In May 2010 the German freestyler and filmmaker Andre Pakwoski got diagnosed with cancer. Since the diagnosis his life has changed, but his love for windsurfing not. Instead of giving up, Andre finished the very successful DVD production “Minds Wide Open” in 2011 and started to work on two new movies, “Rewarded” and “Magic Moments“, which got first on screen in early October this year. In the beginning of December we did an interview with Andre, who was just about to fly with his parents to Jericoacoara (Brazil) to sail and have fun, but to also to meet “John of God” in Brasilia. John of God is a famous healer, who gets visited by millions of people seeking healing.
We spoke with Andre about the making of the movies, his sickness and much more.
Beat Steffan, Gollito Estredo, Andre Paskowski, Sebastian Dörr – Pic: Ludovic Franco
Continentseven: Why did you make the movie Rewarded. What was your main goal?
Andre Paskowksi: The main goal of Rewarded were several things. The main reason was to do a movie about Gollito. I thought that the freestyle part of the Minds Wide Open DVD was relatively short. And because Gollito is my best friend, I just wanted to show his life and incredible style. But it was also important to show – that me and Basti and also Manuel Grafenauer made a huge technical step with new cameras and toys. I wanted to show Gollito’s life, Gollito’s incredible sailing skills and fantastic cinematography. That’s why we have that 3 chapters. Life Section, Contest Section, beautiful travel section.
C7: Are you happy with the outcome of these three parts: Life, Contest, Travel?
Andre: Yes, I really am. On my last Movie “Minds Wide Open” I was not really sure, if the people see what is inside the movie. But with REWARDED I think we did a really good job. I am happy that we finally let people talk and express themselves. It is important to have made that step. It is also not the typical boring interview talk. It is more than that and – if you’re ready for it – you can take something out from the movie. I am really happy to get the images looking like they are. To have the waterhousing for the new Sony cam was a bonus. When I saw the footage coming day by day it was great. It is so special to see the water drop and some details which you never saw before and all that really close to you. I am a person looking a lot in detail. And this movie has a lot of details in almost every shot. So yes. This time I can say – I am really happy!
C7: What was the hardest or most difficult in the making of Rewarded?
Andre: For me it was the time in Fuerteventura were we did not have any wind or waves. We were all set and ready to go. We had the help from Manuel Grafenauer and then there was just no wind and even less waves. That was hard for me. For Basti, who does the editing, I can imagine, it was hard to find the right words. It is such a hard job to filter the best seconds from a two hour interview and then put this snips and bits together to tell a story. That’s a hard job and maybe Basti lost some hair there.
Andre at work during the Fuerteventura event – Pic: Rewarded
C7: Basti was doing the editing on his own?
Andre: Yes pretty much. Especially the technical part of it. At the beginning I tell him what I want and give him the footage and he puts it into a first cut. Then he sends me the cut and I look over it. At this step we still exchange a lot of things or sometimes even say we start new. Then Basti goes back to work and a couple of days later we have a better cut. Then we look at it again for one or two days and start to polish every clip and picture.
C7: With how much gear did you travel to Fuerteventura for example?
Andre: We were two guys working at Sotavento this time. It was Manuel Grafenauer and myself. I traveled with 3 cameras, 1 crane, 2 tripods, external harddrives, several lenses, reflectors and a slider. In total I travelled with 4 hardcases, one for all the waterhousing equipment, two with lenses and cams and a 4th one with extra stuff. It´s a weight of 60 – 70 kg camera equipment in total.
C7: A lot of choices.
Andre: Yes, that´s right. With so much equipment you have a lot of choices in the end of the day… and that fact makes it quite difficult! But I am really happy to own a waterhousing for the slow motion cam, which can capture 240 pictures per second. It gives me the chance to catch special moments in really high quality. I have built the housing together with my dad before I had the cam in my hand. It was a challenging project, but worked out in the end.
C7: What´s the value of your equipment right now?
Andre: We are at 30.000 to 40.000 € and that’s a lot of money. But at the same moment it doesn’t mean, that you automatically will produce a great film with high end equipment. And it does not mean that you need the latest equipment to produce a good product. You as well can create something great with less and much cheaper equipment!
