Tyler Ross On How He #SplitFrom The Pack
Tell me about Nova Scotia. What was it like growing up there?
Tyler Ross : It’s a kind of like a small city. There’s not a huge entertainment industry and growing up, you think you're gonna end up on the traditional career path. There's a lot of blue collar work, and a lot of people that I went to high school with moved away to work on oil rigs, things like that. The city's just big enough to have a little bit of everything, but there's not a huge industry as far as entertainment goes.
I think for me anyway, it's not so much about what format you're shooting on, but more that you're just capturing the right story.
With everybody around you focusing on more traditional careers, how did you split from the pack and start making films?
Ross: I had a roommate named Jacob, who was a producer, and he was making music. He wanted to just get a camera and computer to make videos online, to try and sell his beats basically. It was really just me trying to help him do that, and then through that process just realizing it was something I really enjoyed.
There was an unknown, where it was like 'Is there really career potential in this?'
Did you encounter any hometown resistance for stepping out and pursuing a creative career like that?
Ross: I think for my parents anyway, they didn't really understand what I was trying to do. Or they couldn't foresee a future in it, but they were always supportive. They were like: "If you believe in it and you're happy, then go for it." There was an unknown, where it was like “Is there really career potential in this? If not, I’m just spending my savings going to LA, I’ll go broke, and I’ll come home.” That was the only doubt.
Your approach to filmmaking sets you apart creatively. Can you tell me about your process and how you came to find your style?
Ross: Starting out, we never had budgets or anything, so it was always about learning how to make something with no money. And then through that process over and over, just kind of finding ways to be creative and a little bit different. I never went to film school. I never learned the technical side of everything.
Starting out, we never had budgets or anything, so it was always about learning how to make something with no money.
Your style is a split from hi-def filmmaking. Hollywood is making 4k films – but you mix formats in a way that feels like it’s breaking the rules, in an almost “unprofessional” manner. And you’ve found a huge audience. What do you think people like about your approach?
Ross: I guess it just feels more real and I think people want reality. It depends for projects, but I just feel like so much of the time and energy that goes into shooting on big cameras… it’s almost too “set up.” Some of the best content to me is something that someone films on their Instagram story, and just posts. It's just real. It's immediate. And rather than trying to plan something, renting a camera, spending time lighting...it just postpones the whole process. I think what people are excited about is having immediate access to the things they're interested in.
I guess it just feels more real and I think people want reality.
Imitation is the natural path of culture, and plenty of artists and filmmakers are making work that’s clearly influenced by your style, especially your use of “lo-fi” formats like VHS. How do you plan to stay singular in the industry?
Ross: I think for me anyway, it's not so much about what format you're shooting on, but more that you're just capturing the right story. For me in the future, it would be the access. Using that access in different places where I may have never had access before, and then discovering a new story that I can tell, by the different people that I meet or the places that I can go now. Less about format overall, and just more about really dialing into the emotions that I've been able to translate through films.
For someone in your position, your relaxed attitude really makes you stand out. I get the sense that despite all your success in L.A., there’s a bigger, more down-to-earth picture for you.
Ross: Even if I was never to do another music video again, I wouldn't be broken. Because I'd still be learning and exploring new things. And I think that's what's important to me, is that I'm constantly seeking out new information or understanding. If anything, I'd rather that than doing the same thing over and over, because I feel like that's why I pursued a creative life in the first place. I didn't want to get a job and work it for 30 years and then retire.
Even if I was never to do another music video again, I wouldn't be broken. Because I'd still be learning and exploring new things.