Interview With Ghost Digital Cinema's Ty Evans
"I feel like filmmaking is all just one big challenging puzzle, and it’s gratifying to figure out how to solve it." - Ty Evans
With less than two weeks to shoot, Ty Evans and the Ghost Digital Cinema team raised the bar on iPhoneography with short film MALTO. Although this was Ghost Digital Cinema's first iPhone film, it's one of the best that we've seen since Sean Baker's Sundance hit Tangerine. If you haven't checked out MALTO yet, you can watch it here.
Some of Ty's other work includes We Are Blood, Pretty Sweet, and Yeah Right!, which are massive hits in the skateboarding community - so it's a no-brainer why he took on this project. With a quick glance on his Instagram, Facebook and official website for Ghost Digital Cinema, it's easy to see that he is more than familiar with using incredibly powerful equipment on his projects. We were lucky to have a few moments after the release of MALTO to ask him about his experience shooting the film on a smartphone, one of the hardest challenges that he has had to overcome as a filmmaker and more!
BG: You’ve shot with some massive rigs and expensive gear before. What made you choose to shoot MALTO on an iPhone?
Ty: Mainly for variety. I want to keep trying different things, and it just made sense to be able to do the project on an iPhone - they’ve been around forever. Once I found out about the Beastgrip Pro and DOF adapter and the fact that we could add cinema lenses and accessories, I immediately knew “game on, we can totally shoot this exactly how we shoot all of our other projects!” [laughs] It ended up being shot exactly the same way that we shoot all of our other projects and it was amazing.
BG: How was your overall experience using a Beastgrip/iPhone setup, compared to using your normal gear?
Ty: It honestly felt the same. With the combination of the Beastgrip and the [DOF] Adapter for attaching cinema lenses and using the Filmic Pro app, where we could control white balance, shutter speed, frame rate, exposure, image size, data rates - all of the things that you can control on a regular cinema camera, we were able to set... so for us it was amazing to be able to shoot this stuff on an iPhone (other gear that they used for the video is listed here) I think the most rewarding part about it was looking at all of the comments online. They're so many people arguing about whether it was all shot on an iPhone [laughs] - it was!
BG: Do you plan on shooting any more projects on a Beastgrip/iPhone setup in the future?
Ty: Absolutely. I’d love to keep doing more. And I believe that the technology and equipment will keep getting better and better, and I want to keep charging forward. I feel like this is just the beginning. I remember when Canon introduced the 5D that can produce shallow depth of field, and we’re at this pretty cool moment right now with the iPhone where we can accomplish that same thing that feels like we’re on the cusp of starting something new here - which a really amazing feeling.
I’ve definitely seen some other projects on the iPhone and I watched those before we made this - but I wanted to push the boundaries a little more with this project. I wanted this project to feel like any of the other projects that we’ve done with the available technology, by putting the iPhone on a drone, a Movi handheld gimbal, skating with it, shallow depth of field shots, macro shots, etc. - like that macro shot of Malto’s eye or that other macro shot in the credits of the pipe where you can see the bug crawling on it [laughs]. Those type of little things... I’ve never seen shots like that before on an iPhone. I just kind of incorporated my normal shooting shooting style into what I shot with these rigs.
BG: Let’s rewind the clock a bit. In the behind the scenes video, you mentioned that you had a skateboarding background. What inspired you to transition to becoming a filmmaker?
Ty: I started skateboarding when I was eleven years old. I’m forty-two years old now and I skateboard almost every day, it’s just something that I grew up here doing in Southern California. It was just something that I’ve always gravitated towards and my life and friends have always sort of revolved around it. My friends got better at skateboarding and some of them ended up going pro. I was never that great at skateboarding - I just enjoyed doing it - so I was the guy who'd grab the camera when it was around and start filming my friends [laughs]. So it just kind of happened naturally, where I kind of knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker and I just keep pursuing it and chipping away at it. I never went to film school; I taught myself everything and I'm still learning and teaching myself to this day. For example, on this project I just grabbed the iPhone and the gear and figured out how to make it work [laughs]. I feel like filmmaking is all just one big challenging puzzle and it’s gratifying to figure out how to solve it.
BG: With filmmaking, what is one of the hardest skills that you’ve had to master?
Ty: I view filmmaking almost like you’re leaving your mark on the world, and I think that that is the most challenging thing - you want to make each film bigger and better than the one before. No one wants to repeat themselves, and no one wants to do something less innovating than what they’ve done before. Some ways you can look at it is by thinking about how to make the story better and how you can use different equipment or do different things to present the story in a different way, like shoot it in 3D or virtual reality. I’m always looking for something new to keep things fresh.
I think with this project it made the most sense just diving into Sean’s story and really trying to tell his story. Even someone who doesn’t watch skateboarding can watch the film and "get it" right away. On top of that, using an iPhone the way it has never been used before with this gear: the lenses, the adapter, the drone, the gimbal, getting the shallow depth of field,etc... made it a much different package. I think it turned out amazing. BG
For more information on Ty Evans and Ghost Digital Cinema, visit their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (GDC) and Ty's personal Instagram. You can also watch the behind the scenes video from MALTO here to see what gear they used.