Whether he’s deep in Africa wondering where he’s going to charge his batteries or in an office looking for the emotional core in a corporate video, Ryan finds the heart in everything he films.
Like so many filmmakers, you got your start shooting weddings. How has wedding videography prepared you for other kinds of projects?
Right when I started, a filmmaker friend and mentor told me to create wedding films that anybody would be drawn into, not just the wedding couple. So I had to ask myself, “What would draw people into a random couple’s wedding film?”
I learned about character development, timing, what makes a story unique, how to shoot a live event, what makes a scene feel complete, the effect of music, how to light in a variety of lighting conditions, the why behind the how in shooting and editing … the list goes on. My goal is to get past just shooting pretty images and try to find what is unique and real about this couple. I think that has carried forward to my other work.
The other piece of advice I was given was “Start doing the work you want to get.” This meant passion projects and pushing the production value and impact of lesser paying jobs to be the best they could be.
These two pieces of advice really helped push my career forward. I’ve had many moments where a new client has seen one of my passion projects and said, “I want that!”
You’ve shot a lot in Africa. What are the benefits and challenges of shooting remotely?
There are a lot of benefits. You get to travel and see the world, are introduced to new people, cultures, landscapes, and colors, and capture it all on a camera. I absolutely love it!
There are a lot of challenges too: What if my gear doesn’t make it on my connecting flight or gets held up at Customs? Where am I going to charge my batteries? How do I conduct an interview that is genuine and real with a person who speaks a different language and may have never seen a white person before? How do I shoot this scene with 100 curious people all looking over my shoulder? Is my gear safe in the truck? Oh no! That kid just knocked my drone out of the sky with a rock! … frustrating, but impressive. Again … WHERE AM I GOING TO CHARGE MY BATTERIES?!
Is it easier to find and tell the story in your non-profit projects than in a corporate video?
Generally it can be a bit tougher to find that story in a corporate customer. A lot of people have an idea of the things they need to say or the main points their CEO wants to hear — the heart of the film can be lost in that.
However if you can get people to be real and genuine, go a bit deeper, and trust you to represent their company in the best light possible, you can get something pretty special.
Your work is infused with such love. Do you set out to convey that?
Wow, thank you. I do set out to convey that. I think people are motivated by a lot of the same desires: to connect with others, to have purpose, to care for those they love, to be loved. Those desires and emotions are present in different settings, circumstances, jobs, relationships, etc. They drive people to act in all sorts of ways, but if I can show people the desire, I think they will connect with it.
Speaking of projects infused with love, “Sweet Caroline’s Bakery” is the story of Ryan’s parents’ business.
You’ve been using Liftoff, Dissolve’s program for exclusive contributors. What effect has it had?
The Liftoff program allows me to drop all of my footage from a previous shoot onto a drive, give the Dissolve team a brief of what shots I’d like included or not, and I don’t have to think about it again. It will end up on my contributor page available for licensing.
I know that if you didn’t have this program, I wouldn’t have a single shot available on the site. It is that one extra thing I would have to think about getting done. Liftoff allows me to keep creating and earn a bit of cash for passion projects, or to just continue being a professional creative and having a roof over my head at the same time!
What’s your most memorable shoot?
I did a project for Duncan Africa, a group of Ugandans building guitars in a little village in southern Uganda. I rode on the back of a motorcycle on dirt paths through the lush green countryside to this tiny little shop made of mud bricks. As a kid, I always wanted to go to Africa, and I just couldn’t top that experience.
What are your three shoot must-haves?
Gaff tape, a clear idea of the end product, and an openness to it all changing.