Ryan van Duzer – Interview

Ryan van Duzer’s intro to a short clip pretty much says it all: “My name is Ryan van Duzer, and I travel in search of adventure and, most of all, fun! [War hoop]”

I heard Ryan give a keynote speech last year at a video conference. He described his origins as an adventure filmmaker and how he’s taken the simplist of equipment and built a career traveling the world and producing shows for the likes of Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the Travel Channel.

Here’s what inspires me:
1. Ryan isn’t obsessed with gear. He takes what he has and makes it work.
2. Ryan has been successful by force of personality (which since he does travel narratives, means he builds his work around an interesting character).
3. He’s getting it done.

During the keynote, Ryan insisted, “There’s nothing I’m doing that any one of you out there cannot also do, right now.” From a technical point of view, that’s true. Simple gear, simple technique. But not everyone’s Ryan van Duzer – and like a charismatic preacher he’s got a high-energy style that is not easily replicated. He’s got … character. I find myself very tolerant of the sometimes poor image quality and wind noise and other blemishes on Ryan’s work because I can experience his adventures through his character. I never thought about riding a Big Wheels tricycle across Iowa, but with Ryan I can see myself doing that. Maybe.

Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions about his work.

Q1. You’ve managed to document a number of long-distance bike trips with very simple, light-weight equipment, shooting the whole thing solo. Can you tell me a little about how you did that?

Duzer: My first big bike trip was from Honduras to Boulder. I really wanted to document it and I used my trusty Sony DCR-PC9 (about the size of my palm). Having a small camera is KEY to documenting bike trips. I’d say that 60% of my footage is recorded while riding, so my camera needs to be small so I can hold it easily and not crash. Charging batteries is also very important, I usually poach plugs at any cafe or restaurant so I always have power. I also use a little tripod so I can set the camera up on the road and ride past it. It can be a pain but those shots are crucial to setting the scene. I have tons of footage of me pushing the record button and then running to my bike, riding past the camera and then running back to pick it up off the road.

Q2. Speaking of simple, light-weight equipment, are we looking at the shadow of your video camera that you use for all this stuff in the first few seconds of your “Cycling the Southern Tear” video? That sucker’s TINY. Do you really use equipment that small and simple?

Duzer: Yeah, I used the Canon 300HS for that ride. It’s a tiny photo camera that shoots great full res HD. In good light, the footage from that camera looks as good as any camera. I love having a small camera that I can whip out at any time. I keep it in a handlebar bag so I can pull it out quickly and film wildlife or anything else that pops in my view.

Q3. You studied journalism in college. How important was that training for your subsequent projects? You manage to produce interesting videos using simple audio/video gear, no lighting, no assistants — is there some underlying secret sauce you learned in J-school pulling these videos along? What do you think accounts for their success?

Duzer: No offense to my J-school but I was trained more as a dorky local news reporter than an adventure journalist. I did get training on Final Cut which was great, but the style I learned was in producing short news packages. My secret is to keep it simple-stupid, focusing more on the content than fancy gadgets. I’ll never get any high end commercial work, but that’s ok with me. My main goal is to produce fun, entertaining and inspiring content.

Q4. Your style seems pretty consistent across the videos: an audio narration over clips of you (subject) moving through a location (your point of view), with some additional shots of subjects/people/locations you find interesting — again with the narrative voiceover tieing these additional shots together. Is this style something you intentionally do? Or did it just evolve as you started shooting video?

Duzer: I think in order to tell a good story, you have to have some VO to tie everything together. I also focus on soundbites from the people I meet on my adventures…it’s a lot more interesting to mix it up with VO and interviews, my voice gets boring and I always find characters to spice up my videos.

Q5. Where did you start shooting video?

Duzer: My main goal is to host an adventure travel TV show and I got my start working in public access in Boulder. I had to shoot and edit all my own stuff which was a great learning experience. I created a show called ‘Out There’ which played for about a year starting in 2006. From there I began to get more professional jobs with Travel Channel and other travel websites.

Q6. What are you doing now and how has your work evolved from your earliest bike-trip videos?

Duzer: I just traveled to 17 cities in Europe for 60 days with a company called Viator, shooting over 100 short travel videos highlighting their tours. I’m also in production of a travel show I’m hosting called Paradise Hunter. My style is pretty much the same from my first bike trip videos, goofy and loud! I’m getting better at story telling and editing with every video and I’m always excited for the next project.

Speak Your Mind

*