Northern Insight's Steve Russell meets Simon August, Managing Director, 2XS Films
Fast cars, motorbikes, extreme sports and the occasional close encounter with helicopter rotor blades. No, not a list of James Bond’s hobbies, just an average day at the office for award-winning North East cameraman, digital cinematographer and Managing Director of 2XS Films Ltd, Simon August.
Having racked up twenty years of filming experience on some incredible projects for many of the world’s leading brands, including England Rugby, Formula 1 and Red Bull, Simon and his company are now at the vanguard of high-tech image-making.
However, like many entrepreneurs, his early career path wasn’t always so smooth. Simon, 44, explains: “Growing up I wanted to be an RAF pilot but I failed the Maths and Physics tests, so being from a farming background, I decided to go to Agricultural College”. This lasted about 6 months until a near-fatal car crash at 19 triggered an epiphany. “After the crash I told my parents I didn’t want to be a farmer and to be fair they were really supportive. I’d always been into Windsurfing so I decided I’d train to become an instructor while I figured out what I wanted to do.”
We try to take what we do in the wilderness and apply it to everyday situations to help our clients stand out.Simon August, 2XS Films
That decision took him to Cornwall, teaching water sports for several years until once more he found himself restless. An attempt to become a helicopter pilot followed leaving him close to penniless – before an opportunity to break into the film-industry arrived by chance. In 1997 Shekhar Kapur’s biopic Elizabeth, was filming in Northumberland and thanks to his knowledge of the area, Simon was hired as a location runner, a role he enjoyed and which planted a seed of ambition.
Returning to Cornwall, he briefly resumed his teaching career before enrolling on a film and photography course at Falmouth College of Arts. Following graduation, he paid his dues within the film industry before establishing himself as a freelance camera man, and he considers himself lucky to have covered some amazing events, such as the Isle of Man TT and Moto GP. Establishing 2XS Films in 2003, he continued his freelance work but also began to take on increasingly impressive projects with 2XS, culminating in what he considers to be his proudest achievement:
“Doing the first ascent and descent of Mount Bear in Alaska with professional athletes was physically, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Filmed in 2009, Taming the Bear, charts Berghaus athlete Julia Pickering’s audacious attempt to split-board down Mount Bear, and it was a project which demonstrates just how much Simon suffers for his art!
“When you’re in a tent, it’s so cold you can’t get your snow boots on (temperatures can reach minus 50 at the summit) and you’re the only people in 3 million square miles of wilderness it can be pretty mind blowing!”
Due to some treacherous weather conditions, this was also where he had a rather too-closefor-comfort encounter with the rotor blades of a helicopter, but luckily he survived to tell the tale and 2XS has since gone on to become a truly world-class operation. Mount Bear was also where he met Warwick Pickering, a professional ski mountaineer, who now acts as a safety specialist for 2XS and has become an integral part of the company. The other principal player is Joe Carter, an accomplished producer and cameraman who heads up the Australian wing of the company. Simon himself considered relocating down-under but found the call of home too strong. Now a Newcastle resident once more, he told us: “I love the North and the people up here. I’m not a city person generally, but I love Newcastle. For me, it’s the perfect city. I’ve lived all over the globe and had some crazy experiences, but this will always be my home.”
Australia’s loss is the North East’s gain and having settled back in the region, Simon is eager to use his passion and experience to help showcase local businesses. Offering an incredible range of image production, including a helicopter, state-of-the-art drones, super slow motion cameras and 360 degree filming, 2XS are able to bring a unique and dynamic perspective to their clients, regardless of the brief. Simon explained:
“We try to take what we do in the wilderness and apply it to everyday situations to help our clients stand out. Just by making a two-minute film we recently helped a local business increase their profits by 33 percent”.
Though somewhat ill-at-ease in selling himself, Simon is a remarkable man at the peak of his game and undoubtedly represents an exciting addition to the North East business scene.