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Culture » Get Out

Make Your Own Sports Film

X-Dance pros give tips


Professional skydiver Neil Amonson represented GoPro at X-Dance - WINA STURGEON
  • Wina Sturgeon
  • Professional skydiver Neil Amonson represented GoPro at X-Dance

You got great video of you having fun on the slopes with friends, skateboarding or just goofing. Then comes the thought of how awesome it would be to turn these clips into … well, a movie—to show the world how it feels to experience what you experience, and to do it in story form.

Welcome to the film version of social media, as demonstrated at the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival that was held Jan. 12 to 15. The festival showed what can be done with little more than a helmet cam and video-editing software. Today’s technology allows movies to be made by nearly anyone with the passion and creativity to do it.

Sean Kilgus is an example. The 35-year-old filmmaker and wakeboarder presented his ninth film at this year’s X-Dance. Defy is a wakeboarding film about the sport’s biggest star, four-time X Games gold medalist Danny Harf.

“When I first started making films, it was just trial and error. I’m self-taught, didn’t go to film school,” Kilgus says. Though he now has his own video-production company, Kilgus started out with a small Super 8 video camera, and originally just wanted to show why he felt such a passion for wakeboarding. Then he wanted to tell other stories. “I had to do whatever it takes to make it happen. I worked all kinds of jobs,” he says.

X-Dance founder Brian Wimmer took a different route to become a filmmaker, one he advises for would-be auteurs. “The first thing is to take film classes to learn the mechanics and to learn how to tell a story using video. Then you want to start working in the business. My first job in film was as a production assistant, a P.A. That’s a glorified gofer,” Wimmer says.

He adds that while it’s difficult to make a film with a non-pro camera, it’s possible, and it’s good to experiment. “You’ll learn how to tell a story, how to edit, how to shoot—all the basics,” he says.
Adventurer Neil Amonson has turned his passion for skydiving and other action activities into a career—as well as an ideal relationship with GoPro, which produces wearable action cameras and was the major sponsor of the 2012 X-Dance. “We created a team called the GoPro Bomb Squad,” Amonson says. “We skydive into different events like races and trade shows. In our spare time, we travel around the world and do video projects like base jumping, paragliding and wing-suit flying. I give GoPro the footage, and they use it to make commercials and promotional content.”

Kilgus, Wimmer and Amonson have one thing in common: They each found a way to do something they enjoy in order to get enough money to do something they love—making films about their favorite sports. Kilgus says that Defy took three years to make, “and I’ve only made about $30,000 from it, so I can’t say I earn a living from making these films. But I work in video production now, and that pays the bills and allows me to make movies for the love of it.”

Wimmer started an adventure-film festival. Amonson went to GoPro with a proposal that they use his skills as a tie-in with their product. But another route is to meet with a perfect sponsor and pitch a film idea to get backing. Kilgus did that in order to make the travel-heavy Defy.

Kilgus says, “Monster Energy [Drink] is our main financial backer. We approached our sponsors and said, ‘This is what we want to do, this is the athlete that it’s about.’ If you want to make a film, you will find people that want to participate in your project. If you’re hungry to make a movie, there’s probably a kid that’s hungry to be in a movie.” Though few action-sport films get theatrical release, the DVDs are advertised widely through social media and fan sites, and many end up with respectable sales figures.

Personal video recorders have become ubiquitous, but GoPro has cornered the market, with good reason. Their cameras are extremely rugged, waterproof, have good sound, come with HD and offer a wide selection of mounts; even top models cost less than $300. If you’ve ever wanted to make a movie, you’re now at a point where you can.