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How to become a skateboard filmer – Romain Batard

Posted in: Interviews

We once posted a video in which only spots built by one architect were skated. Just a few minutes later Romain sent a dm with other spots the architect had designed and even footage from some of the spots. A bit later he then came up with the “HD VX“ tutorial where he describes how you can fake a VX look with a HD camera. By these examples you can see, that the man behind the Giddy series is not just a good filmer, but he also has tons of knowledge.

Photo clement harpillard romainbatard filming lilian fev for giddy 11

Photo: Clément Harpillard

How did everything start for you?

I didn’t skate as well as my friends so I started filming at spots I couldn’t skate. But I don’t think I followed a typical route because I’ve been filming for more than ten years before I got the first jobs. It happened when I moved to Paris. I already knew the people I’m working for now but since I was living somewhere else they didn’t think of me for jobs. Once I was there, things evolved. But today I think it works this way: you have to live in a big city and just hang out and film with the cool guys.

Do you have other jobs besides filming?

Before filming became a job I worked at a video agency and I still mix between skateboard filming and a “real” job at agencies. In skateboarding I usually get contacted to work as kind of a director and at agencies I’m just the guy for special fx or to clean shots.

You never thought about just living off of filming?

No, because filming skateboarding can disapear for you pretty quickly. And it keeps you grounded to see how boring a 9 to 5 job can be. So now I split my times between agency work and skateboard filming. I’m also the main skate filmer for Vans France and CarharttWIP but I get payed by projects instead of monthly, which I like better cause that allows me to work for other brands on the side.

"I’ve been filming for more than ten years before I got the first jobs"

When was the point that you realized that you could earn money with filming?

When I moved to Paris, people started skating with me and one day I got asked if I could film something for a brand. It came naturally. But you can’t just film. You also have to be critical about the stuff you do. If you’re not hard on yourself, you won’t get better. Years ago with a few filmers we used to send our edits to each others to get feedback. The idea was not to be nice or sugarcoat things but to give an honest opinion. That sometimes was harsh but it helps getting better. Still I’m not happy with most of the things I do but never being satisfied with your work makes you better. It’s important to have your own projects where you can try stuff, like the Giddy series for me. But sometimes skaters are a bit hesitant cause they’re scared that they could look like a kook being in experimental projects. You just have to be persuasive. For Giddy #10 I filmed vertical with the P2 turned sideways. It’s just a tiny thing but at that time I think it wasn’t done before.

What are some negative aspects of being a skateboard filmer?

Trips can be hard for your body and also mentally. Sometimes you film ten guys from 9am to 11pm for more than two weeks. You never get to rest because there’s always one guy trying a trick. And you always have to be concentrated cause you don’t want to miss the trick after two hours of commitment from the skater. When you come home you still have to capture the clips, review them, make a timeline. And if you’re not on a trip you always have to be available. Any day you’re not out filming, there are at least two guys who will be free to film with the skaters you’re usually with.

Are there some unwritten rules in the skatebusiness?

Just be nice with everyone. Sometimes working with brands can be a bit hard cause they have their opinion about your edit. If you edit your personal project, you don’t care about music rights; but with brands you can’t just use whatever and they don’t have big budgets for this purpose so it’s good to know some underground or less known music.

"Still I’m not happy with most of the things I do but never being satisfied with your work makes you better."

Are there other talents, like knowing good music, you need to have besides just being good at filming?

You need the skatevideo knowledge to not use the same song as in a classic part. You should be interested in music, graphic design, movies. And you need to speak English. The more languages you know, the better. Also when I film, I always have the preview ready at night. I know that this got me some jobs.

Did you study?

I learned everything by myself thanks to the internet. There are many tutorials on YouTube. I learned a lot from this forum called skateperception that is now dead. But the technical aspect of video is not the only thing: practice makes perfect.

Do you need special equipment when you film for brands?

Most of the brands want to stick with the standards. These days it’s either the VX1000 with the MK1 fisheye or any Panasonic P2 with the xtreme fisheye. Both of those fisheyes are not produced anymore and got really expensive so there will be a new standard at some point. I just hope it will be a tiny camera with a tiny fisheye so we don’t break our backs anymore.

With which equipment are you filming?

Mostly with VX1000 and P2 for brands but for my own projects I found a way to put the MK1 on a tiny HD camera, so I am gonna use that.

Did you ever get ripped of by a company?

No, because I chose who I work for. If I don’t know the people and it feels sketchy I won’t accept the project. I’ve been doing some stuff outside of skating but that came through friends. But if a luxury brand is asking to film for them it can be sketchy for your own image. It can come out good but it’s like dancing on the thin line with those companies.

It’s not a bad thing to work outside of skateboarding cause you won’t be able to be a skate filmer forever.

Filming is more demanding on your body than taking photos for example. Some filmers end up having back pain and not being able to film for three days in a row. I don’t see anyone still doing that in their 50’s, so you need to prepare your future.

Anything we didn’t talk about so far?

I’d say once you “made it”, don’t be a dickhead and be like: “I won’t tell you my secrets”. I heard this so many times when I wanted to learn. Just because you tell one setting to another filmer doesn’t mean you’ll lose your job. You get it mostly from being friends with the right people anyway. And one important thing: if you’re a skate filmer, it must come from your passion. If you have it, you’ll have a great time with your friends. And it’s important not to forget the ones you started with. If you get some free stuff, share it with them.