How To Be A Surfer And Cinematographer | Fabian Von Holzen
Fabian Von Holzen is a Bali Based cinematographer who shoots and produces a range of stunning visual material through his production house, From The Woods Productions.
Last year, Volcom Indonesia commissioned him to produce a short film called "Eastern Roads".
Growing up in the waves of Nusa Dua and fathered by a seasoned photographer, “Eastern Roads” represented to culmination of a dream.
It’s his life.
Who wouldn’t want to live a life of Surf and Cinematography?
We wanted to dive into Fabian’s mindset and lifestyle to find out whether we could learn anything… or just resign ourselves to jealousy.
Fabian, half-Balinese half-Swiss, grew up in Nusa Dua.
With a white sandy beach just five minutes from his house and constant waves, surfing has always been the love of his life. So much so, that the love of surf has led him away from Bali’s famous nightlife.
He didn’t fully immerse himself with the debauched side of surfing culture, which he believes really allowed him to focus on his passions. And save money.
Though if the holler of the ocean confirmed a life of surf, it was his dad’s influence that called him to the photography world.
Having worked for Vogue in the US, his dad set up a home studio in his adopted Bali home, complete with professional lighting, film and all the tools a photographer could desire. Fabian not only had the perfect environment, but the ideal mentor.
University in Australia beckoned after high school. Completing his Sports Management with Film and Media degree, he came back to Bali begin his career in earnest.
Combining his two passions of Surfing and Photography was inevitable. There was just one problem.
Everyone else had the same idea.
Seeing the saturation of surf photographers, he made the important pivot to cinematography at the age of 20.
5 years of graft, setting up From The Woods Productions, he got his big break.
Volcom called in him to produce a 6 minute feature on the island of Sumbawa - a globally recognised mecca for surfers.
With this opportunity, he wanted to do something different:
“A lot of surf movies or films have a lot of surfing in it and they don’t really show the journey into a culture or landscape - it’s just surfing. Surfing clip, boom, surfing clip, boom, maybe a portrait here and there. But Eastern Roads is 50/50, surfing with adventure and culture.”
The project wasn’t without its challenges.
Holding expensive, semi-waterproof camera equipment in an unstable boat with 8ft on coming waves presented hazardous obstacles.
For the “Eastern Roads” shoot, he used a Canon 5D mkiii with a 400mm fixed f/2.8 with an extender - ideal for surfing. He also has Canon 35mm fix, Canon 24-105mm f/4, Canon 50mm f/1.2.
The epic drone shots were captured on a Dji Spire 1. Because, what surf shoot is complete without sweeping areal footage these days?
Editing also presents it’s own challenge - balancing natural desire to create without “forcing it”.
His advice for burgeoning and pro cinematographers are wise and cliched in equal measure:
“Just follow your heart! Sounds cheesy, I know. People sometimes force things to happen and that’s not how it works. If your mind is on cooking but you’ve got to build a table, nothing is really going to go right. So making films is the same, if you want to make a film - you have to put your heart into it and mind into it.”
Fabian’s talents happen to be surfing knowledge and an eye for the perfect shot.
You may share Fabian’s passions, dear reader. You may not.
The important take away is that, to reach your creative potential you must have a “market of one” - yourself. Give your cinematic talents the full emersion of your life’s interests and give your creative potential the chance to be realised.
Imagining what will please others will leave your work below your best.
Live your own cinematic dream, based on your own script, on your own terms.
Watch Fabian's latest film "Eastern Roads" for VOLCOM INDONESIA