From Super8 to Superstars
Basti Balser and Flo Eckhardt are the driving forces behind Pirate Movie Production, a company they founded almost two decades ago. Their journey into the world of filmmaking began with a shared passion for snowboarding and a desire to capture the essence of their sport. “We started with Super8 cameras, which we originally brought on our trips and filmed ourselves,” Basti recalls. This humble beginning marked the birth of their first snowboard film, “Shoot Your Friends”, in 2003.
Since then, Pirate Movie Production has released over 20 snowboarding films. Their dedication to pushing the boundaries of action sports cinematography has led to a partnership with Red Bull Media House, which, as co-producer, brings access to state-of-the-art equipment and a global distribution network.
Directors of the Board
Their latest project, “DRIVEN,” is more than just a snowboarding film; it’s a testament to their evolution as filmmakers. Basti and Flo took a different approach with this project, focusing on creating a timeless piece that appeals to a broader audience beyond the hardcore snowboarding community.
“Traditional productions have typically catered to a younger audience,” says Basti. “Emphasising adrenaline-pumping action sequences, each athlete showcasing their winter feats with little depth in terms of plot or storytelling.” Basti and Flo set out on a fresh path.
“The vision for 'DRIVEN' was to transcend the boundaries of age and speak to all generations who share a deep passion for mountains, travel, and new experiences.”Basti BalserPirate Movie Production
“DRIVEN” features snowboarding legends like Gigi Rüf, John Jackson, Manuel Diaz, and Victor Daviet, along with younger riders who grew up idolising their predecessors. The film takes viewers on a breathtaking journey across the globe, from the snow-capped peaks of British Columbia to ash scorched slopes overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the volcanos of Kamchatka. It’s an exploration of what drives these powder hounds to snowboard and showcases unique locations that elevate the risk and adventure factor.
Going the Extra Mile
What sets ‘DRIVEN’ apart is its production timeline. Unlike the typical one-year filming and release cycle of snowboard films, ‘DRIVEN’ allocated a two-year window, spanning two winters and even venturing into the southern hemisphere.
The crew spent one month in each location to maximise potential, while minimising their carbon footprint. This extended timeframe meant they could not only capture extraordinary snowboarding shots, but also delve into the culture and landscapes of each region.
From the steep, snow-covered slopes to cultural experiences, “DRIVEN” paints a vivid picture of the snowboarding lifestyle.
A Pirate’s Life.
A typical day in The Pirate Crew is far from ordinary. They often find themselves in remote and challenging environments, chasing the perfect shot. Their day begins before sunrise, as they meticulously plan their shoots and assess the weather. They emphasise the importance of being adaptable, as nature doesn’t always follow a script.
“Every day is different,” Flo remarks. “We might wake up to perfect skies, or we could deal with heavy snowfall or rain. It’s essential to stay flexible and make the most of each situation.” Their ability to adapt and make split-second decisions sets them apart in the world of action sports filmmaking.
Even with meticulous planning, the beauty of snowboarding lies in the unpredictable nature of the mountains. “Each year, the same location can offer a completely unfamiliar landscape, shaped by snowfall and wind patterns,” says Flo. “This unpredictability keeps us alert. We’re always on the lookout for unexpected opportunities to enhance our storytelling.”
Basti adds, “We like at least like three cameras on each trip. So, every cameraman would have his own tripod, a RED camera, lenses, and batteries and these are our main cameras. Besides that, we have a drone team, or sometimes, we bring a cable-cam which is operated by the drone operator. But we rarely shoot only with a drone just because it doesn’t look interesting. Normally we always shoot from the ground from tripods.”
The need for speed
Filming in remote and challenging environments means lightweight equipment is a must. Basti and Flo have embraced the importance of portability and ease of use, especially when venturing into backcountry terrain.
The Sachtler flowtech tripod has become an indispensable tool on their sled. Its lightweight design allows them to carry it effortlessly on their adventures, whether hiking up steep mountainsides or trekking through deep snow. Basti says, “When you’re out in the backcountry, every kilo matters. The flowtech tripod is incredibly lightweight, and it makes a significant difference in our mobility.”
The flowtech tripod’s maximum height and quick adjustment capabilities allow them to set up shots swiftly, whether shooting action-packed snowboarding scenes or capturing the surrounding landscapes. Flo points out, “We can operate all the legs from one place, and you don’t have to reach down to three different times to open them up.”
“We must be fast to get the shots and flowtech really helps us to be very fast and capture these natural moments.”Flo EckhardtPirate Movie Production
Another crucial aspect of the flowtech tripod is its resilience in harsh conditions. Basti highlights, “We did everything with it. We put it in water; mud, in freezing temperatures, everything! We need to carry our own equipment around 80% of the time, on the mountain and a lot of times it’s horrible conditions, snowstorms, freezing temperatures. So icy fingers are a big thing.” He adds, “just being able to adjust the tripod so quickly with the brakes on top – even with gloves on. It’s a huge plus. Flo adds, “With flowtech, the whole workflow on the mountain from putting the bag over my shoulder to getting the shots is a game changer.”
On the Horizon
As “DRIVEN” continues to rack up praise and attention from audiences worldwide, Basti and Flo are already looking to the future. Their bucket list of dream shoots includes projects in container harbours and beyond. They thrive on the unexpected moments and discoveries that arise during their adventures, making each project a unique and thrilling experience.
In the ever-evolving world of action sports filmmaking, Basti and Flo remain at the forefront, driven by their passion for storytelling and capturing the essence of adventure. With Sachtler flowtech tripods as their trusted companions, there’s no doubt that their future endeavours will continue to inspire and awe audiences worldwide.