The Pirates Bottom Line Is… Basti Balser (Part 1)

Eric Botner nosepress | Jyvasklya, Finland | Photo: Jerome Tanon

Words: Christian Bach

Shoot Your Friends (2002) put the Pirate Movie Production on the European shred-flick map. In 2006 Lubedence and its reggae-tune fueled crew’s corresponding decision to use 16mm film helped them develop into a serious Euro snowboard production company. For the most part, North American snowboarding didn’t hear about the Pirates until they presented Overseas – their 2008 piece of analog art. The 2009 movie Jolly Roger and the 2010 movie Hooked were global video happenings that put mind-blowing riders like Elias Elhart (2009) and Arthur Longo (2010) in the spotlight.

The video landscape of 2011 is filled with corporate snowboard video productions and information overkill on the web. How could the Pirates turn another offering into a standout flick in such rough seas? The bottom line is that filming is an art form in itself and so is scripting and the arranging of video-parts – hence the name of the latest Pirate production, Bottom Line. It’s a statement and a promise to stand strong and represent snowboarding in the independent, innovative ways that got the Pirate production venture started in the first place.

Basti Balser

If there is one thing to say about the Pirates, it’s that they have their own unique style. A style based on the friendship which connects the three masterminds of the company: Basti Balser, Flo Eckhardt and  Tobias “Ludschi” Ludescher. Sharing a pretty sweet office in Innsbruck / Tirol the three work together like brothers in a family business. Plans are made over beers, tasks are assigned and ultimately trips are realized, park shoots arranged, intro segments filmed, riders hired and art pieces collected and produced. Everything that bears the mark of the Pirate Skull from the packaging of the ArtBook carrying the DVD to the organization of the movie premiere tour plus, corresponding flyer designs, websites, tweets and blogs is a byproduct of the Pirate’s own work. No outside influence comes between the Pirates and their audience.

The man in charge of rider selection, music choice and editing is Basti Balser. Originally from Munich, Germany he has been part of the European snowboard community since the early nineties. He started off in the Nidecker and Donuts Pro/AM and later obtained his snowboard school degree in Malung, Sweden. This is, by the way, why Riksgränsen (in Sweden) still has the reputation of being Pirate territory. Basti is the backbone of the company linking up all of the individual wishes of his fellow Pirates and therefore holding all of the cards required to edit their movies. From an author’s perspective you would conclude that being in love with what you do brings out your nerd-genes. But that’s just me. Let’s hear the man himself on the Pirates project.

Hi Basti. For you, what makes a good movie?

BASTI: Well, I guess scripted movie and intro parts for a start. Sticking to the script in the post-production phase definitely helps too. The most distinguishing [element of the Pirate movies] is probably that we do all of the intros in analog filming and no further digi-stuff is added. We use real-life setups and animated models, which is tons of work for the arts unit [working with] Flo and Ludschi. Then again, going the extra mile is what we want to do and believe in. Plus, we are still mostly on 16mm using only limited amounts of RED Cam footy and even some 8mm. And I suppose people can see and appreciate this, as each camera has its own look and feel and there is no digital way to achieve that.

And what about the shredders in the crew?

Bloody tons of talent I would say (Laughs)! But I guess [the fact] that the crew clicks on a personal level is just as important. We have something really special here with all of the guys from the early days still being friends and involved with the movie and some of them – like Gigi and Marco – even still having parts in the movie. This means that riding isn’t everything. Harmony in the film units is just as important to me, since you see it in the shots you get.

Who killed it this year?

Feichtner – big time. Hans Ahlund, Kalle Olsen and Erik Botner did really well too, and Gigi of course. Those guys will have the outstanding parts. I think if I weren’t into “keep it short and on point” in regards to editing I could feature 10 minutes of A plus footage from Feichtner alone – with him being injured for half of the season!

What else matters to you when you actually do the edit?

Definitely the music, we still believe in the creative input of riders and have them come into the office for editing if they feel like it.

Basti’s work depicts snowboarders who are fully focused on their riding and who portray their own idea of snowboarding in a positive light. This appeals to brands that support the movie with their sponsorship dollars. Whereas team movies tend to retell the “brand-message” over and over again, independent productions allow riders to shine individually. Using their cameras, independent crews diversify snowboarding’s look beyond the corporate picture. Independent films are more accessible, and accessibility can be attributed to snowboarding’s success from early on. Furthermore, independent crews offer a true picture of snowboarding’s present in regards to a rider’s performance and capability for their own sake of staying on top. By contrast, corporate films, hence movies and riders participating in them, should be recognized accordingly.

Pirate Movie Productions


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