An Interview with Florian Fischer
by Hergen Spalink
images courtesy of Florian Niethammer
Remember those DPV Diver Course promo videos from the 90’s that made riding an underwater scooter look about as exciting as waiting in line at the DMV? Well, this isn’t that. Florian Fischer and the Behind-the-Mask team take on a project for the new Seabob underwater DPV. In typical BTM style the end result is an underwater film worth watching even if you have no intention of ever owning a Seabob.
We got in touch with Florian and spoke with him to get some insight into his unique filmmaking style as well as some tips for aspiring underwater filmmakers.
HS: Of course, what we all want to know first; What gear did you use?
FF: For the underwater scenes we filmed with a combination of a RED Scarlet-W in a Nauticam Weapon LT Housing and the Panasonic GH-5 in the NA-GH5 housing. For lighting we relied on 4 Keldan 8X LED Video torches.
HS: You use a lot of free diving models in your films, what are some tips you can give to newer filmmakers that are inexperienced with working with models, especially for video as opposed to stills?
FF: For us the most important aspect of working with freediving models (applies to any kind of model really) is to involve everybody in the underlying idea. There are so many challenges going along with shooting video underwater. It might seem all clear being on the surface talking about things, making plans, but once you are underwater everything changes. There are so many aspects as a director you can not control. Lighting conditions change according to the movement of the clouds, currant might come up, the marine life behaves differently and most important you might not be able to communicate by words. As a result you have to be very flexible to be able make the best out of the limited time you have for the shoot.
So there is a strong need to get in to some sort of flow with the whole team under water. A flow that enables everybody to contribute in the most effective way possible according to the given circumstances. As it is a prerequisite that everybody involved in such a project is motivated and in good spirits, the most important thing is to include everybody in the creative process. Everybody involved must have the same vision and be eager to contribute individually.
If this is mastered, then it boils down to establishing a way to communicate without words. In our case we use hand signals and wireframes that we draw on a white slate. These wireframes are a tool to move from one shot to the next quickly. It requires the free diving models to act independently to a certain extent, which leads back to enable them to have the right amount of self-confidence and the same vision as everybody else. This is actually the main challenge for me as a director and crusial for any creative achievement. Everything else is just knowing your tools and using them in a way that it serves the overall vision.
HS: What did you see in the product that gave you the idea for the film?
FF: First of all, the Seabob is a very well designed and powerful machine with a very distinctive look. To explore its potential lies in my nature as my creative ambitions tend towards working on projects which are water related. So we took it for a small unrelated project to the Bahamas and played around with it. I realized that the Seabob is a capable tool to let the rider move very elegantly underwater. When I saw our team member Timo Dersch riding the Seabob it looked almost like a ballet, like dancing.
Usually the Seabob is presented in advertising in terms of its outstanding power, also being very masculine and dynamic. But for me it is a bit more than this. The better your static breathold and equalizing skills are, the more you can get lost in space. My idea was to transmit this feeling to the viewer. If you translate this into an idea for a film for Seabob you could say that‚ riding a SEABOB will make an Aquatic Human out of you. Seabob liked the idea and gave us total creative freedom with this project. And then again its about bringing the right people together, developing a collective vision, planning the trip and then just doing it.
HS: Your editing style is incredibly creative and very unique, what would you say are your biggest influences for your films?
FF: I studied film/video at university and have a masters degree in the arts. I’ve had a camera tin my hands practically all my life, filmmaking is what I love to do. I like all the aspects of it but editing is my favorite part. It’s hard to say what influences me the most, but I think it is the footage itself. Sometimes I sit in front of all the footage without an initial idea. The magic of it is that editing is like a puzzle. When combining rhythm, music and visuals there are millions of combinations and a universe of emotions lying in front of you. It’s up to you to decide on a direction and not to get lost in it.
In terms of inspiration I guess we all see so many things that inspire us all the time. There are some that are more appealing to us and some less. Some elements stick with you, some vanish quickly. I never decide on a certain editing style, instead I follow the footage and play around with edits, connections and transitions that serve best what I actually want to convey with the film. It’s always about the story itself and the editing follows that.
HS: Vielen Dank! Thanks for sharing and inspiring us with your continued great work!
About Behind The Mask
Behind the Mask is Florian Fischer, Florian Niethammer and Christian Back. You can see more of their work at behind-the-mask.com.