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Leading Lens: Interview with Michael Alfuso

In my time working, not just in skate, but ever, I have rarely had the opportunity to meet someone as genuine, kind hearted and hard working as Michael Alfuso. Mike has been brewing his own brand of media production, Alfuso Films, putting out some of the best videos in the industry and has hit over 3 million views on just one of his many banger videos making him one of the most watched filmmakers we have as well. From grinding out school and work trying to get out there, to now crafting his own journey with his camera, Michael Alfuso is definitely a leading lens in downhill skateboarding. 

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How goes? Can you share with readers a bit about you, how old are you? Where you from? Where you living?

My name is Michael Alfuso and I’m 25 years old, from Orange County, CA, and have been living in the Bay Area (Oakland) for a year.

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We know you make epic media, but what is it exactly that you do? What is Alfuso Film?

I film everything from outdoor adventures like backpacking and rock climbing, to downhill skating and the occasional corporate video. Alfuso Film is the business name I operate with. Honestly, I needed a website and a logo, so I did what any reasonable person does…insert last name and occupation. Badabing badaboom = Alfuso Film.

Seems like it’s going alright! If I wanted to be you when I grew up, what would my week or month look like?

Hustle, go on trip, film, edit, hustle, find time to sleep, hustle. I’ve always got a few projects on the editing table at the same time, while I’m out there planning for the next one. The key is having a constant flow. I usually take at least one half-day a week and one weekend a month to go hiking and get away from the computer & emails. The rest of the time, it’s bidness time.

I assume you went to school for that?

Yes, I went to Cal State University Northridge (Los Angeles) and got my BA in Film Production with an emphasis in Cinematography.

Do you have to go to school to leaner how to make great media?

Not at all. School was (for me at least) a 4 year buffer of time to f**k up as much as possible and figure out what the hell I was doing, what I wanted to do, and how I was going to get there. Not to say I didn’t learn anything during my studies. There were some great lessons that I took away from my professors, but most importantly was the experience I gained by being there. Real world experience > Degrees.

As I understand it, you travel for work a bit, is that right? Where have you been off to the past few months?

Yessir. In the warmer seasons I’m on the road at least one or more weeks a month. I’ve been everywhere between San Diego to San Francisco these past few months. Racked up a good amount miles on the Subie! A handful of those projects have been with Abec 11 team riders such as Douglas Dalua, Tibs Parise, and Guto Lamera. I also had the opportunity to film/road trip with some of the Bustin crew in SB which was awesome.

What part of your life do you like most? Film? Photo? Edit? Travel?

It honestly changes from week to week. It needs to be a balance for me. I love all aspects of my job, but too much of any one thing drives me crazy & forces me to do the opposite. Recently I’ve been feeling more drawn towards photography, rather than exclusively filming. It’s a different process and helps me slow down. I guess travel is my favorite part, since I get to do all those things while I’m on the road.

What is your creative process like? What’s the hardest part of creating a new video?

It all starts with asking “What’s the story?” That’s definitely the hardest part. I really enjoy including the rider(s) in the creative process. Some people just shoot what they want to shoot, but I like using a rider’s perspective when it comes to location scouting, camera angles, and even feedback on the edit. Collaboration is a huge part of my process. Once I shoot a video, I don’t start editing until I have the music picked out. The song choice is what sets the tone for the whole video or scene, which can make or break the project.

Steven Vera for Landyachtz in San Francisco.

Steven Vera for Landyachtz in San Francisco.

What kind of gear do you usually take if you’re on a film trip? Is it different if you have to fly or drive? Are you a light packer or take every gadget you can?

Typically I have 1 DSLR (Canon 5dmkiii/70D) and a secondary mirrorless camera (Panasonic GH4). Occasionally I’ll have a larger camcorder like the Sony FS700. Other gear includes a Manfrotto 504HD tripod, DJI Ronin-M stabilizer, ZOOM H4N recorder w/ Audio Technica Lavaliere mic, a few lenses, and a F-Stop TilopaBC backpack to carry it all. I try to fit everything I need in one backpack (and strapped to the outside) if I can. Oh…and an inflatable backpacking sleeping pad & bivy sack. Crucial for those mosquito infested nights on the concrete floor of the 2nd story of a public library in the rural Dominican jungle. Lesson learned.

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You’ve been helping bring the Abec 11 and Jet Brands to life for a while, helping tell their stories. What is it that makes the Abec 11 job so great?

Abec11, Chris Chaput, and the whole Sk8Trip crew has been extremely supportive to me over the years. Since my very first Abec11 shoot with James Kelly & Kevin Reimer, to my most recent shoot with Douglas Dalua, Chris Chaput has trusted my judgement, provided me with the tools, and supported my personal & career growth. I’ve matured a lot as a photographer and filmmaker over the past 5 years, and much of that is due to the opportunity that Abec11 provided me. For that I am eternally grateful.

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What are your 3 favourite skate videos you’ve created?

  1. “Sergio Yuppie – King of Downhill Slide”
  2.  “Jonny Miller – All About The Ride”
  3. It is a tie between “Pam Diaz – Freedom” and the “Sk8Trip to The Dominican Republic”.

What are your 3 favourite non-skate videos you’ve created?

  1. “Backpacking Half Dome” with Sports Basement Outdoors
  2. “Cycling Tours” with Sports Basement Outdoors
  3. “SpeedFly Sports” with Duane Hall

What’s next for you and Alfuso Film?

Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve become personally and professionally more involved with the outdoors community up here. I’ve been filming and participating a lot in activities like as rock climbing, backpacking, and cycling, and I’m looking forward to increasing my involvement in 2016. I’m also stoked to be collaborating with Boosted Boards as a brand ambassador & working on some cool video projects with their team! Aside from that, I’ll be getting outside as much a possible and looking forward to exciting opportunities in the new year.

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Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Anything else you want to share? Do video guys have sponsors to shout out? Hi Mom?

Absolutely Les, thanks for the chat!

I want to work with Ty Evans on his next project. Yes Ty…I’m talking to you. Call me.

HAH, no “video” sponsors…YET. Hi mom.

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