The Artist Series: Filmmaker and Photographer, Ryan Cory

Ryan Cory

By Chrissie Ferguson

Capturing the perfect lighting, mood, and movement in a still photo is talent. But the true artistic ability lies in the photographer who can transport the soul of one’s subject through the lens and onto a surface for all to see.

Filmmaking is also an art. Gifted filmmakers have the ability to seize the attention of an audience through moving pictures – bringing the sense of sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste to life for every viewer. 

The magic happens, though, when photography and filmmaking intertwine in a lover’s embrace. This unique artistic ability does not come easily to many. But Ryan Cory, photographer and filmmaker, has mastered the intimate relationship between the two.

Cory, who has provided creative solutions for brands, campaigns, and social media, such as Expedia, Ticketmaster, and Mountain Dew – to name a few – has also had the great opportunity to work with Pearl Jam on two separate projects.

After meeting a few members of the PJ/Monkeywrench team, while working on projects with Easy Street Records in Seattle, Cory was asked to collaborate with Pearl Jam on projects for the 2018 Seattle “Home Shows.”

It wasn’t long before Pearl Jam Management reached out to Cory once again. But this time, he was asked to shoot and direct the “Dance of the Clairvoyants” music video.

The three versions of the video would slowly be revealed to the world, prior to the release of the band’s eleventh studio album, Gigaton. Working alongside the creative team at Evolve Studios, an inspirational masterpiece was created in the form of a video that made us all want to dance – not just the girls.

It’s hard to believe that I interviewed Ryan a year ago, just a couple of weeks before Gigaton would officially be released to the public on March 27th, 2020. The release of the album was a bright light in our dark world, when the pandemic was just taking hold in the United States.

At Wishlist, we had also hoped to create positivity among our Pearl Jam community by sharing the personal stories of Pearl Jam fans through a column titled, “Feature Friday.” It was in this column that I first featured Ryan. But our full interview was too great to keep to myself. 

So as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the release of Gigaton, let’s share some positivity and shine the spotlight on this extremely talented and down-to-earth photographer and filmmaker once again.

CHRISSIE: How did you get the opportunity to work on the “Dance of the Clairvoyants” videos? 

RYAN: I had been working with PJ Management and their marketing team back when the “Home Shows” came to town to do a video to promote the shows. So I had kind of been in their wheelhouse and available for video for the last couple of years for the Monkeywrench/Pearl Jam/Vitalogy family. Management and I would meet for coffee and run into one another in EasyStreet records in West Seattle, which is kind of a staple out here in Seattle for all things music. 

The short version is that I got a phone call:

Hey Ryan do you have access to a studio?”

“Yes, we have access to a great studio.” 

A week later:

“Hey, I’ve submitted you for a project.”

“Ok, sounds good.” 

A week later, Christmas came, and Christmas came early:

“Alright, we want to keep it local. And we love your work. And you’re the guy.” 

And I went, “Awesome. Thank you. I love that.”

I worked with the best team to work with in productions out here in Seattle. And they were also working with another great creative team out in Nashville who were in cahoots with National Geographic, which is where a lot of this footage came from. 

I was so thrilled about this project because I grew up having the band’s poster on my bedroom wall. And then to have them select me personally to spearhead the video with their team and the band for a collaborative vision…it was the most rewarding thing for me as a director.

CHRISSIE: I love the Mach II video. It’s probably my favorite of the three videos. Did you help edit all of the videos?

RYAN: I had arranged with the band primarily for pre-production meetings out here in Seattle and for shooting and the location of the studio. We shot with the band for two days in January. It was the only two days, of course, that it would snow in Seattle, and we were a little worried about that. But everyone showed up, and it was safe and it was a good time.

There were a lot of people working on the edits, and everyone did such a fantastic job. The national team did a phenomenal job gathering all of that B-roll. If it weren’t for them, it wouldn’t exist. 

CHRISSIE: It was exciting how all of the different versions of the video were released–all of the little teasers–before the album was officially released in March. It was exciting as a fan to wait and see what would be revealed to us next.

RYAN: Cool. That’s good to hear. We knew that there would be multiple versions coming out, but even I didn’t see some of the final versions because we were waiting for all of these different elements, from all of these different places, to come into play. And everyone was bringing stuff to the table.

The plan had morphed into “let’s slowly reveal the band” so that we can feature and focus on all of this amazing footage of the earth and of nature and of all these wild visuals. And I think that was a smart move. I think that was an exciting move from a band that used to not release music videos, and now we are releasing multiple versions to amp this thing up.

CHRISSIE: I also love how images of nature were the central theme of the first two videos, before the band made its full appearance in Mach III. I believe that it helped to create a greater awareness of the earth and the environment. 

RYAN: Pearl Jam has always done such a great job advocating for great causes and for the earth. Given what we are sitting in the middle of right now, the earth doesn’t care about our plans or our agendas or whatever we are hoping to accomplish next.

It’s pause time, and I actually think that in a bizarre twist of fate that this is the coolest time for this album to come out. That sounds kind of bizarre, but what a time for an album to be released. 

CHRISSIE: I agree. People are starting to focus on what matters. I loved your Facebook post about taking this time to spread positivity, asking “Who wants a personal letter from me?” I’ve been saying the same thing to people, too – that now we can and should take the time to do the things that really matter. And we have to look differently at the way we do things and the way we spend our time. Even for me, as a teacher, we have to think about how to teach in a virtual classroom.

RYAN: Yes, I have a few teacher friends who were once my teachers that I still volunteer with and work with, and now we are talking on the phone about our own projects. But, we are also talking about the perspective that has come together for people in different industries. This whole thing is going to reveal a lot of potholes in our system that we are going to finally fix. 

CHRISSIE: What do you want to leave as a positive quote for the Pearl Jam community?

RYAN: I’ve been really lucky. I’ve stuck with my creative endeavors, and they have morphed into a career. It has been better than I could have imagined. It’s “Hard to Imagine,” right? That’s what I kept thinking when I was prepping for this that it’s hard to imagine that the dream can exist if you really care about a cause or a group.

Some people think, “Well I didn’t go to film school…” Well, I didn’t. You don’t need to do all these things or have all these tools. We are equipped with what’s in our pocket with the phones these days to create an impact or send a message. That hard work and dedication pays off. 

I’m just glad that I never quit and that I stuck with my passions creatively because I never would have thought – if you would have told me that as a 15-year-old as I was driving around blasting Vitalogy in my Ford Bronco – that I would have this opportunity. I would have said, “No way.”

But don’t quit, just keep fighting your fight. Whatever it is. And keep pursuing the passions that resonate with you.