Normal Gets You Nowhere: Bahne Beliaeff
"My goal is to become the best cameraman in Germany" - this sentence comes from Bahne Beliaeff. This self-confident and ambitious goal arouses curiosity. So curious, in fact, that Melvin and Bahne arranged to meet on the podcast to talk about his story, his beginnings and where he stands today.
When the 23-year-old, who grew up in Husum, talks about his beginnings, an experience from his school days and a video on YouTube play a big role. "I was in a school band at the time when I was 12, 13 years old, and we were supposed to rap "Sing for the Moment" by Eminem. I fucked up and then went on YouTube and watched Eminem videos. When I saw a video of the "Up and Smoke Tour", I knew: I want to become a rapper! And so I started rapping and making videos myself," Bahne says of the start of his passion.
At an age when most people don't think much about the future or don't have a rough idea of their future profession, Bahne already knows exactly what he wants at the age of 15. "I just said back then that I wanted to be the best cinematographer. This early goal-setting is also the reason why, at 23, I can already say I've achieved many of my goals, simply because I knew early on where I wanted to go." Goals he then defines more precisely. "I always wanted to shoot for the big labels and the biggest rappers. The last two years it happened then," says Bahne, who continues, "If you're on set with MoTrip, for example, whom you've been listening to since you were 13 and who then has a go at shooting something with you, then of course it's rad."
Disappointment and doubt as an opportunity
After graduating from high school at 19, Bahne moved to Hamburg. After starting an apprenticeship in a photo studio for high fashion productions, he quickly realizes that everyday life in the fashion world is not for him. "I was just unhappy and thought to myself, "fuck, you're not made for this media world". Then, through a few corners, I got to know a film production company that did a lot for Warner Music, and I then changed my training company after three or four months," says Bahne, who describes the time as very exciting. "The team was made up of old school friends. A graphic designer, a director, an editor. I experienced everything in those three years: a high phase, a down phase, and took so much with me. And all of them are friends of mine to this day." But Bahne also describes the negative sides that come with such a family environment: "We couldn't argue. If I made a mistake, my boss couldn't tell me and I couldn't take him seriously because we were just buddies," Bahne says looking back.
After his apprenticeship, he asked himself how he should continue. "I could never imagine working as a freelancer, so I wanted to go to university. But when I looked out over Hamburg one evening while hanging laundry on the balcony, it was clear to me: I'm not done with this city yet," says Bahne, who then ventures into self-employment in early 2020, shortly before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. "The start was just really ass card, I sacrificed all my reserves and then had no cent left. Then all my jobs were canceled until June. But the bottom line is that it didn't throw me off my game" says Bahne.
After his time in the music video world, Bahne's next move is to the advertising industry. "Advertising is not what it was a few years ago. The whole industry is changing and that's where I feel very comfortable," the 23-year-old said. Another reason why music videos are not his main priority at the moment is the many empty promises that are the order of the day in this scene. "I've paid countless years of apprenticeship money. I rented equipment partly from my own money and was always told "we're a team" and then you don't hear from each other for months. Other disappointments count as well. I could probably make my own podcast episode about those moments," Bahne says with a laugh, but he also takes something positive from such setbacks. "I'm currently happy that things are going so well, but it's precisely when you fail that you change and you work on yourself," he says, emphasizing that he often takes such setbacks on himself and has learned over the years who he can rely on.
"Why doesn't it look like Drake?"
Asked about the biggest, most expensive or elaborate projects in his career so far, Bahne goes into detail. "Sure, a lot of budget makes a lot possible. But in the end, it doesn't determine that something with a lot of budget is better. If you have people who put their heart and soul into the project, then you can make something great even with a small budget," Bahne tells us, but then also points out the positive sides of a big budget and quietly criticizes the music videos. "You can just go at it with a lightness on bigger productions and act more freely. You just pay the cost of extra equipment and locations. With most music videos, however, it's like you're handed 5,000€ and people want a Lambo, a mansion, dancers, expensive clothes and preferably shoot in two days. What most people don't see then is that after 22, 23 hours of shooting, the whole thing is also cut and you go home at the end with 500€. And then people complain afterwards why the video doesn't look like Drake's," Bahne says, slightly disappointed.
"Plan? Not at all."
When asked if he has a strategy to get to his goal, Bahne quickly and directly answers "not at all," but then elaborates, "I'm the most chaotic person in the world and really only let my gut instinct guide me, and as of right now, it hasn't disappointed me yet. What's important is simply believing in your own abilities and I know I'll be where I want to be in 20 years."
Bahne, who has had the opportunity to look into many different areas in his life through his education and profession, believes it is important to work together as a team even more in the future. "The most important thing to get far is to hand things off to others who are better than you are."
We asked ourselves what the classic working day of a cameraman looks like. Bahne answers it this way, "My work life is always extreme. You have production days now and then where you're shooting 18, 19 hours straight and you just grab a slice of pizza during your lunch break and then it's back to work. But of course there are also days when I sleep late and then go for a round of coffee," Bahne says with a smile on his face.
"I love the job"
Towards the end of the conversation, you notice once again how passionate Bahne is about his job. "In the end, it's not just what the video looks like that matters, it's how you get there. You write a concept, you work on it, you shoot, you argue. And at the end you have a film, a minute or 30 seconds, and you think to yourself, "We did that." And that's what I crave and love about this job," says Bahne, whose enthusiasm is evident in every sentence and who we're sure will still be doing it 20 years from now and whom we wish all the best in becoming Germany's best cinematographer.