Ryan Valdez is one of our favorite Los Angeles based directors and videographers. Ryan’s videos have a dark, captivating style that won’t allow you to look away. We chatted with him about how he got started, how he finds inspiration, and projects he’s worked on.
Q: What is your story? How did you get into video? How did you get to where you are now?
A: I got into shooting as a young kid once I became frustrated with animation. I was originally into stop motion. Picked up a VHS camera and began shooting my antics with friends at the age of eleven. Roaming the streets on our skateboards, skits, and short films became an obsession. I learned the art of editing and wouldn’t leave my desk for days. Of course as I got older, skills advanced and I eventually started shooting music videos for local bands, local business commercials, then shot my first feature film at eighteen which went to Lionsgate, and began commuting to LA from NM for bigger music video offers. Slowly my network and portfolio grew. Took the ol leap, moved to LA and have been working since. Today I am still directing music videos and working on network tv shows from MTV, A&E, to Oxygen, with a long way to go still.
Q: What’s a day on set for you like?
A: A day on set, oh man. Coffee, coffee, maybe a water then another coffee. From the second you step on location to the second you leave for a drink with the team, it’s answering question after question, pacing around, and creatively improvising to make sure all is moving. Feels like a performance in some way, mentally and physically is exhausting but exhilarating once camera is up and you see on the monitors what your team been prepping for on camera. My day is purely “communication”, with multiple departments working with you, they carry the bulk of set, while I get to speak with the talent and department heads to discuss overall objectives to make sure we are delivering what we all set out to do. When I can I try to jump in to operate camera for a take or so, nothing like being in the middle of the action, right?
Q: Where do you get your spooky inspiration from?
A: My inspiration stems from my homeland in New Mexico, folktales and legends of ghosts, witches and monsters. Locally, and I believe culturally, we had the most insane stories to grow up with. As many would know La Llorona, being an example. I have always been theatrical as a kid too, in terms of dressing up. I loved Halloween more than any holiday. I believe the combination of my upbringing mixed with my love for the season shaped my fascination to start with. As an adult now, my tastes have shifted and of course have found inspiration in many forms of art and artist. A few favorites would be Joel-Peter Witkin, and of course Chris Cunningham.
Q: You do a lot of personal video snippets on Insta – do you enjoy making these more or less than paid jobs?
A: Honestly, I have much more enthusiasm creating my short snippets, with no looming deadlines or notes from clients, I get to creatively do as I please. I don’t have the supportive funds creating these insta shorts so I’m aware they aren’t as polished as the bigger work, as well most of the time they go unnoticed in comparison to my paid gigs. They do exactly as I intend them to do though, creatively help exhaust any ideas I have when feeling anxious and or stagnant, as well consistently give me something to do I that I genuinely enjoy. I believe every creative can relate to this feeling, outside of client work, you consistently need to be creating and evolving for yourself and your sanity.
Q: What’s the coolest video you’ve ever worked on?
A: The coolest video I’ve worked on had to be the music video I directed for the Korn song, “Insane”. Though our shoot schedule, deadline and budget were insanely limiting/tight, it was a project with so many elements right up my alley. Personal art pieces in my home are in the video, the opportunity to shoot on location in my favorite art museum in LA (Mystic Museum), as well get to create a short thriller/horror short, that ended opening so many doors for my team and myself. It was a small investment on their end that ended up being a great opportunity to exercise my fascination with macabre and spooky content. I think for what we had to work with and how quickly we did, it was the “raddest” project i’ve done so far. Would I like to be under that stress again? I’ll pass, haha.
View Ryan’s video reel below.