Uwe Fröhlich Interview


Uwe froehlich cover picture

 

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“…we all do it with passion. That’s why I’m filming motocross ninety-nine percent of the time, because this is what I love, it’s something I’ll always love.”

 


Austria’s Uwe Fröhlich sits on call for the premiere installment of the World of Echo blog. The likable European is a late-bloomer of sorts in the industry, making his first videos at the age of twenty and seemingly hitting his creative stride at twenty-eight. From starting his own website, to becoming the head of video production for the Austrian Motocross Championship, Uwe doesn’t mind the fact that he’s only now beginning to break out. In fact, I would bet he welcomes it as a challenge, a never ending avenue to keep learning and improving on his craft. It was a pleasure to speak to him about his work, and his words were very inspiring to me. I hope they do the same for those reading.

Discussion includes: life as a motocross enthusiast deep in the heart of KTM country, filming Jeffrey Herlings’ come-from-behind win in the sands of Assen, winning the 2016 Racer X Amateur Film Festival, and more…


*Phone ringing*

Uwe: Hi [?]

World of Echo: Hello?

Hello?

What’s going on, man?

Not much. How are you?

I’m good, I’m good. It’s “OO-Veh,” right? Is that how you pronounce it?

Yeah.

Ok!

[laughs] Yeah, it’s hard, but it’s alright. You got it.

I didn’t want to mess that up! I had to google it.

Yeah, it comes from Germany. It’s hard for Americans to spell it.

There’s not many three letter names that start with “U” around here. But hey! Happy Belated Birthday! February 21st, I believe?

Thank you!

How old are you?

I’m already 28! So yeah, time flies!

It’s nice to actually be speaking to you. I’ve seen you around the MX Simulator forums for such a long time now…

Yeah! It’s a cool idea that you’re doing this.

You been riding much at all? What’s the weather like over there this time of year?

Um, no. We still have snow here, it’s been starting to get warm the past couple days but it was very cold last week. No chance to ride or film.

Where are you from, exactly? Austria, right?

Yeah, I’m from Austria. From the home of KTM!

So it’s correct to assume there’s a shitload of KTM’s hovering around the local tracks?

Yeah, of course. Most of the guys are running KTM’s but I honestly think it’s the best bike you can get.

You’re just saying that…

[laughs] I just love two strokes, so even at 28 I’m still on a KTM 125. It’s the best bike you can have, in my opinion.


uwe 125
Uwe sticks a Pastrana-esque thumbs up on his tricked out 125 SX, dreaming of SoCal.

What is the Austrian motocross scene like? What is a typical weekend like there?

Well we don’t have that many tracks here in Austria so many people, like myself, go to Hungary. It’s not too far away, they have a lot of tracks and… yeah. Most of the guys are out riding. It’s a passion here for many people.

Is motocross big [in Austria]? Or is it a smaller, more tight-knit group where everybody knows everybody?

It’s a small sport here, really small. We don’t have that many tracks or riders, it’s more of a family atmosphere. We all love it, we all do it with passion. That’s why I’m filming motocross ninety-nine percent of the time, because this is what I love, it’s something I’ll always love.

I’m trying to better understand what the sport is like outside of America. How would people outside of the sport react to it in Austria? I know that while it’s bigger in America, I’ll still get people who ask me if I can backflip. Or how many tricks I can do…

It’s completely the same here. Most of the people, they think it’s really easy to ride. They think you just sit on the motorcycle and it’s easy. They say it’s not really a sport. The kids just ask, “how fast can you go? How far can you jump?” [laughs] I think it’s the same issue everywhere.

Have you ever been to America?

Yeah, three times! Twice to southern California, I rode twice as well. We borrowed bikes there and went to Milestone, Glen Helen, those kind of tracks, it was amazing. I think it was the best experience I’ve ever had. I’m going back with my girlfriend in June to Los Angeles and San Francisco. I think the lifestyle you guys have is quite amazing, I really love it.

How does it compare to your lifestyle back home? What is it you see in America?

I don’t know! It’s kind of hard to explain. I mean… you get perfect tracks. They’re groomed, watered. Here, you have one good track out of twenty. They’re dusty, ungroomed… I don’t know how to say [what’s unique about America] but it’s quite different.

Do you have any plans to visit the 2018 Motocross of Nations at RedBud?

No… it’s expensive to fly around! My schedule is pretty busy as well, I’m doing the videos for the Austrian championship again this year. We have twelve rounds and I need to be there every weekend. I’ll probably visit two or three Grand Prix races this year, I’m not sure yet. I was at Assen [last year], it was amazing. They had the stadium there with all of the sand, it was an amazing experience. I made a video about Jeffrey Herlings.



So you basically did a recap video of Herlings’ performance?

Yeah. But he never replied.

Oh, so you just went on your own dime then? I figured you were brought on to film that for him or something. You just went out and did it?

Yeah, unfortunately nothing came of it.

Do you usually approach events like that? Whether you get the official invite or not, you’re just going to make something of it.

I have an agreement with Youthstream [MXGP’s television/marketing management company]. I can film three races throughout the series. So I decided against making a generic “highlights” video of the event. I wanted to focus on Jeffrey because it was his home race. I think it was a good idea, it was something special. Maybe he watched it… his mother shared it on Facebook!

That’s awesome, let’s jump back a little bit. I feel like I know a lot of your recent work, I want to know what the first thing you ever filmed was. What was your first camera setup?

I think it was around 2009, 2010. I don’t know… I think it was an eighty dollar Sony camcorder, a really small one. I went to a race and made a video, I liked it. But compared to now… I have a picture of myself holding that camera. It’s really funny to think back to the old days, especially with the equipment I have now. It’s crazy.


uwethenandnow
Then and now: Uwe running and gunning with his Sony Camcorder on the left. On the right, photo op after a successful shoot with Austrian phenom Michael Sandner.

