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How to become a skateboard filmer – Max Pack

Posted in: Interviews

I got to know Max as a colleague, when he started an internship in our office when we still ran Monster Skateboard Magazine. Ever since he’s been a friend but nowadays you don’t see him that often at home in Cologne cause he’s traveling quite a lot. Most of the time with the Vans squad since he is filming for the brand and is also the German teammanager.

How did it start with you?

I got my first three-chip DV camera at the age of 14 to film friends, because there was no filmer. I thought everybody could film with it, but because it was my camera, I mainly filmed in the end.

How did you get deeper into filming then?

I got myself a VX at some point and went from the village where I come from to the city where I met skaters who had smaller sponsors. Then I was invited by a company on their Barcelona tour, because I already filmed with their riders. And I really started filming when I moved to Cologne and got myself a HD camera.

"Sometimes you go from one tour to the next and you have to wash, send footy, do the bills on tour"

Would you sometimes prefer to skate more in the meantime?

Sometimes yes. [laughs] Back then it was just that I wasn’t skating well enough to get sponsored and go on tour. But I wanted to go on tour. So I just thought: Then I will become a filmer.

Are there any no-go’s?

You shouldn’t be greedy from the beginning and ask for excessive rates and per diems when you are just starting out. First you have to get a foothold and wait and see. If you stick with it and are good at it, then it will work out. But you won’t be able to live on it after half a year. Otherwise just be nice and cool with the people.

I think that’s the most important thing anyway, that there’s a good vibe.

You just have to be friends with the people you film with. If you’re working with someone on a project that you can’t get along with, it doesn’t make sense.

You also have to be willing to travel a lot or to move if you are from the village.

There are no sponsored skaters in the village, so you have to move. In Germany mainly to Berlin, Cologne, Stuttgart. And there you have to be good so that the skaters want to film with you.

As a filmmaker you need the skaters to become known, but at the same time certain crews only get known because a special filmmaker is there. What qualities do you need beyond filming to make your projects work?

It’s good if you know many spots and many people in other cities. You should be patient and not constantly say: Last try. And you should suggest tricks to the skaters.

Some filmmakers are almost like coaches anyway. You think, damn this skater is creative and in the end the trick ideas all came from the filmer.

Sometimes yeah. There are skaters who do a lot of what the filmer suggests but there are also others who have their own vision and suggest how to film it even better.

When did you realize that this could become a profession?

I thought it would happen when I moved to Cologne and filmed with Willow and Vladik [Scholz]. That’s when I got my first money, but the point when I could make a living from it was only three years ago when I joined Vans.

Would you recommend filming for a brand or is freelance better?

Most companies don’t have any permanent filmers. If you do get a job like this, you can always go on tour and earn money regularly. But you can’t really choose that.

Have you ever been ripped off by companies?

I once filmed a video that I never got paid for. At the beginning I did a three-week tour for little money and at the end I found out that the other filmer got 20 times as much. But I don’t regret it, the tour was awesome. I wouldn’t have dared to ask for more even then, because I thought they would just ask the next filmmaker. It depends on what you want. Money or good times on tour – and I always wanted to be on tour.

What are the negative sides of being a filmmaker?

The only thing is when I pick an angle that is far away from the others, the trick takes forever and I see the rest of the crew sitting together and laughing. Then I think I’d rather be over there now, but when I go over, the angle sucks. [laughs]

"You just have to be even more drunk than the skaters"

Besides filming and editing, what else do you have to do if you are a professional filmmaker?

Writing bills, doing taxes – I let that slip once in a while... It’s best to come up with an idea and suggest a tour, find the spots for it. And either the company organizes the trip or you get the money and have to book everything.

As a filmmaker, you quickly get into the role of a team manager, so that everyone on tour can rely on the filmmaker to take care of everything.

Yes, but you simply must not do that. You just have to be even more drunk than the skaters. [laughs]

With which camera do you film and do you need certain equipment if you want to film for certain brands?

I film with the HPX-170 and an Extreme Fisheye. I also have a Super 8 camera and an AGHC 160 and a VX1000, but I only film with the HPX. You definitely need certain cameras for certain companies. With a VX you can’t really add anything to a big video these days, because everything is HD.

What is the difference between those who do it as a profession and those who film as a hobby?

For me there is none. Those who only go out with their friends are often even more motivated than those who get paid. Because they are motivated to get there, to get paid, and because they just want to go out with their friends and present them in the best possible way.

Which jobs are more lucrative than others?

The best paid jobs are big contests with big main sponsors, energy drinks. This is the thing you want to do the least, but it pays the best.

How many days a year are you now on the road as a filmer?

I think I was traveling more than half the year last year, but when I’m in Cologne, I film here as well. You have to be flexible. Sometimes you go from one tour to the next and you have to do laundry, send footy, or do the bills on tour. You have to be at home on tour.