Q&A with Cinematographer Alan Ray

Added on by Chris WHITE.

One of the most important decisions we faced prepping for GET BETTER in the Fall of 2011 was who would operate the camera.

 Alan and I consult on one of the first days shooting GET BETTER. \ Tryon NC USA

Alan and I consult on one of the first days shooting GET BETTER. \ Tryon NC USA

I wanted someone with the eye of a painter, the hands of a mechanic, the mind of an actor, and the heart of an artist. Alan Ray fit the bill on every count. And our film is so much the better for his generous, steady contribution.

CW: So Alan...how did you become interested in cinematography? 

ALAN RAY:  I've always been very visually minded and have been drawing pictures since I was a kid. I've painted quite a lot as well, so I think it was my love for and interest in art and imagery as well as my desire to tell stories that led me into cinematography. As part of a natural progression, the camera became yet another way that I could explore and express my creativity. 

CW: Remind me. How did you get involved with GET BETTER? 

AR: You called me one day and shared the project with me, told me a little about how you wanted to approach the film, etc. We'd worked together on a corporate gig in Texas once, had talked many times since...I pretty much knew right away that I wanted to work with you again and be a part of GET BETTER.

CW: Coming off a black and white film (TAKEN IN), Emily and I definitely wanted this film to be colorful. But we also wanted it to be personal...up-close, with the actors. You really made that happen for us. How lucky did we get?

AR: It was 100% intentional serendipity. You guys had picked some wonderful locations to shoot in and around. And one thing that I always believe about shooting on location is that magic will happen. Location shooting can be more challenging at times, but if you don't fight the set and let the next shot reveal itself, it's always an inspiring moment. You miss out on that kind of magic shooting on a controlled sound stage. There always seems to be a bigger payoff when you're willing to play in the unknown.

CW: What do you remember most from the shoot?

AR: What stands out in my mind were the pool scenes. Anytime you have cold weather, cold water and an actor that needs to go for a swim in it, there will plenty of fun stories. I don't think it was very fun for Marisa at the time, but she was a real trooper and went swimming both day and at night. I don't think she'll ever forget her pool scenes from GET BETTER.

CW: What's your favorite scene of the film? 

AR: I love the poker scene. We had some real characters with us that night and there was just a great energy in the air while filming. From a visual perspective I loved the pool scenes with Ellie with the underwater footage and the scenes at night at the football stadium.  

CW: Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back and shoot it again?

 Alan frames up a shot of Monica Wyche ("Stu") while Robert Linder ("Roy") looks on.

Alan frames up a shot of Monica Wyche ("Stu") while Robert Linder ("Roy") looks on.

AR: Nothing really comes to mind. I feel like I had the perfect camera (Canon 7D) and the perfect collaborators and the perfect locations. Everything just seemed to work. I think when you can shoot a feature film in 9 days (and a couple of those days were half days!) without any major production breakdowns or twelve-hour days, that it just leaves you feeling good about the whole experience. I feel like the filming of GET BETTER was in every aspect just what it needed to be which to me says a lot about you and Emily and Jennifer...the entire team who created a very organized production.

CW: What have you been working on lately?

AR: SHADOW 44, is a 16-part sci-fi web series that I wrote, shot, directed, acted in and edited here in Austin. After directing my first feature I became very interested in creating a project for the web. The series has well over 40 actors with speaking roles, was shot on location in Austin, Smithville and Enchanted Rock, and took about two years to complete. It was a self-funded passion project done on a micro budget and was a lot of fun to make. I will be taking it out to screen at the LAwebfest at the end of March and I would love to expand it into a television show or a feature. 

CW: Where do you see yourself in five years? Is there an ultimate goal you're trying to reach?

AR: In five years I'd love to be on the set of a big project that I am directing, doing what I love to do, which is being creative and working with other creatives. I'd also like to inspire, teach and encourage others to live their lives to the fullest and go for their dreams. If there were an ultimate goal, it would be to live the rest of my days doing what I love to do and sharing a very fulfilling, rich life with my wife and kids.


 Marisa Viola ("Ellie") swims in the climactic scene of GET BETTER.

Marisa Viola ("Ellie") swims in the climactic scene of GET BETTER.