more and then I became Titus team manager early 2019.

How did you manage to get by all these years with five euros a day?

I think it was the urge for freedom, after I had been slaved so hard for three years in training. I once worked through 21 days, sometimes with 15 hours shifts. I was in my early 20s and had a lot of drive. I also tried to motivate people to come over and showed initiative.

Is that important to initiate your own projects?

I was never someone who approached companies. I’m kind of afraid of a no. But I just did my own projects for me.

You learned media design. Does an education help to work as a filmer?

It didn’t do me any good. You only know the things you need to film when you’re a skater yourself. That’s why a normal cameraman can’t say he’s going to be a skate filmer.

"As a TM I have to try to keep a reasonable budget, but at the same time pay myself fairly as a filmer."

What are the advantages and disadvantages of freelance compared to working for one company?

The advantage of permanent employment is that you know what you have on your account at the end of the month. This is the case with me as TM, but as a filmer I am still a freelancer. On Titus tours, I’m doing the role of TM, but I also work there as a freelance filmer. That saves budget, because it takes one person less. As a TM I have to try to keep a reasonable budget, but at the same time pay myself fairly as a filmer.

If you pay yourself, you probably don’t rip yourself off. But have you had bad experiences in your early days?

Spontaneously I can think of two examples. A well-known German board company once used a line of mine for a video without asking me. Then I wrote them an email that I didn’t think it was cool to use it without asking me and that I would charge them for it. They offered me a deck, but I can’t pay my rent with it. Then I wrote them again and they paid the bill. But that’s just not cool. The guy who runs the company doesn’t buy his rolls in the morning, eats them and then says that he can’t pay them. For a bigger US company I also filmed two tricks. Then I wrote to the company owner. He asked how much I want, but then never paid. When I was on tour again with the skater I filmed, I told him. Then he also wrote that I hadn’t gotten the money yet and the answer was: “Sucks for him, right.” Then the skater paid me cash out of his own pocket and sent a picture of it to the company owner. But I did not take the money from him.

What else does a filmer have to be able to do apart from filming in order to make it as a filmer?

I don’t think you don’t have to be the very best filmer to do the job. I’ve always been told that I’m a nice guy and down with everybody and that’s important to go on tour and hang out with people. If you have fun with the guys on tour, that’s important. On the other hand, you also have to have the business aspect in it. Being on point when it comes to deadlines, communication, sending out invoices. The word gets around when you’re on point, both personally and business-wise.

You started in Barcelona and you’re on tour a lot. I guess local flexibility is pretty important as a filmer.

There is a Brazilian filmer in Barca who hardly travels and still makes a living out of it because he films all the Brazilians when they come here, but for me, traveling is a main part of making videos. The more tours the better.

What equipment are you filming with right now?

I have the Panasonic AG-AC 160 and the Sony Alpha 7s Mark 2 as my second camera.

Do you need special equipment for certain brands?

You need a certain standard. Skin Philips said in an interview that he got the same camera as Sem Rubio in order to shoot for adidas in the same look. And it’s the same with filmers. As a main filmer of a company you can establish your look, but there are also companies where I have the feeling that my footy doesn’t match the look of the other footy. I make sure that the footy in the end has the look that fits the company.

So you need some knowledge about camera settings.

I just recently stepped up my game but I have never really been a tech nerd. I prefer to be the one who has the camera in his backpack, goes out, hangs around the spot, films tricks, captures. I am not Ty Evans. I always liked the in between old-school and modern.

What are the unglamorous sides of being a filmer?

Starting to capture on tour when the others are drinking beer. But then I also start drinking beer and I don’t capture that day. [laughs]