Andre with his camera – Pic: Rewarded
C7: Can you tell us a bit more about the slow motion technique and camera you used.
Andre: In other sport movies the slowmo technique is a standard, but in windsurfing it comes exactly right now. In April Sony announced a camera called FS700. I was lucky that Manuel (Grafenauer) sent me an email, because I was just about to buy a Red Epic camera, but the Sony seemed to be enough and much much cheaper. It offered everything we were looking for. Full HD in up to 240 frames per second. That means that every second of real time gets 10 seconds of movie or let’s say it is a 10 times Slow Mo.
Before you were able to create the effect with programs called Twixtor or heavy-weight cameras and harddrives, but the problem on Twixtor is, that it is only a program and not the reality. It calculates all details in between to create the slowmo effect. But the real slowmo comes when the camera can film slowmo. Well that, plus a waterhousing for that camera. This combo enables perspectives and scenes, which are unreal and which I have never seen before in any windsurfing clip or movie.
Slow Motion Clip with left over footage from Rewarded
C7: How did you finance everything?
Andre: Yes, the financial part is always a really important one. We had a big investment, which can be compared with a film production. I definitely wanted to spend money to get a product with great quality in the end. The worst solution would be to run movies with much lower quality. Personalities like Gollito call for really cool productions. An interesting story out of his life plus exciting action. Plus we need to give the sport a cool look and it should look excellent for all spectators. But that costs a lot of money and to finance projects like this is really hard.
Filming in Tarifa – Pic: Ludovic Franco
C7: Why didn´t you want to release a movie on DVD? You could have covered some of your costs?
Andre: We thought for a long time to release a short movie on DVD, but the film is just 20 minutes long. My cancer is the main reason, why we kept it that short. We as well thought about the option to release it on iTunes. We did not find an ideal solution and in the end we decided to run an appplication, where everybody, who feels like, can donate some money to our account. In the near future it will be much more difficult to finance such projects. I was able to save some money from my professional windsurfing career, but spent it all as I needed a lot of money for the cancer treatments. But the cameras will not be sold immediately!!! The next production will happen for sure!
C7: How much money did you get already through the donation and how much of your costs can you cover already? Andre: I was surprised that we received donations and I am happy and thankful of it. I just read a few “bad” comments about this option. We covered 3300EUR which is like 20% of the full production costs.
C7: How would you describe your movies, what’s special and extraordinary?
Andre: Moves can be exchanged easily, but special moments will always be burned in someone’s memory. I have moments I will always remember, like when I stepped into the helicopter in Maui for the first time. Peter Svensson and I were not really sure what to do. I always try to put as much heart, soul and creativity as possible into my projects and try to transform it on the audience. My dream would be, if Gollito will look back in 10 or 20 years and remember the great movie project we produced, when he had won his 5th Freestyle Worldtitle.
C7: Why did you choose to make a film about Gollito?
Andre: It was easy. Gollito is a very good friend. I also think that Gollito is an outstanding talent. All he does seems effortless. He can do all new tricks and let them all look easy. We trained a lot together over the years and it has been always fun to sail with him. If he is in the mood he can do things which always surprise me. I love that. Surprising style. Maybe because I did not had that gift. My style was more like planned. People called me once Tick Tack, because I never crashed. Gollito plays. On top comes that I just recently found out, how his life really was.
C7: But you have been in El Yaque for many winters? How come, you did not know him?
Andre: I came to El Yaque the winter after my first PWA Season. I have not seen Gollito before. He did not compete on the events yet and I did not know his background. I was 22 and I was not really interested in the background. He was cool, he was sailing great and he was so funny and still very small. It was a funny guy and we played on the water and sometimes at the bar. We were going to sail, compete, party and sleep. But since the time I got sick, I got to know him better and I found out more about his family and life. And it touched me. It is unreal that with all that history he came so far, he can be proud on him.
C7: So, you did also not know his mother before?
