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Dreaming in High-Def

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Dreaming in High-Def
The making of an action-sports film
company for the YouTube Generation

published February 16, 2009

It was a bright day in south Florida, Miami’s glass skyline rippling in heat over turquoise water, when the film crew from Minnesota walked onto the beach. Speedboats tore through water offshore. A wakeboarder gripped a towline, carving a turn and popping to take air off an ocean wave. “It was all a bit surreal,” said Noah Ferche, who at the time was a college junior.

The venue, a sports festival last April called BoardUp Miami, had hired Ferche and three friends, all amateur video producers and wakeboarding enthusiasts, to oversee filming for the weekend’s action-sports lineup. With little more than a MySpace page, the group had caught enough attention to be contracted and flown south for the gig. “BoardUp set us thinking that maybe we can make a career out of this after all,” said Ferche, 22, whose hobby as a videographer stretches back to junior high school.

Noah Ferche filming at BoardUp Miami, an action-sports event last April

The phenomenon of YouTube and other online video websites has perpetuated a generation of amateur videographers. But rarely do hobbyists break through to make the transition from online to primetime. In the coming months, Ferche and his crew — a group of college-age videographers who have formed HSF Films — hope to beat the odds, finishing school while attempting to launch careers in filming action sports around the globe.

Since 2004, when Ferche and a group of his high school friends began seriously filming, they have built a foundation of short videos and five feature-length wakeboarding films. Lazy summer days spent wakeboarding provided hundreds of hours of footage, and the group soon launched its presence online. “We’d spend all day riding and filming, and then we’d edit video at night,” said Ferche.

A typical HSF video, which are archived at www.youtube.com/wakeboardhsf, includes boarders pulled behind boats spraying water on turns and jumping to spin. The editing is all fast cuts and multiple camera angles, with slow-motion segues, fades, and a requisite rock-and-roll soundtrack tying the montage together.

Wakeboarder wipe-outs are requisite footage in Ferche and crew’s films

The group entered one production in a small film festival, making it to the finals. Then, in 2007, Ferche decided to reach out to a new national network run by Internet Access Media, a Colorado company that feeds sports content and commercials to bars and restaurants across the country.

Internet Access Media, online at www.i-am.tv, soon began playing HSF’s clips. For this summer, the company has hired Ferche to head up production of a 12-part series on wakeboarding and other activities for the network.

In April 2008, taking a short break from school, the HSF crew traveled to Key Biscayne, Fla., for BoardUp Miami. Their task: Create an hourlong television show for Sun Sports, a FOX network that reaches millions of cable and satellite TV viewers.

From 5a.m. until late each night, the crew — Ferche, Nick Lodermeier, Chris Donnelly, and Mike Welter — rode jet skis, hung out of boats, and roamed the event, cameras pressed to their faces, to film. In addition to wakeboard footage, they shot skateboarding competitions, swimming races, motorcycle stunts, and even a bikini contest. “BoardUp is whole story in itself,” Ferche said.

Ferche filming at BoardUp Miami

The group will go back to BoardUp in the spring, this year with four new high-definition cameras purchased for them by the event company. This winter HSF is concentrating on snowboarding to get footage for a feature-length snowsports film. In addition to i-am.tv and BoardUp, HSF is working to pitch a series to MTV and Fuel TV this summer. “It’s a reality-TV thing and it’s about wakeboarding, and that is all we can say,” said Ferche.

In less than two years, HSF has gone from anonymity on YouTube to a rising outfit intent on pitching producers in Los Angeles and New York. Ferche will graduate this spring with degrees in communications and art. His resume is already full with experience to launch his passion into a career.

Says Ferche: “Be persistent, don’t give up, and stay positive. Make yourself stand out, give yourself an edge that no one has done before. People are always looking for something new and exciting.”

—Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

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