Industry Profile: GoPro Production Artist Abe Kislevitz
02 Aug, 2011
Job Title: Production Artist
Years on snow: 10
Days on snow: 100/yr
Currently Riding: …skis? 4FRNTs of all types!
Currently I am: In the office, editing GoPro commercials
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Abe: I’m 24 years old, grew up near Portland, Oregon skiing Hood through high school. Always had a passion for the arts growing up which took a turn into technology pretty early on. I had a lot of rad software to play with, with help from my older brother who was the computer whiz. Spent a lot of nights and weekends learning to write code, playing with editing software, learning Photoshop, Dreamweaver, 3D modeling, etc. Eventually went to USC and studied mechanical engineering, but continued to dabble in the arts through my own endeavors.
Shay: How has skiing changed your life?
Abe: Every major decision past 8th grade I feel like has been influenced by skiing in some way or another. It dictated what friends I had through school, what girlfriends I ended up dating, what school I went to, what hobbies I got into, and eventually now what career path I’ve chosen. I can’t even begin to imagine where or what I might be had I not gotten into skiing. I helped run the USC Ski & Snowboard Team all through school, stepped in after my brother was president – that pretty much shaped every part of my college experience and beyond.
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Abe: Kind of a funny story, and slightly two-folded – I’ve jumped into the industry from two sides – largely completely separate. Senior year in high school I was in ‘Advanced Art’ where you pretty much run wild creating pieces of art however you want. I figured I’d give painting a try for the first time, so I painted a series of ski works – going for the photo-realism paintings of mountains, skiers off jumps, rails, etc. I ended up posting pictures of the paintings on Newschoolers.com (popular social skiing website) a long time ago and they got pretty popular. One painting was the top rated/top commented photo on the entire site for a few months. Anyway, got a call out of the blue from the owner of 4FRNT Skis asking if I’d want to design his pro-model line of skis for the following year. Bewildered, scared, and psyched I jumped into it and went to town. Continued this to this day, having designed 43 different pairs of skis over the past 7 years. That’s the ski industry side of things, got into the other side a little differently.
In college I started making videos for our ski team to give us a little more exposure. I designed the website and I wanted content to put on it. My good buddy Alex Clarey was an officer on the team a few years ago and met up with GoPro at the ASR convention in San Diego. This was before GoPro was…GoPro. I hadn’t even heard of it, but we got a camera in the mail (standard def) and I was so psyched someone believed in us, I wanted to really give back. I started making weekly videos and posting them to YouTube and our website. I guess GoPro picked up on what we did and were really stoked – they saw something valuable in what we were creating. I was asked to come out to Hood in the summer about 6 months before the HD model was released to test out their new cameras and film/edit a ski promo for the launch. I grabbed USC Ski Team star Chris Farro and met with GoPro athlete Tucker Perkins and we filmed ‘The Ski Movie’ for GoPro’s channel. From there they had me come out to a few events that fall while I was finishing school and offered me a full time job as soon as I was ready to jump into the real world after a few months of playing in Mammoth.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Abe: I’m sure everything I’ve done previously and up until now have helped me in ways I can’t or won’t ever comprehend or come to realize. I never really enjoyed engineering classes necessarily, not to mention being horribly bad at it, but when asked why I did it I can say it’s not about what you study in school that determines what you do or who you are. Getting through engineering worked and developed my mind in ways I would have never done or wanted to do, but it’s something that’s trained me to work hard and follow through. In school I held a job on campus all 4 years doing web development and graphic design, did video stuff for the USC Ski & Snowboard team, and studied music in high school. Toss those all in a blender and I’m sure some sort of comprehensible ability of video editing comes out.
Shay: Tell us about your role at GoPro and a description of the work you do?
Abe: Production Artist is the title that’s printed on my business card. I’m part of the media group which is made up of 5 of us all similar in age, sense of humor, office arrival time, and technical savviness. We basically create all of the videos you might see on the GoPro YouTube channel, in stores on display TV’s, or at half-time during the SuperBowl on your TV. About a quarter of our time is spent on the road at different events facilitating the filming of athletes.
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Abe: At events it’s always a little different but we’ll usually wake up, get kits of cameras ready for the day – which can range from anywhere between 10 and 60 cameras – go out and mount some athletes up, set up some time lapses, and film some stuff. Around evening time we’ll pop back to the hotel and start the endless SD card copy, brainstorm and map out our video, and edit until late in the night.
In the office things are a little more controlled and we’ve been hiring more people to make it so more time is spent editing and less time dealing with the clutter of distractions that comes with being in the office. The media group handles all of the footage coming in from athletes and people out in the world and a LOT of people have GoPros, so it gets pretty nuts pretty fast answering emails & dealing with the day-to-day without some help.
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Abe: Through the ski side of things I always enjoyed being a part of the 4FRNT Team. I used to spend a week every summer up in Whistler at Camp of Champions. Had great summer days & nights with Matt Sterbenz, Eric Hjorleifson, CR Johnson, and some of the other cats from 4FRNT BBQing, hanging out, and skiing. Got introduced to most of the major great freestyle skiers of our time at one point or another, which is cool because it’s a tight group and fun to see them shredding in Mammoth in the spring, Hood in the summer, or just around at events.
Through GoPro it’s been a whirlwind of amazing adventures. Obviously Dew Tour, X Games, Mammoth trips have been at the top of the list. GoPro has been amazing in letting me continue the USC Ski & Snowboard team videos by helping me get to Mammoth on the weekends. Most of all it’s just been amazing to be a part of the incredible team that makes up GoPro as a whole. The company is growing so fast and everyone puts in their part to make it what it is.
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Abe: They can go hand in hand but ultimately passion will drive experience, and true natural experience will help dictate what you can do job-wise. Plus, it’s way easier to get a job with something to show of previous experience. I also can’t speak highly enough of education – perhaps not because of the material, but simply the opportunities you’re given and the amazing individuals you get to be exposed to.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Abe: Find what you love to do, pursue it, work hard for it and eventually something will come around. If you’re going into the arts I can’t stress how important it is to just create for creating’s sake. Do it as much as you can, find as many little jobs you can do that are right up your alley, and build your portfolio. Nothing speaks more about your abilities than your actual work. Lastly – be creative and do something different.
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