Andre: Not really, I saw his mother a couple of times before, but did not know how close her connection with Gollito was. When I made the interview, it was the first time I was in El Yaque again and it was great. Gollito said ” If you interview my mother – for sure she will dress and make herself beautiful”. And then on the day we came to do the interview, she looked really sweet. I was not sure if she would know what I want and if she would be able to talk really good. But then we started and she was full of power and energy. It was a really great moment to see her speaking about her, her family and Gollito.
C7: How is it, to work with Gollito? Many people say it is difficult to work with him?
Andre: For me it sometimes is not easy. Then I am sitting there and think – why why why. But then in the end I think it has to be like it is. Sometimes I have problems to explain what I need and want to make him understand. For example it is important to film in morning light and evening light because it is beautiful, but he prefers to go from 12-3 because it is the hottest. Also sometimes we need shots to connect everything… it makes working a little bit complicated at times but then… I also know, that Gollito is not a cameraman, he is a Windsurfer. In his mind all what matters is his windsurfing level. I have to understand him and use my tricks to work around all the problems. And then everything is fine. The outcome is always brilliant and when we watch the final product and I see his eyes then I know he likes it.
Pic: Ludovic Franco
C7: Let’s switch to your personal movie, called “Magic Moments“. How was it for you to show yourself in front of the camera like never before?
Andre: Manuel Grafenauer filmed me during the Fuerteventura trip in July 2012. I exactly felt like the movie shows it. It’s a sad opener indeed, but overall the clip should show that I have fun despite my cancer. I don’t sit at home and think all the time about the moment when I will die. I was flying more miles than ever before during this season plus I am very happy that I am still able to be active in windsurfing, surfing and SUP.
C7: Do you feel stronger day by day dealing with your cancer?
Andre: No, it’s really hard to handle the whole situation. Honestly I feel sad, that I was not able to recover and gain strength again. Actually I feel a bit weaker compared to Fuerteventura, when we filmed the movie. It’s really hard to deal with that, but I am still happy and want to keep my good mood. I was able to finish the clips and organize a filmfestival at Sylt during the Worldcup, also.
C7: How did your life change since you got the diagnosis of cancer?
Andre: I spend less time at parties, follow the motto “carpe diem” and get up early. I wasted so much time with hangovers in the past! I now try to focus much clearer on plans, stick to my goals. I still try to think long-termed, but it got hard as I really don’t want to plan for too long. I am also getting help from a psychologist and without his support, I would not be able to stand the situation. I live through many emotional moments. It’s a rollercoster with good and bad moments. My doctors always says that I am classified as a very sick person, but I still can do almost everything. It’s a permanent up and down of emotional moments, but it feels good to spend time with my doctor.
C7: You once said, Minds Wide Open was one of the reasons you got sick. Why did you decide to make another movie then?
Andre: Did I? I am sure I said that working on movies like BIG DVD projects give me stress and that is maybe a part of the reason, why I am sick. With Rewarded we did something in between a DVD and a clip. The pressure was less and I only had 3 destinations and 1 rider. In Minds Wide Open there were 7 destinations, 6 riders and a crew of 2-3 people. That was a different kind of stress level. Rewarded was the right size for my actual situation and I am glad that i did it. Projects bring stress which is not good for me, but projects also bring magic moments which could be a natural medicine as well. The goal was to reduce the stress part of it, but to keep the good side and I think it was a good idea.
C7: How do you feel at the moment and what were your results of the last hospital check-up? Andre: I am feeling really good because I am just about to check in at Hamburg Airport and do the annual family holiday with my mum and dad. So I look into 3 weeks of fun and happiness. I am also looking forward to meet a real important person, plus to meet John of God which can be something good. On the other hand I am receiving Test Results and CT Scans which are far away from positive. Well that side looks real dramatic. I try to not get myself down to much with it and I am not constantly thinking of it at all – unless I am in hospital or it is a real shitty rainy day in Hamburg and all my friends post me from all around the world. But, yes I am dreaming of flights, Windsurfing, SUPing doing nice movies and be with friends. I recently met a person which seems to be my mind brother (or better sister) and I am also looking forward to some travels between the chemos in early 2013.