How did you get in to the world of photography?
As far as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to work in video production, but didn’t know if it would be fiction, journalism or sports. At one point I was doing work in all three but I quickly realised that sports was what I was gravitating towards.
I grew up in Albertville France, which hosted the 1992 Winter Olympic Games. As a child I remember the many crew and cameramen around, thinking they were super cool people doing an amazing job. As a teenager I started watching plenty of free-ride ski and snowboard movies and fell in love with this alternative culture, which became mine. I have worked in this environment for years in fact I just married one of its heroes, the American freeskier Seth Morrison :-)
Screenshot from http://alpine-mh.com/
I started working in early 2000 on fiction movie which were shot on S35mm film. My mission as a camera assistant were to set-up the camera, load the film and after a few years pull the focus. The job of a camera assistant is really just a study in techniques, there is not too much creativity or storytelling at least when I was involved.
I moved to education and worked as a technical director and trainer at Sciences Po school of journalism in Paris, where I learned a lot about storytelling and business. I’m still a trainer now, certified Adobe and Apple, and do masterclasses in companies and universities.
In 2012 I left Paris and moved back to the Alps, where I gathered all the past experiences and focused them all into my passion - mountain sports video production.
A few months later I was hired as an editor for the Red Bull Elements event, where I met the producer David Arnaud with whom I collaborated with for many years. I joined the team of Freeride World Tour, the main freeride skiing and snowboarding competition, first to improve the production workflow and then to become editor-in-chief, slow-mo operator, and finally live director and head of video production.
I also share my experiences in masterclasses and tutorials, I wrote two books about editing with Premiere Pro and many articles in pro-video magazines. I take every opportunity that comes my way to get out of my comfort zone, because I’m very motivated by new challenges and they’re what makes me grow.
What are your favourite areas in filmmaking and what are the most challenging ?
It's the chance of encounters that led me to work mainly in sports events. I love the positive pressure that comes with working so fast, directing a live, and being guided by the super dynamic flow which leads the competitions. I’ve been working on events like Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, soon Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, Freeride World Tour, Climbing World Cup, etc...
Through the years I have acquired expertise in making all kinds of videos in a mountain environment, by collaborating with various people and learning from their experience and from the different situations. I’m often asked to do things that I haven’t done before, and I’m always keen for a new challenge which will push me and maybe open new opportunities.
These missions require a lot of depth in video techniques, and also mountain skills. That means it’s mandatory to be in a very good shape to be able to hike or skin up to access the venue, and it’s absolutely necessary to know how to identify the dangers of the terrain in order to try to minimize the risks as much as possible, as well as understanding the sports and the athletes. Their commitment is considerable, but ours as well.
There are so many things I enjoy about this work. I can mention skiing in the dark to access the position before the first light, enjoying a sunrise on top of a mountain, sharing these emotions with fantastic people, being thrilled by the stunning actions happening in front of our cameras… I feel in harmony with the place and with the persons, I give a lot of passion and energy but I get so much back.
What are the challenges in your behind-the behind-the-scenes work such as directing live events as oppose to filming regularly?
I like sports events a lot, because I like the energy of a big team pushing together to create something unique. First I think it’s very interesting upstream to think of what should be put in the program to create a good show, I like that story telling. But the most exciting part is obviously the live shots themselves.
I never experienced such an intense and positive mental tension as when I directed a live. You are carried by the collective energy of all those people collaborating together to put on a great show, you feel the presence of your team behind you, you constantly talk to some of them, and at the same time you’re alone because you’re the only one pressing the buttons to create what spectators will see. The focus is so intense, it’s like having several brains to be able to analyse all that’s happening and take fast decisions, and it lasts 4-5 hours. I often tell the athletes that when they’re in the start gate ready to drop in and it comes the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown, their pressure is the same as mine when we start the live.
Last summer at Tokyo Paralympics an athlete was crying during her victory game, and I was as well in front of my screens while directing the show. When live is over I’m exhausted, I gave all my energy to it. I really love that feeling, it makes me feel really alive.
What gear you carry, and how it changes for specific projects
Because I have to hike, climb, or skin up to access the positions, I try to be as light as possible. If I’m tired before starting to shoot I can’t work well. I like the new hybrid cameras like the Nikon Z9, which are very powerful and compact at the same time. It has everything in it, so I don’t need many accessories. I chose a versatile lens and a long lens, I bring a lavalier microphone and a powerbank. That’s all for the filming gear, because on every mountain shooting I also need to cary skins, crampons, ice axe, shovel, probe, beacon, puffy jacket, thermos and food. In the summer bags are a bit lighter, but you always need the essentials for mountain safety which are not light.
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