The story of the recent video I filmed with DJI called “One With Gravity” actually begins a while back, on a muddy, narrow bike path surrounded by dog shit…
A couple of years ago, when my hometown Mainz was still a hotspot for downhill skateboarding and we had some more active skaters here, a bunch of my friends discovered a new spot.
A fortunate coincidence
A really narrow and steep bike path with some hairpins and a bench on a side is really challenging to skate (impossible with my regular dh-setup) but also a big fun. In case you got curious; My buddies Leon and Max made a little edit from that spot.
One day a dude came out of a house on top of the hill. He said he also owns a longboard but he never thought that it’s possible to go down that path with it.
He was all stoked and asked if he might take some footage with his new drone.
Of course he could, residents stoked about people skating right in front of their houses is probably one of the best things that can happen to someone like us.
What we didn’t know at that point was that the “guy with the drone” was actually Ferdinand Wolf, one of the best drone pilots in Germany, who just became the manager of the DJI Studio Europe.
He is a rad guy with a preference for everything that goes fast, from rally cars to jet skis and drones. We went skating and filming together a couple of times and when he realised how much cinematic potential our sport has, the idea for a real professional video project “One With Gravity” was born.
When Ferdinand finally got to me and said that he has organised a budget form DJI to make it happen, I was more than happy.
I have been involved in filming downhill projects before but it was never more professional than duct-taping a DSLR camera onto a hood and go – but this project was some levels above that and needed a lot of planning and organising to make it work out.
Finding the right spot for filming
The first thing to do was to find a proper spot. I know tons of awesome spots around Europe which are gnarly and have beautiful sceneries, but finding a spot which is also remote enough so that we could block the road for a couple days of filming and getting a permission to fly a drone, turned out to be way harder than I first thought.
I came up with a couple of really good ideas, but we always failed at the point where we had to get the permission for the drone.
After some fails, I’ve been told to try finding something in Portugal, because it’s one of the few countries in Europe with almost no limitations on flying a drone.
Portugal they said? No problem for my network of awesomeness; some emails with my bro and Cult Wheels team mate Jorge Pernes later and the spot was set.
A mega gnarly spot somewhere up in the high mountains of eastern Portugal, surrounded by breathtaking views and basically in the middle of nowhere.
Together with Pernes and the homie Pedro Roque, we had a great local team to take care of everything at the spot.
The first meeting with the film crew was a test shoot at one of our local spots.
It was necessary because the filmmakers never worked with downhill skateboarders before and we had to try the equipment and think about possible shots.
The team was pretty big and all of them were professionals which have been involved in cinema movies and stuff. They even got a permission to shut down the traffic for our runs. A high level of professionalism!
It was a fun day working with the guys and because it was only a few days before the euro tour would start, Pablo, Jasper and Robbie were around as well to shred some gnar.
After two more days of filming interviews and the process of building a board in Olson & Hekmati workshop, the day of a flight to Portugal was getting closer.
Because I had the best time travelling with my brother Maxwell Kaye during euro tour and the DJI crew asked for some additional background-skaters, I got Max on board to be a part of the team.
The adventure begins
In October, we finally got on the plane to Porto. After a quick but delicious francesinha and a Super Bock with my mate Joao from Cactus Dist we drove out into the mountains. Thank you again bro <3
I have been to Portugal before, but never really travelled around the beautiful hills of the east, where Spain isn’t far. It was definitely something I had missed so far; I didn’t expect to see such a beautiful landscape.
Far away from any big town and really high up I felt like being on another planet. It really smelt like mega gnarly spots all over the place, it almost made me sad to stay at the same place for the whole time…
The actual process of filming the video was very different than what I am normally used to.
Instead of just taking steezy runs with my homies over and over again while being filmed, it turned out to be real work (oh wonder =D).
Especially the “stunt” was really hard to perform – crashing on purpose over and over almost drove me crazy but I tried to give my best and in the end everyone (except my bearings. I never saw the bearings being that much f***** up…) was happy with the shot.
Another issue we often faced was the “speed thing”. Unlike driving a car or a similar vehicle you can’t just go down a hill on a skateboard slower but still taking the same line and do the same movements.
Many times I got told something like; “Alex, that looked really great! But please do the same thing again, just very slow”.
Due to the fact that there are no brakes and that the way you move on a board really depends on the speed, that is just impossible.
I have never really thought about this, but I think it is something that makes our sport very unique and natural…
Fortunately the film crew adapted quickly and we always found a way to figure it out.
Filming with the Wildcat-buggy was really interesting too.
The off-road suspension did not allow it to go around the corners very quick but it was impressive to see how they mounted that big camera gimbal on it. The follow runs were quite scary because I got really close in some corners but it was really enjoyable ;)
It was also really inspiring to work with Ferdinand.
He really knows a lot about filming and he controls his drones like a champ! Every time we were filming with the drone, I had a feeling that the footage will be incredible and he actually filmed enough great stuff to fill a whole hour of downhill action and breathtaking landscape.
Actually the whole aerial thing really amazed me. In most videos I miss the connection to the beautiful mountain ranges in which we usually hang out – showing a close shot of a rider and then flying out to show the panoramic view in the same take is a really cool way to make that connection.
Everything’s better with friends
Even though the production was hard work I really enjoyed the time with the film team and my fellow skate buddies.
Unfortunately Max got smashed on day one so he was forced to be the safety officer for the rest of the trip and made sure everyone else was happy.
Even when we were sitting around in the cold for hours, waiting for the sun to come up or down for the lifestyle shots, the Portuguese spirit always spread laughter and a good time for everyone.
A big difference to normal skate trips was that we were staying in a really nice little hotel in the mountains (thanks to Paul, our host) with great breakfast and a fridge which was always full of delicious little Portuguese beers and got great lunch and dinner by a local restaurant – a priceless comfort when you work from dusk till dawn.
When the last day came, we all were really sore and tired, but super excited for the footage. The film business is really exhausting and from now on I will have even more respect for the guys who do that kind of hard work every day.
There are some things that I would have done differently if I would have been the editor (fortunately I was not^^) but I think that this is the reason for the result to be such a high quality downhill video for a big audience, not just for longboard nerds like us.
What I really like is the “behind the scenes” edit, because it shows how the video was done and we can also see Max skating, Olli and Björn get their part and I’m saying something that was not scripted ;)
In the end I can just send out hugs and kisses to everyone involved. It was an unique experience and not everyone gets the chance to do something like that. I have learned many lessons, made new friends and last but not least, helped promote our sport and my supporters to the outside world.
Longboarding took me to numerous beautiful places, made me meet many awesome people and gave me many opportunities that would have never been possible without it.
I am more than curious what else there is to come.
Watch Behind the Scenes of “One With Gravity”
Photos in this article are screenshots taken from “Behind The Scenes of One With Gravity” video by DJI.