How I became a professional Freerunner

How I became a professional Freerunner

Let’s be honest: Making extra money by doing what you love to do is the dream. When I started Freerunning training I had no idea I would end up making a living by being a professional athlete. And - by „make a living“ I don’t mean keeping my head just above the water. No. I make really good money, which gives me all the independency and freedom I need to follow my path.

You are interested in becoming a professional Freerunner and want to know how I got started? Keep reading.

 

Step 1: PARKOUR TEAM - ASHIGARU

Show for VW in 2014.

It all started with me being outstandingly passionate about Parkour and Freerunning - that’s why after just 1 year of training I became a part of the Ashigaru Family, the most professional German Parkour Team. This is where my freerunning career began. After Ashigaru was aware of my talent it did not take long and I was booked for a live performance for Reebok in 2010. Being super ambitious about everything I do in general I did a really good job back then. A lesson I learned back then was: once you deliver well there will appear more opportunities. As soon as people notice your talent and your drive to make the best out of it they keep giving you new challenges to prove yourself. I was thankful for every single one.

Rehearsals for a show for Jaguar.

During the upcoming years I performed on lots and lots of stages for many different clients - always together with the Ashigaru Show crew. I had such a good time and gained a lot of knowledge about how the business works, the different positions behind the surface and the communication process between the departments. All this happened behind the protected shell of the Ashigaru Team - it was a really valuable sequence on my way to grow up to where I am now.

 

From just being super passionate for movement becoming a part of a professional Team was the first necessary step for me. During my first few years with Ashigaru my eyes got widened for a world full of possibilities... and I became hungry for more.

 

Step 2: STUNTWORK

MoCap suits for TARZAN 3D.

In summer 2013 I entered the german stunt business. Ashigaru was in touch with the stunt team Face Off from south Germany who coordinated the international movie production „TARZAN 3D“ - a massive motion capturing project (we were wearing those funny suits with dots so special cameras could capture what we did and digitalize it :-D ).

The movie business was new and very fascinating to me - I soaked up all the informations around me like a sponge. Since it was such a big project I wanted to leave the best impression possible. Even in the breaks between the shooting sequences I wouldn't stop thinking about alternative ways to perform in front of the lense to make the shots look as good as they possbily could. My work ethic was noticed by the stunt coordinators - coincidentally they had another project going on in switzerland which they could use some Parkour skills for. 

My entrance was made - after that project and spending some quality time with the stunt crew they keep contacting me whenever I fit into a project until today. 

This summer I realized that I prefer working in front of the camera. Unfortunately back then Ashigaru was focusing more on show business. As a still developing 13-person-team the Ashigaru management was not able to focus only on my wishes and needs, so I felt I would have to take the next step on my own: looking for sports model agencies who could propose me for more projects in front of the lense.

 

SteP 3: (Sports) MODEL AGENCIES

Behind the scenes for got2B.

Before I got started there was something that slowed me down: I thought I was too short to make it in the model industry. I've seen many agencies that ask you for a minimum body size of 183 cm, they wouldn't sign you up if you were below that. I began to doubt I would be able to reach my goal... 

Until I stumbled over FREISTIL Sportmodels from Hamburg. Somehow they saw some potential in my application and invited me to their office. Paying the whole travelfee when I did not have much money left was a struggle but I was so greatful for the chance, I had to do it. What a lucky coicidence that I decided to introduce myself in that specific summer...

Just a few weeks after I signed up with them they received the biggest commercial request they ever had on their desk. It was for got2B and guess what: it involved Freerunning skills! I remember the day I got a call from the agency owner, telling me the client picked me out of all the competitors from many different countries in Europe. This was enough evidence  - I knew I could become successful here.

I used that boost of selfconfidence and applied for all the model agencies I could find in Germany - and I learned, that your body size does not necessarily make a difference when you want to work in the commercial world. Besides from fashion model agencies there are people and commercial model agencies as well, which focus more on sympathetic characters instead of tall size and symmetric beauty. 

