Max Verstappen, Brad Pitt, Stéphane Bern… At 21, Alex Bouton drones with the stars

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To pilot, Alex arms himself with his virtual reality headset to put himself in the shoes of his drone
Alex Bouton arms himself with a virtual reality headset to put himself in the shoes of his drone ©DR

This kid is full of talent. Surroundings, family or friends, it is not uncommon to hear praise about Alex Bouton. At first glance, it is difficult to guess in which discipline he excels so much. Sympathetic, outgoing, pleasant… The latter nevertheless looks like a normal, smiling and sociable young man, 21 years old, from Sainte-Gauburge-Sainte-Colombe (Orne).

Indeed, there is nothing to suggest that this Valburgeois is a drone pilot, flies over world-famous stars and takes part in TV, series or film shoots.

Self-taught in every way

Becoming a drone pilot cannot be improvised. Practice, the main way to progress. For Alex Bouton, nothing is innate, but the result of stubborn training. “When I was 10-11 years old, I did model aircraft at L’Aigle. I was flying polystyrene remote control planes on sight. »

Wind, external obstacles, flying by making the plane come back towards you, model aircraft allowed him to acquire the basics of piloting.

Growing up, during adolescence, he began to produce videos with his friends.

We filmed the activities we did, I edited the videos on the iMovie software and then published them on YouTube.

Alex Button

Thus, he then learns the basics of editing on the family computer. No training, just tutorials on YouTube or on the internet. A true autodidact who trained himself by practicing himself, but also through internships. “In 3e I also did internships at JPG Videos. Jean-Pascal Gautier is a bit like my mentor, he taught me a lot of things. »

As here, some drones can sometimes cost several thousand or even tens of thousands of euros
Some drones can sometimes cost several thousand euros ©DR

Subsequently, in high school, Alex works in recreation centers to make money. Money that allows him, at the age of 18, to buy his first drone and a one-week training course in Corsica to learn the basics of drone piloting. “Alex absolutely wanted to pay for the training, but it had to take place during a week of high school,” his parents recall. “We contacted the trainer, then, seeing that Alex was passionate, he agreed to take him on. »

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After his Baccalaureate, obtained in 2019, the Valburgeois embarked on cinema studies. Head to ESRA, in Paris. However, like many young students, he comes up against confinement and distance learning.

Self-employed at 18

In addition, two weeks before confinement, he set up his own business. “I set up my little activity two weeks before confinement, to start doing small services in the area in a drone and with a camera. »

Without projects because of the health crisis, the pilot still makes videos, with the means at hand, to attract customers. Thus, after confinement, the first services arrive. Here and there, Alex makes himself known through his various performances and word of mouth. “At school, I was seen as the drone pilot, so as soon as there were end-of-year projects, I was the one called for short films. »

Then, with his contacts from school, a serious opportunity arises with his company called Drone Phoenix.

In September 2020, I went to Spain for a week, to the Circuit de Catalunya, to shoot an ad with a Chinese car brand, an electric supercar.

Alex Button

Then, in 2021, Alex will even go so far as to produce half of the plans for the program “Le monument favorite des Français”, presented by Stéphane Bern. He spent almost two months traveling around France to film heritage.

Today, Alex Bouton works in a company called Drone Cast. Experience, contacts, prestige of filming… Today he is an employee, but continues to carry out projects with his company.

Network priority and experience

With this company based in Marseille, the pilot had the opportunity to shoot a film for Prime Video, various commercials, as well as live sporting events.

First service with L’Aigle Shopping

In 2020, Alex Bouton made his first performances. “My first service was at L’Aigle, it was for the merchants’ association,” he recalls. Security, directing, framing… Right from your first shoot, you have to manage four things in one. “They wanted to make a video with Stephanie Ballay. She took care of the ground, I took care of the air. We had blocked streets with the agreement of the municipal police, the prefecture, I had taken two people to manage security. We started in the morning, but when people wanted to get their bread, they couldn’t go because we were blocking the street for security. »
Knowing that regulations on drones and public space are very strict in France, Alex did not compromise on any rules. “Drone regulations are changing all the time, and are quite strict. You can’t fly everywhere, at least when you are an individual. And for my first performance, I had to do everything right. I was well trained on this at school. We therefore obtained a municipal decree for the occupation of the public area, saying that it was necessary to stop both pedestrians and cars. The street was therefore closed with barriers and security to inform people. But, as always, some people don’t follow the rules. »
On the shoots, Alex responds to requests from directors, but can also be proactive in bringing his vision as a pilot. “In general, we have specifications. Afterwards, it’s also my job to also see what works best with the drone. All the external elements also require a certain ability to adapt, depending on each situation. “You also have to adapt. Try to shoot in the morning or evening to avoid too much interference with traffic and people. The more people there are, the more difficult it will be for me to have anyone on my plans. Sometimes you have to shoot in very touristy places. Try to avoid flying over crowded areas for safety. »

Today, he tours all over France for shoots that are just as different from each other. “As soon as I arrived in the company, I was commissioned to do a feature film for Amazon Prime called Drone Games which will be released in September. After that, I was in Marseille and I continued on many other projects.

An advertisement for Samsung with Ridley Scott, for Honda with Max Verstappen, and with Brad Pitt for Delonghi coffee…

Alex Button

Such a course, at 21, is not so common. At the start of a career, creating a network can sometimes be long and laborious.

Thousands of dollars in the air

Succeeding in plans, filming with stars, driving machines at sometimes exorbitant prices… On set, many factors add pressure. “You have to manage security, the gaze of the people around who are scrutinizing the image, the management of equipment… I have already piloted a drone where there was more than €100,000 in the air”, explains he. “You have to know how to manage and prepare well beforehand to know how the drone will behave. If we do tests beforehand, we save time to carry out the plan with the fewest possible takes. »
With this type of machine, you also have to know how to think about safety. Alex makes a point of honor on this aspect of his work. “Even when you’re filming with stars you love, you shouldn’t come across as the service tourist who wants to take selfies. You have to stay straight in your sneakers and get the job done. They are still human beings and, in addition, if there is an accident with a drone, the consequences can be very serious. »
Especially since in the world of cinema, the slightest mistake can be expensive and ruin its reputation. “All you have to do is make a mistake and the phone won’t ring. On shoots where there are millions at stake, where everyone is watching you do it, if you are not able to do the shot that the director asks for, when you are supposed to be a specialist, it does not pass . »

If Alex succeeds today, it is also because he did not hesitate to accept professional opportunities alongside school. Which could also be problematic in some respects. “I had to miss a lot of class days to accept professional projects,” he says. “The school didn’t like it too much. It earned me a few appointments with the principal, but I preferred to start making contacts professionally and catch up on lessons later. In my head, I favored the experience and the network rather than going to take certain courses on cinema from the 1950s, for example. »

“It’s pretty amazing”

A strategy that paid off today.

In any case, for the past two years, his schedule has been full. So much so that the Valburgeois takes pleasure in returning to Normandy. “When I come back to Normandy, I really take the time to cut,” he smiles.

At dawn, it is easier to shoot in the absence of tourists but also with a sometimes sumptuous sky
At dawn, it is easier to shoot in the absence of tourists but also with a sometimes sumptuous sky ©DR

Despite this, he seems to be living a waking dream, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. “I’ve been in the professional drone world for 3 years and when I see what I’ve done, where I’ve travelled, it’s quite incredible, but there are still plenty of things to do and discover. . Running a business at 21, I do it the best I can. I always try to learn and adapt to situations and gain experience. »

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