Andrew Walker’s hypnotic time-lapse films of Los Angeles, which I stumbled upon recently on Youtube, provide a conflict of sorts. As the time in the frame zips by, there’s a great stillness that washes over you as you watch them. His films show images such as traffic flowing in a torrential blur like side-by-side raging rivers of white and red light, or gorgeously backlit clouds rapidly mutating behind the silhouetted towers of Downtown. You also notice other lights flickering; office lights blinking on and off, aircraft zipping by, an exterior elevator bouncing up and down like a spastic yo-yo on the side of a distant building. And yet there’s that stillness.
Walker’s company, 599 Productions, makes time-lapse films for a variety of projects– TV and indie film productions and music videos, as well as for corporate clients.
From Placerville, a small town midway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, Walker didn’t go the usual route, through a traditional film school, to get into The Industry. After playing around with a camcorder in high school and editing skate films together for fun, he got a job at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank as a projectionist, which served as his on-the-job training. (Interview with Walker after the click.)
“That was kind of like my film school, except they were paying me to be there instead of me paying them. It was a great place to learn about filmmaking. Then I started working over at DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox doing the same thing,” he told me in an email.
“It was very educational in that I got to see films in the rawest form they come in, dailies. Then I would see different edits until the final film, so the process of seeing that helped me a lot.”
CP: How did you start doing time-lapse film?
AW: I originally was shown a time-lapse DVD that someone had over at 20th Century Fox. I can’t remember the name of the artist. But what really caught my attention was that the guy showing me the DVD said that it was all done with a DSLR camera. I thought to myself, “I have one of those, I wonder how hard it is?”
I started testing which methods worked well and which ones did not. I remember seeing the first time-lapse I did and thinking “Wow, I have to watch that again.” I started posting my clips after I would process them and people seemed to really like what I was doing.
The very first time-lapse piece I did I sold to a small website to use in their logo for $100. I started to think I might be able to make some money to at least pay for some new equipment.
I already had the base for this type of photography in my bag of skills as I had done long exposure photography while I was in high school. Of course all this was done on film and this made time-lapse the way I do it a little out of my reach. But I always liked the process of long exposures because you get to see a world that exists if you could change your perception of time and let the light that is small and faint become bright and almost overwhelming with things you didn’t see before.
What types of clients approach you for your films?
A lot of different types of people approach me about the footage my company does but only about 20% of them are serious about paying for the clips. Most try and get them for free and that usually doesn’t work out for those people. But I have donated a DVD of my footage edited together for some churches and a non-profit organization or two.
The type of people that approach me are music video people, independent film people, people that want to use it for a business meeting and sometimes TV.
Recently I signed a deal with Getty Images to represent my time-lapse footage along with some other things that I film. I also have footage represented over at Footage Bank. All of my new footage is at Getty Images and the older footage is at Footage Bank.
Are you at liberty to say where your footage has appeared?
A couple clips made their way onto the now-cancelled show “Moonlight” [the CBS vampire series set in LA.] A couple of my time-lapse clips were in a music video for a band called The Script, in their “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” video. Sprint used some clips for a meeting they had. Also the Public Works union of Los Angeles has used some of my time-lapse for a video they made for their members. Plus a couple short films and other smaller music videos.
Your LA time-lapse films seem to exude a love for Los Angeles, or am I projecting my own feelings upon them?
To be very honest, I’m mainly in this city for the work. There are times, when I’m driving around looking for a shot, that I’m amazed by the beauty that this city has in it. That feeling may only last a couple moments but it usually changes my day for the better. The places I go to get some of these shots are places you wouldn’t want to be late at night. Most people would just keep their heads down to avoid trouble. But in some of the dirtiest, most dangerous places the best shots can be found.
Do you have other film-related pursuits?
Of course. I write, direct, edit and DP shorts and music videos that I produce. I do work on other peoples’ projects from time to time doing all kinds of things. Some of the other things I do are work as a RED Camera provider, RED digital image techician and colorist. [RED is a digital cinema imaging system.] I also pick up a couple shifts over at the different studios around town working as a projectionist when I’m not out looking for shots.
Which filmmakers have influenced you?
Frank Darabont, Steve Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, Robert Zemeckis, Michael Mann, Steven Spielberg, Alex Proyas, Peter Jackson, Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan, Gore Verbinski and David Fincher.
599 Productions’ site has a time-lapse reel where some of Walker’s work can be viewed. Be prepared to be mesmerized.