What were you editing on?

Oh… I don’t know, I think it was German software, it was free. I thought the videos [I was making] were cool, but when you compare the quality to what I do now, you couldn’t even see which bike was which! But I loved it back then, and I love it now. It’s always fun, whether you have the best equipment or not, you need to love it. It’s not all about the quality, it’s more the idea. You don’t need the best equipment, I think.

You started filming in ’09. What eventually led to you competing in the Racer X Amateur Film Festival? Was 2014 your first attempt to be in the festival?

I tried three times. The first time it was late October [2012], and I saw the deadline was in one week, so I took all of my old footage and put it together, it wasn’t very good. The next time they had it [2014] I tried again. I still think that video was pretty cool, but I didn’t make it into the top eight.



I wanted to ask you about that video, I have it pulled up right now. The rider featured in it, Beni. Does he actually get a tattoo of the Racer X shield on his back?

No! It was just a fake. [laughs] We set it up with his girlfriend and faked it.

I was going to say! It’d be a shame if he did that and you guys didn’t even make the top eight.

The funny thing is, I got the email from Racer X and they asked me the same thing.

Wow… now was this an Austrian track in the video?

Yeah. It was in Carinthia, Austria at Beni’s house, but I think the dirt track was in Hungary. We filmed at his house for the pit bike stuff but the dirt bike stuff was in Hungary.

So the next time Racer X had the film festival…

The next time they had it I won! I was pretty pumped on it, not so much for the prizes, but more the opportunities I got. It was a day that changed my life for the better. I got the job with the Austrian championship, then I decided to start my own site Cross News, now I get support from KTM… everything worked out pretty good.

You also had a helping hand in one of Motosport.com’s videos. The one where Nick Wey went to Munich. Was that before or after the film festival?

I don’t know, I think it was after, I was just there for the Insight MX episode with Johannes Klein. Another cameraman with the same setup as me was there, I talked to him and… I think he didn’t know me! He wasn’t a filmer, he was just Nick Wey’s mechanic. He asked me if he could use my shots of Nick, that was it.



Was this all in direct response to you winning the festival?

It wasn’t just the Racer X video, [the folks at the Austrian championship] looked up what I had made before, I had a little website as well. They had someone else [filming the Austrian championship] but he wasn’t doing a good job. My name came up and they asked me, I couldn’t say no.

So what happened between 2014 and 2016? What did you learn in that time to go from not even making the top eight, to winning the festival?

I think the cool part about filming is that you learn something new every time you go out and film, and I think that in those two years I learned a lot. I also changed my equipment, I finally got the Sony FS700 with its epic slow-motion mode.



For your 2016 entry, you filmed with Nino Richter. What made you want to work with him exclusively?

I mean, to be honest I didn’t put that much thought into that video. [laughs] He’s just my best friend and it was only one day to film. It came out pretty good. I think the idea at the beginning was pretty cool. It was nothing serious.

So that was the concept? You were just going to go out, and get what you can get?

The beginning was planned but the riding was just… yeah. We tried another idea that day but it didn’t work out.

What was that?

We tried to have him ride a four stroke. We wanted to play it off that he didn’t like it and he’d get on his two stroke and ride, but.. it wasn’t that good. We changed it quickly.

What was the editing process like for that video? What did you edit in?

I did that video in After Effects and Premiere Pro. I still use them today, it’s quite expensive but having them together is good.

So your thought process…

Back in the day I just went and did some filming [without a lot of thought], but nowadays I really want to work out an idea, or make a script so I know what to do. I think it always works out better that way, to go in with a plan or an idea of what you want to do.

In motocross anything can happen, and I think at times you should work with that, but the most important thing is to tell a story, not to just film random shots. I think many people make that mistake.

Are you watching what Racer X posts, or Transworld, etc.?

I mean I really love watching all sorts of videos. I’m the biggest fan of Kyle Cowling, he did the Spectrum series. He’s doing amazing stuff with lighting, everything.

You learn by watching other stuff, you see how they do it. That’s what’s good about it, that you learn by watching other things. You need to take that with you sometimes, and sometimes you need to work out your own story and tell it.

His work is very unique, very identifiable. The way he shoots you can easily say, “Kyle made that.”

With his color grading and everything, yeah.

So is your series Insight MX inspired by Spectrum?

Totally. Spectrum is something I watch with my friends, it’s what people want to see I think. From the riders to the insight you get from them, they’re the most interesting videos I’ve ever seen, so I wanted to try this on my own. I talked with the best riders in Austria and they were pumped about it… so we tried it. It was crazy, I was in The Netherlands, Mantova, Italy, all over Austria. It was a crazy experience. He inspired me, for sure.



Is there anyone else where, when you watch their work, it makes you want to go out and make your own stuff?

I love to watch all kinds of videos, every evening I watch videos on YouTube, I just want to learn. I watch a lot of Peter McKinnon, he does tutorials in After Effects and those types of programs. I love filming and I want to get better every year [but] I think you need to stay on it to be successful. I think this is a problem with a lot of people, is that they leave for too long and don’t reach their potential.

What’s 2018 looking like? Any specific goals or projects in mind?

Just like last year I’ll be filming the Austrian championship. To be honest I think I’ve reached a lot of my goals already. Last week I gave up my full-time job in favor of a thirty-hour work week, I work from Tuesday to Friday, so I’ll have more time on the weekends. I’ll be going to Rome to visit [Antonio] Cairoli’s private test track. So yeah… I’m going to take some chances and make the best out of it.

It’s hard in this sport to earn money, but I’m trying my best. I still love it, and I won’t stop.

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