A few weeks ago, Surfagram had the pleasure to talk with the French director Vincent Kardasik over a few coffees. A charming, generous, and talkative person, who is above all a passionate film director and inspiring to listen to!
Hi Vincent, filmmaker, photographer… How would you define yourself?
Um … I would say that at the end of a day, I see myself as a guy who walks around with too much equipment (laughs)! The reality of my job is that it is quite varied. When I am on the set for a major shooting, for a big company, I am called Director of Photography, and when I am on projects a little more conventional, I have the title of Chief Operator. Here in France, we would say vidéaste (Note: in French in the text) whereas in the United States we would rather talk about cinematographer or film maker… But at the end of the day, I am the co-manager of a company based in Capbreton!
Have you always had this passion for images?
As long as I can remember, yes. When I was a kid, I did not necessarily have access to audiovisual equipment. But one day, a camera arrived in our home. No one knew how to use it and, with my two younger brothers, we started filming each other! It truly got me interested in images. During the following years, as soon as a friend borrowed the camcorder of his parents, I would jump at this chance and film anything with it. Whenever I would see a camera hanging around at some wedding, I used all the film roll of it. I ended up doing an audiovisual BTS (2 year Technical Diploma) in Paris at the CNRS (French National Center of Scientific Research) and I could then borrow the cameras from work. When I was back in the south-west of France during weekends, I used to film my friends. And that’s how, one day, as I was filming two sponsored friends of mine who were surfing really well, an Australian guy, who was producing a video, came to see me on the beach to buy my pictures! I was 20/21 years old… We can say that the adventure started like that!
Do you have a mentor, someone from the world of surfing, who was your reference at the very beginning?
It’s very fashionable to say that you are “self-made”… But this job is so technical that you have to rely on the knowledge of others. So yes, I had quite a few mentors. For example, I met Tim McKenna on a trip. He later became a friend and he’s giving me very good advice for 15 years now. I also remember a trip to the Mentawaii together. Micky Picon was with us and he was taking so many waves. Tim told me, when I was filming, to let the surfer get out of the wave and go on with the image capture, because it would then allow a brand to frame a logo or a slogan onto the image. Do not do half the job but think of it as a whole. He always gave me a lot of advice like that (technical or not) which helped me a lot. Tim is someone who works mostly outdoors and when he tells you how to adjust the diaphragm of your lens, you know you can trust him! So there is him, but I also benefited from advice from many other guys…
This job is so technical that you have to rely on the knowledge of others. – Vincent Kardasik.
So you picked different advice from all your encounters?
Yes, there is always a good advice out there to take. For example, at 18, when I was skateboarding a lot, I remembered that I was watching VHS tapes of Fred Mortagne over and over on my VCR. At the time, this guy made totally mind-blowing videos with a very different rhythm of editing than what was done at this time. He was the French guy from Lyon who made a career in the United States in the skate field. His work inspired me a lot and I thought that in surfing we could also offer similar things. It was by analyzing his work and varying the shot angles that I could make much more dynamic videos.
The story is beautiful because a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to work with him. I originally had to take care of the aquatic plans for his new project but he finally asked me to be his director of photography for the filming. It went really well and it almost gives me the feeling that the loop is completed. This guy was really an inspiration to me.
Sylvain Cazenave also helped me a lot (technically, of course, but also on a human level, in particular in Hawaii). The first time I went there to shoot in the water, when I did not know anyone, it was not an easy thing to do. He advised me on how to place myself in the water. He also explained to me how to handle my apprehensions in relation to localism. He said that from the moment you come with a camera, you are powerful and you are here to help create a certain image of places and culture. We must not be afraid to impose ourselves.
What did you think about John John Florence’s film “View from a blue moon“?
In surfing, this is one of the best movies ever made, clearly. But that’s what I call “surf porn”. I think it’s mostly for people who want action and nothing but action. But it’s true that John John surrounded himself with a great team and that he was able to propose incredible shots, by helicopter in particular.
The more products that come out the more it forces us, as professionals, to question ourselves and to increase the quality of our work!
On that point, with the advent of drones and GoPros, what do you predict for the evolution of surf videos?
When we were younger, I felt that the most difficult thing was to have access to a camera, and then to be able to share your work. Today, it is really different. Everyone can put their films on Youtube. But it’s a good thing, because the more products that come out the more it forces us, as professionals, to question ourselves and to increase the quality of our work. We must be able to demonstrate that can shot images much better than any amateur with his GoPro. The more people are filming, the more the level increases. This has already been observed in the music industry, for example. So today there is a whole lot of options to show off your work and be creative.
Our readers may not know this but you are the author of the famous video for the Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013. Looking back, how do you analyze the controversy it created?
At the time, we knew it was going to be controversial and it was a real marketing strategy. But it’s true that it was a mini-media tornado at the time of its release. If I had to do it again, I would do it again!
So this experience gave you some ideas for different projects, right?
Yes, it’s true. The idea is to better sell our ideas and to get customers to trust us to do original campaigns. Redbull did it very well with his film on Leo Fioravanti recently. They brought a lot of anecdotes and it works. Another example is the portrait photo of Slater by Maurice Rebeix in 96 where Kelly is under a gutter with the water flowing on his face (Note: Vincent talk about this photo). The picture is really beautiful, super well framed but Maurice tells you that behind the photo, there is a story. He waited one and a half hour in the rain before Kelly showed up. He finally arrived, and Maurice kept smiling. So Slater, embarrassed by the situation and seeing him soaked, put himself under a gutter so that he would not be the only one in this state. And the snapshot was born. This adds even more meaning to the photo.
As a conclusion, how do you feel about your eclectic background?
I was lucky, through surfing, to work on big productions (movies or commercials). You then realize the attention given to details. You also see that everyone has a well-defined role. All these things helped me in my approach to my work in the surfing world!
Thank you Vincent and see you soon!
Thumbnail picture: © Tim Mckenna