If you haven't already noticed, lately we've been getting personal with the professionals who use our Beastgrip products, discussing their filmmaking roots, thoughts on phoneography, advice to aspiring filmmakers, and more. The goal here is to give you a peek inside their heads to show you what makes them tick, which will hopefully give you as a reader some inspiration to get out there and start creating your own films. This in-depth interview with videographer Filip Sjövall is no different.
Filip is a full-time videographer for Swedish action sports clothing and gear webstore Ride Store. He has a healthy catalog of videos already under his belt and a long and prosperous career ahead of him. His Instagram is a skateboard lover's dream - I find myself scrolling endlessly for hours, replaying all of the jaw-dropping tricks. A word of caution, before watching them: Watching his videos may cause you to quit your job and travel the world shooting films and skateboarding.
How did you transition from a hobbyist to a full-time filmmaker?
After I graduated school, I worked at a bunch of boring jobs until I got a decent job at a supermarket. I worked for about two days at the supermarket, before I got a call from my current co-worker from Ridestore who wanted me to film for them.
I didn’t believe it at first! I continued working at both jobs 50/50 for a while until I finally quit my job at the supermarket and started working full time for Ridestore as a filmmaker for their skateboard team - this was January 2013. Now that I've worked my way up, I do much more than just film - I’m planning trips, shooting photos for different projects, social media, etc. It’s really cool to learn new stuff and develop yourself to do more things - that's my favorite part [of the job].
When did you know that you wanted to be a filmmaker/artist? Was there a particular moment you knew this is what you wanted to do with your life?
I think the biggest impact on what I’m doing today has been skateboarding. Ever since I started skateboarding, I’ve been filming with my friends for different projects. Skateboarding and creating film go hand-in-hand - pretty much anyone who skates documents what they do in some sort of way. Now that everyone is using their phones [to shoot] it’s even easier for people to create their own content without having a professional "filmer" around them. As soon as Instagram released their video function everything has blown up [in skateboarding], you get to see so many cool shots that you would never have seen before Instagram was around.
Do you remember what your first camera was? What was your first film like?
I think it was a Panasonic NVGS230, it recorded on tapes. I don’t remember exactly what it looked like, but we put up a bunch of short skating videos on YouTube in 2007. The purpose of the camera was just to document our tricks, there was nothing artistic or any of that in our first videos. [laughs] YouTube was pretty new at that time, which was a huge deal, back then, everyone watched YouTube [more so than today]!
What has been the highlight of your career so far? Is there anything you would do differently if you go back in time?
I wouldn’t say there has been a specific highlight of my career. Learning new things and completing a project that you've had in mind for a long time is always a great feeling. Since I do film/photo and social media I feel like creating a great snapchat story as promotion for our products can be as big of a highlight as shooting a small video project. Time changes and people nowadays tend to not make the effort to click on links. etc. They want to see it right away. Both Instagram and Snapchat are great platforms where you can get your content out right away, which people seem to appreciate more sometimes, rather than waiting for a full-edit dropping on YouTube the week after!
Do you have any rituals that you do before every shoot?
Skateboarding is very special to shoot since >90% of the time you don’t know where you’re going to film next - it depends a lot on the skater and where he wants to skate. You have to be pretty quick in your mind and setting up for a shot, because if the skater is in the zone, he can’t wait an hour for you to set up your gear. It’s going down NOW and you have to be ready to document the trick!
Do you typically take a lot of shots and edit later during “post” or try to keep shooting to a minimum?
Since I mainly film skateboarding I never know when the skater going to land their trick, it can take 5 minutes but it can also take 5 hours or more, so you need to be very patient. I end up with a lot of shots from each trick we’re trying to film, but it’s all worth it at the end of the day!
What advice would you give to a new filmmaker? What do you think the first thing they should buy to get started?
I would say go on YouTube and get inspired; see what you like and what you don’t like! YouTube is fantastic when it comes to inspiration. Get to know your gear as good as possible and don’t be afraid to do something wrong, you’ll always learn something important from that. Make a lot of mistakes, analyze what you did and try to figure out what you should do to make it right.
What’s your favorite piece of gear $100?
For under $100, my favorite piece of gear is my skateboard; I use it to film 80% of the time. It’s an awesome tool for getting some interesting rolling angles!
For over $100, my most used piece of gear is definitely my iPhone, especially with all of the social media we do at Ridestore. I also love my Canon 5D MK lll with the EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS USM lens - it’s an awesome setup for shooting natural, non-staged photos for the products we sell. Great for what I’m doing!
In terms of quality, ease of use, and overall experience, how was shooting on a Beastgrip Pro and iPhone compared to using your DSLR?
I got my Beastgrip rig in October, and the first thing I noticed was how stable it was. I started experimenting with it and added on some different accessories. After I found a setup that was perfect for what I was doing, I did some test filming at the local skatepark. The Beastgrip Pro has been a major part of my phoneography and I would not be able to do anything close to a video like this without it.
Any gear that you think is necessary for phoneographers?
As far as quality goes, the iPhone is great! When it comes to the audio, you definitely need an external microphone (and an adapter) - that makes a huge difference. I also highly recommend using some type of rig - the Beastgrip is a great one!
What’s the most important part of filming to you?
Have fun and don’t worry about doing something wrong!
Coming soon, we'll post a candid interview with Emmy award-winning director/cinematographer Stash Slionski, where we discuss his childhood inspirations, working with Olivia Wilde and Reed Morano, his favorite gear under $100 and more!