Ryan Trecartin, Video Artist, 'Any Ever'
Ryan Trecartin’s unusual short films found an audience on the Web in the mid 2000s, almost as soon as widespread video streaming became a reality. Since then, the 2004 graduate of Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Film, Animation and Video program has built a following for the films that he creates (generally starring artist friends who also pitch in and shoot where necessary) that has resulted in work being displayed in major museums and praised by top art critics. The multimedia display of video projects and sculpted environments Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever is currently finishing up a run at the PS1 annex of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and in the fall will travel to Paris’ Musée d’Art Moderne.
When did you start making movies for the Web?
Ryan Trecartin: The movies I was making weren’t really for the Web. It’s kind of like a story that keeps on being told that way because I have them online now. The first one I did was called “A Family Finds Entertainment” in 2004 at RISD. A lot of things about it were influenced by trends popping up in 2.0 social media, but it was before YouTube. People were saying, “Why is everybody acting this way?” “Are they being sincere?” “Why are they talking with the camera at this strange angle above their head, angled down?” These were tendencies you’d see back when people were using MySpace and Friendster to post [still] pictures, but when YouTube popped up and a lot of people started vlogging, I think the movies became clearer to a lot of people.
What kind of cameras do you use?
With every movie, we use whatever consumer-friendly equipment is being used at the time. Usually we try to use something that’s sort of the middle ground between consumer and prosumer. Any Ever has the first ones I shot in HD. We used a little Canon camera that fits in your hand. I don’t know the model, but it used that compressed HD. All the audio was recorded directly from the in-camera mics.
Talk a little about your work method.
We shoot in the order of the script, but the [performers] don’t see it ahead of time, so there’s a lot of people saying their lines over and over again and seeing what their characters are as they’re becoming them. We shoot at night, usually starting when the sun goes down, and stop when it comes up. That’s how we control light.
What tools do you use to edit the films?
When I started using iMovie in 2000 or 2001, it blew my mind. It was so intuitive and worked just like I wanted an editing tool to work. I’m not talking about the iMovie they have now—I mean the older one that people actually liked. It was a great gateway to other programs.
Now I use After Effects [in Adobe CS4] for everything. It’s really for effects, but I think it’s an exciting way to edit. When you break down the hierarchy of [traditional] editing, you have people do a rough cut, then a final cut, then they work on sound and visual effects. But in After Effects you can do all these things at the same time if you want to, and that helps me massage the work and bring out nuances. I’m interested in learning other programs and doing more popping things in and out to get the best of each, but so far I really like what I can do in After Effects.
What do you think about the way people can deliver their movies directly to viewers without having to go through networks or studios or festivals?
I think it’s so exciting that it’s that way. The fact that people can be content creators no matter where they are is very exciting. I can’t imagine it not being that way.