Nowadays the commercial and sports model work is my main source for paid projects.


Well, well, well. This is how my career began. If I try to sum it up to the most important lesson I have learned on this path I would choose: "Whatever you decide to do, push yourself to do it the best way you possibly can." As soon as people see you're ambitous they WANT to see you successful.

I am pretty convinced that it was my work ethic that brought me where I am. Sure, there is luck, good genes, talent and passion involved. Since you can not control any of those, try to focus on the one thing you are able to influence: how you deal with challenges. 

So, I hope I left a little inspiration for those among you who want to get started but had no idea how! Good luck :-)

IMPROVE YOUR SHOOTING SKILLS

IMPROVE YOUR SHOOTING SKILLS

Do you want to know how I made it as professional Freerunning athlete? Talent, ambition and, you bet, luck. But there are a few easy rules I follow when I work on photo productions as well. If you want to become an interesting movement artist or learn how to shoot pictures professionally, this article is for YOU.

Here are my key rules for rocking photo shootings!

#1 - DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VIDEO & PHOTO SHOOTINGS

First of all: there is a HUGE difference between doing photo and video shootings. While a videoclip is way more interesting when you combine different moves and create a changing dynamic line, a picture just captures one specific moment. In a picture there is no „before“ or „after“ - I mean, sure, an interesting picture can tell the story from A to B as well. But in the end the moment the photographer pulls the trigger is the only one that counts.

This is my rule #1: Think in moments, not in moves! A picture captures only one moment.

Try to make that moment perfect! Sometimes when I try out new photo-moves the landing is really crappy - but if the right moment was captured the landing doesn’t really matter. (Don’t risk your health though!)

Before jumping I think about the form I want to display.

Just focus on one moment while being in the air!

#2 - THE BIGGEST MOVE DOESN’T MAKE THE BEST SHOT

As mentioned in an earlier blog post about working with Jason Paul for NIKON in 2014, the biggest move does not make the best picture. I would say there are moves that work perfectly fine in front of the lense and others that just don’t. Especially when it comes to bigger moves like double fulltwists or double flips - forget them for shootings. 

An example: I really like twisting. I love the dynamic feeling of it, the power build up and the release in the end. But from my experience I can tell in a fulltwist or a cork (as long as you don’t pull some breathtaking airform in it) you won’t be able to create a stunning picture moment: in almost every position you are crooked or bent in a strange looking way. Take a step back and go with a nicely stretched out Gainer or even just a Backflip! 

A good movement picture works (most of the time) by drawing dynamic lines - which you have in perfectly executed basics most of the time.

So rule #2 is: Stick with the basics - the biggest move doesn’t make the best picture.

 

#3 - WORK WITH your PHOTOGRAPHER

Whenever I work with a photographer and they ask me about good Parkour locations I just answer the following: „The most important thing is that you have a background and framing that fulfills your vision. I can adapt my moves to whichever surrounding, whether it’s a wall, flat ground, a bar, or whatever.“ 

I totally mean that. If the background or the location is just not interesting at all it doesn’t matter how cool the spot is from the athlete perspective - the picture will probably suck, even though your airform looks hot.

Work with your photographer. His creative vision of the final picture goes first. All you have to do is being able to adapt your skills to your surrounding - which is the basic Parkour philosophy anyways ;-)

Here is my rule #3: Work with your photographer, follow his creative vision.

#4 - BUILD A REPERTOIRE

After 5 years of shooting experience I acquired a feeling for which moves look good on a picture and which do not. For sure I have a repertoire of moves that do the job. This helps me a lot especially for paid projects - even when there is time pressure I know exactly which moves I can pull that will leave a good impression and make photographer and client happy. To get an impression of which moves are in my repertoire, you can check out my instagram: @loukewilson

My rule #4 is: Have a picture-move-repertoire.

