Top Tips from Filmmaker Andy Evans
Date Posted: 23/02/2011
Why did you first get involved with filmmaking?
My initial interest in skateboard filming was when I saw my first skateboarding video, which was a long time a long time ago! I was fascinated by it, the way it made me feel and it started off an obsession and then I thought I could make one of those. Basically, I was fascinated with how it made me feel and I wanted to make people feel it too. The initial catalyst was the film Public Domain by Stacey Peralta who also directed Dogtown.
What was your first ever job?
Originally I did a load of free stuff and I started filming for various skate companies at the age of about 19-24. The skateboarding world in those days didn’t really pay – that was probably my only flaw in my career plan! Then I started getting paid and my first job was working for a TV program called Rad which was an extreme sports program. At this time my only option was to go through a TV show.
What have you done for Red Bull and what are the events like?
I started off doing editing jobs for Red Bull. The biggest filming job I have done for Red Bull though was Manny Mania in 2008. It was an amazing job – organised by a great team who were awesome and new exactly what they were doing – Robbie, Chris, Kat and the guys who did King Ramps, ensured Manny was well organised, well executed, had a great atmosphere and was really inclusive of everyone of all ages. Its actually one of the best skateboarding events I have been to in a while. That kind of skating can be considered as quite boring but it was really technical and the guys that were competing were some of the best. The video therefore wasn’t hard to make as there was such a good atmosphere, a lot going on and a lot to get a hook on.
What do you do when you find out you have got a particular job?
The key stages you have to go through are:
1. If you are conscientious do research into the event. Think about who is going to be there, who to look for when you are there, general background of the event, get to know the course, have a look at previous events and keep in touch with your contact for the job so they can keep you updated with the organisation of it all – Red Bull are amazing because they organise everything!
2. Check your camera – making sure it’s all working. Run tests – test the recording, test the microphone, check it is all clean and charged. Make sure you have spare bits of equipment, the worst thing in the world is turning up when things don’t work – it’s really embarrassing.
3. Make sure you have a brief from the company employing you – some will have one, some wont! The best scenario is an amalgamation of the two. It’s really nice to have some freedom to use your creativity and freestyle a bit but also have some clear direction to make sure you get exactly what they want. I tend to pick up on the right things that are really interesting to skaters and the public. This comes purely from my enthusiasm and practicing over time.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at an event?
1. Try and arrive early to an event and literally have a scout around, get a good feel of the layout of the site, find out what’s where, where a good place to stand is and film things and just see who is about.
2. Research how the event is run. E.g. a skate comp will usually have the qualifiers in the morning – at this point I might spend some time doing interviews as everyone is excited about the event and not too busy skating. This is also a good time to capture shots of the venue to create a vibe for the viewers. Be aware that it will get busy later on because that’s when all the action will be kicking off nearing the finals.
3. I usually spend the first 2/3 hours bullying people to talk to the camera. You must make sure you are set up ready for people to talk about what the event is, what’s unique about the event etc. Think about this before the event; consider what you want to ask people. If, however, you are confident you don’t necessarily need to write the questions down but if you are not sure or think of a great question prior to the event write them down!
4. Get a feel for where the right action is going to be making sure you are in the right spots in the right places where good tricks can take place. You must also make sure you are not in the way, if you are its really embarrassing and you look like you don’t have a clue about what’s going on. Saying that I’ve been crashed into by skaters, as it’s such a sporadic sport, it’s hard to get out the way in time but I got better at it once I had done a few events. People have broken my camera from crashing into me at events – its really important to get your kit insured!
5. At the end of an event, if necessary get an interview with the winner, but I sometimes find its not so great as you don’t get much out of them just that they are ‘stoked’. I now find it better to either not do an interview at the end or get a presenter to do one. To round off the video though you do need an out link.
1. Go back and capture all of the footage onto your computer.
2. The more difficult bit which isn’t done as much these days is creating the narrative. First I create narrative around the pictures – almost like creating the frame but this is a journalistic bit. Go to the interviews, pick out the good points , you know what everyone was talking about so make the frame like an explanation of the event e.g. who was there, what’s going to happen, what the event actually is, and maybe try and incorporate general random comments to illustrate the atmosphere. Get all speech on a timeline and then create the framework. For example you might have a bit on the qualifiers then some chat about it, then some footage of the final followed by some narrative and comments on the action!
3. Once you have the frame it’s quite easy to see what bits need to go where – it’s very formulaic after you have done it for a while and becomes second nature. You then have to figure out what music tracks you are going to use to create the right mood – at the beginning you may want to start off slow and when the action comes get a faster paced track. Red Bull Audiofiles is really easy to use and was a brilliant source.
4. Then go over it with the action and put the pictures in. When you get to the end just go over it again in a technical way, sound checks, technical tweaking, lights, numerous shaped files etc.
What editing software do you have?
Avid express pro – one of the better PC programs that’s available.
I also have a dedicated computer I try to keep off the internet otherwise it slows his computer down with other software and viruses etc.
How do you look after your equipment?
You must clean your camera regularly – use a head cleaner, make sure every part works and service it according to what they tell you in manuals, don’t just throw your kit around willy nilly! At Manny, Andy Willis actually picked my bag up with my camera in it and threw it on the floor without realising there was loads of stuff in there. Yeah that’s a good point – Get a good padded bag to keep camera in to keep it safe, they are not v. expensive!
How do you shoot the best action shots?
The more I have done events the better I have got at finding good spots. Find 2/3 locations during the final to find some advantage points where you can get in on the action, you can pick up other action shots in practice – set them up a bit more – rather do that in practice. You must know the sport to read it well, figure out when to focus, when to zoom in etc. You can’t always get in the best position but you’ve got to make the most of what you can!
How much footage do you shoot in a day?
If I shoot more than 3 hours I get worried I have overdone it. Try not to shoot too much, be selective and efficient. When I started filming I panicked and filmed everything – once you have done it, you know what formula you need – be efficient and effective.
How long does it take you to edit a 3min web clip?
Best part of a day.
What do you look for in your final cut?
Depends on the event – make sure you capture the essence of the event bringing it across well to the audience, make sure it’s truly reflective of the event – communicate that to the people. Try and get a feel of the people as well as the action. The more the human element you can put into it the more people can relate to it so it doesn’t look so distant from them. I want people to realise they are idiots too – skating is full of brilliant idiots which makes it more interesting regardless of the physical endeavour. This makes it feel more like a community, there is always an interesting atmosphere beyond the act.
What is your style?
Style of idiocy – I don’t want to make it too serious. I have a light hearted approach – abstract some might say. A lot of the people I am involved with in filming encourage me to do silly random things – making commentators shout out odd words at competitions and stuff, so I guess I also have quite a random style too. It can be hard taking skateboarding seriously in England as there is an anti-glamour feel to it.
Apart from my camera, what piece of equipment should I definitely get?
A computer with an editing program is vital if you want to do anything with the footage.
If shooting action shots it’s good to get a wide angle lens attachment for your camera as this creates a more dramatic feel to the shots.
What is your favourite shot?
I do like a good zoom, yeah zooming.
In the skate world, the one thing I can think of is there are a lot of people getting into it because kids think it will make them famous. You should start it out from a genuine interest of making films and being interested in sport like I was with skating. Do it for the love of it, not to get celebrity status!