Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

A New Way Forward For Creatives

Over the last 5-10 years, our industry (film) has undergone a massive change. The tools are cheaper than ever, their quality continues to rise, and it is easier than ever to deliver content directly to specific audiences. On the one hand this makes for an exciting time, as we creatives are no longer beholden to the "big studios" telling us what we can and cannot produce. We have the tools, and we can create!

On the other hand, as I have noted before, this has also resulted in the death of the specialist, and the further abuse of our fellow technicians in our industry. And while I still maintain that it is bad business to be a cinematographer, I am seeing market trends and a societal shifts that are opening up new doors for creatives to not only succeed, but to thrive in this new world.

There is an exciting way forward for those of us who are willing to jump out and take a risk. All it requires is that we abandon our "traditional" thinking and approach.
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How To Get Better Delivery From Non-Actors For Under $200

Sorry, no assistant today- enjoy my ugly mug! ;-)

If you're like me, you've done a lot of interviews with non-actors who need to look straight into the camera, and you know how intimidating that can be for the "talent." As soon as the camera turns on, they clam up and turn into robots- their great personality quickly disappears. The solution to getting the performance you need, while still having them look straight into camera, is to have them look at someone's face instead.

By looking at another person's face that is responding to their answers you get a more natural response, and a more engaged interview. It is much more comforting for someone who has never been on camera to look at another face, instead of having to stare down that intimidating camera lens...

If you've done much research on gear that allows this to happen, then you've probably stumbled upon the Eye-Direct System. I've used this exact system on a number of shoots across the country. However, at $1,400, it is relegated to the classification of speciality gear that most will rent. But what if you could use tools you already have, and spend less than $200 to create something similar? Well, you are in luck, as I'll show you how I did just that.
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A Human Life= $2,633.64 & We're To Blame

In 1997, Brent Hershman fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a telephone pole, killing himself after working a 19 hour day that was preceded by four 15 hour workdays as a second assistant camera on the film Pleasantville. Assuming he was getting the standard rate for that position ($38.73/hour*), that equates into $2,633.64 in overtime pay.

Alternatively, to put it a bit more bluntly, $2633.34 is the monetary value that the production felt that it was worth to push Brent to the point of breaking, in order to make their film. Is this what it has really come to? Do we Americans value the dollar so much that we knowingly abuse each other, and allow ourselves to be abused, in order to make an extra dollar?

After watching the documentary Who Needs Sleep, by Haskell Wexler, ASC, I'm convinced that there is a HUGE problem out there, and that problem is us.
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Three Reasons Why It Is Bad Business To Be A Cinematographer

Photo By: Levi Moroshan
As someone who is committed to lifelong learning and continual self-reflection, this last year has brought with it an evaluation of where I'm at and where I am headed. I've come to the conclusion, after a lot of soul searching, that it is bad business to be a cinematographer. That is not to say that I do not love what I do. I feel very blessed to be paid to do what I love. I still can't believe that people give me money to do this! But that doesn't mean it makes for good business. Here are three reasons why it's bad business, and what I wish I knew 5-10 years ago.
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The Dysfunctional Life Of A Cinematographer

I've often said to friends of mine who are not in the film industry that being a cinematographer is one of the most glamorous blue collar jobs out there. And while those looking from the outside in may see my career path as full of adventure and the opportunity to work with interesting people all over the world, that is only a small percentage of what this career path holds.

While I absolutely love what I do, and you couldn't pay me to switch fields...admittedly there is a lot of dysfunction, and many sacrifices have to be made in the life of a cinematographer. So, if you are considering this career path, or if you are just interested in peaking behind the curtain, here is the less glamorous and sometimes dysfunctional side of my profession.
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Cinematography Apps You Should Be Using

Over the last several months as I have shared various behind the scenes photos on twitter and facebook I have routinely been asked "what app is that?" So I thought it was time to detail out what apps I regularly use as a cinematographer. I have broken them down into three categories: Must Haves, Nice To Have, and Don't Need, But Fun To Use.
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Resources For Filmmakers & Cinematographers

The internet has become a treasure trove of great resources available to everyone on just about any kind of topic. (Anyone up for Underwater Basket Weaving?) But part of the problem of this large body of information is trying to sort through it all to find the truly helpful and useful information. This is especially true with filmmaking and topics related around cinematography. This is why, over the years, I have been slowly gathering and organizing that information and I want to offer it to you.
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Asking The Right Questions

Over the last month or so I have been asked at least once a week the following question: "If money wasn't an issue, what camera would you shoot with?". While I get that the people asking this question are trying to determine what I think the best camera is on the market currently, I think that this question is fundamentally the wrong question to be asking. What is the "right" question after the jump ...
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How To Get Better At Negotiation

Cinematographers are great at what we do because we care about our craft- we put in a LOT of time learning, experimenting, and preparing for what our job requires of us - and we LOVE IT. :) However, we are usually horrible business people. The creative side of our brain is massive and strong, while the business side is anemic - as is often the case with people in the creative world. This translates in to our inability to negotiate appropriately when landing a job. I know I've made a lot of mistakes over the years in this area. Unfortunately, I haven't put in as much time as I should have learning the business end of it as I have put in learning the creative and technical side of cinematography. Fortunately, however, it is never too late.

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