You don't need many moves in your repertoire if you're good - vary them over and over again and make them look different ;-) But there is still the risk of getting stuck, doing the same stuff over and over again. To prevent this, keep going and read rule #5.

Even though all the pictures above show just a backflip, every single one looks different. Vary your moves!

#5 - THINK OUT OF THE BOX - BE CREATIVE

The nice thing about action pictures is: you don’t see moves you see forms. 

For sure these forms can be related to classic moves - but they don’t necessarily have to. Even the most simple motions can create a photo that the viewer has to watch twice before understanding it. Which is the reaction you want to provoke in general, by the way ;-)

So if the photographer is up for it, try to break it down to the basics of dynamic movement and induce an interesting effect by doing strange stuff! In my opinion those shootings are the most fun.

Rule #5 is: Try to think out of the box. Break it down to the basics to create something new from there.


So, this is it! Now you know my 5 basic rules for working professionally on photo shootings. I hope my thoughts help you with your own free or paid projects :-)

Now go out there and shoot!

UNCHAINED - working for Nikon

UNCHAINED - working for Nikon

UNCHAINed - working for Nikon
 

 

Hello folks!

It was in 2014 when I had the honor to work shoulder on shoulder with world star athlete Jason Paul and Red Bull photographer Ray Demski to create some great action imagery and put the brand new Nikon D750 into use. Great athletes, graphic locations, a master behind the lense. Let me tell you about the experience.

Back then I was not too experienced in working professionally in front of the camera. I was a little bit nervous working with someone like Jason and for such a big client - even though I was super thankful for the opportunity it definitely put some pressure on me… But when a client like Nikon is coming up with a project involving Parkour and Freerunning you don’t hesitate, you TAKE it!

Since the production company had never worked with Freerunners before they needed my advice in the whole pre-production-process - haha, I can still remember how agitated I was when they invited me to join the Skype meeting with Ray for talking about locations and opportunities: I wanted to give the best impression possible but had no idea how it would go. In the end there was no need to stress myself out - those meetings are just about finding a common ground, sharing knowledge from different fields and being able to adjust the course of the project. So all I had to do was telling them how the project looked through my eyes. Huh, easier than I thought! Pressure: Gone.

After the last preparations the shooting finally began. Unfortunately it was super cold and even raining on the first day. This meant we were a little bit limited in our possible movement repertoire - the last thing you want to happen on set is getting injuried. You would risk the whole project and since per commercial shooting day clients pay between 90.000-120.000 € risking the whole project is the last thing you want to do. One of the most important abilities you’ve got to have as a professional athlete is to deliver what the client wants to see while not putting your health into danger.

This is even more important when you have to get up at 04:30 am, because the team wants to catch the sunrise, which creates a very special lighting situation called the „blue hour“. Getting up early is usually no problemo - what I was not aware of by then was that we would go for the sunset (golden hour) as well. A 14 hour action shoot was definitely challenging for me. Even though there are breaks in between, after 30 times being warm and cold over and over again your body just craves for rest. Shooting in front of the lense is very different from a normal training session, since you have to adapt your moving sequences to the time management of the whole filmcrew - rebuilding light settings, switching locations, changing lenses and batteries… All this takes a lot of time and you have to be ready to shoot every minute.

Especially working with Jason on Set for 2 days taught me a lot about what working as professional athlete means. Since the project was both, photo and video shooting, most of the time Jason and I were shooting simultaneously - no time wasted. But whenever I had spare time to breathe through I soaked up Jasons work methods like a sponge. The key lesson I learned on that project was: the biggest move does not create the best picture. I am definitely going to write another blog post on this, so stay tuned! 

I hope I was able to transfer a little bit of the challenges I had to conquer and lessons I have learned during the Nikon shooting and you might have more of a feeling what it means to work as a professional Freerunning athlete in the commercial world.


Following you find the final product video and the behind the scenes clip. Enjoy!

UNCHAINED - NIKON D750

BEHIND THE SCENES