Robbie Ryan recently won the cinematography award at the Venice Film Festival for his work on Wuthering Heights. It is his fourth collaboration with director Andrea Arnold.
Can you tell us about your background and how long you have been a cinematographer ?
I left dun laoghaire art college in 1993 and have in some form or other been filming since then.
Do you mainly work in ireland, abroad or both ?
I've just been around the country on a tourism Ireland advert which was really nice saw some beautiful places. But my work tends to take me all over the globe.
Can you tell us about wuthering heights? It Is the new film by Andrea Arnold that's out in cinemas on 11/11/11 spooky!
Can you tell us about the director and your working relationship?
Andrea Arnold and me have collaborated on four films now and I couldn't ask for a braver more honest, fun person to be making films with.
Can you tell us about the style ?
Andreas style is distinct in so far as it's always handheld but also very point of view driven so this has it's own rules that need to be followed to create the most honest interpretation of the script
Were there any particular references that you and the director kept in mind while shooting?
Me and Andrea always try to sit down and talk through visual references but we didn't do so much on Wuthering as we were driven a bit more by our instincts to the location and the feel of the script, maybe that's down to being comfortable in knowing the working process for the films we've done previously
What was the most challenging aspect of the film?
It's all about the weather for the cinematography side of this film as always everyday i would be looking up at the sky and hoping it would be kind to us that day. It was always changing up there blowing through at a rate of knots as we were very high in the Yorkshire dales . So it was never boring at all !
Did you try anything new on this project
We were doing a lot of horse related shots on this film which I had not done before and Andrea really wanted a pov driven style to the horse shots so we tried out the eyemo camera which is a second world war crash camera used in very extreme conditions it's a robust 35 mm bolex essentially and the shots we got from that camera really are my favourite in the film ... We were able to ride easily handheld on the horse without rigs or anything and this gave the sequences more life as a lot of times the stabilising rigs and cranes that are used to film sequences of horse riding take out all the pure adrenalin rush that a galloping horse has.
What format did you use & why ?
35 mm 1:1.37 academy ratio ... 35mm is the best format I could ever want to use for cinema and acadamy is Andreas preferred format as it's very good for her pov style.
Can you tell us about your preference of lenses ?
We used panavision spherical primo lenses they are my favourite lenses as they have a fantastic feel of definition and softness all at the same time they really capture light like no other!
Can you tell us about the style and type lighting on this project ?
Very natural as if there were no lights used at all is Andreas style and I'm a fan of harnessing the light around us as opposed to trying to change it too much.
Can you explain worklow & post process?
We never watched rushes . Once we watched a few rush printed dailies in the cinema to make sure we were on the right track but that was it . As far as post went we really wanted to try and do a traditional photochemical finish I even had figured a way to create a 1.85 internegative that was able to contain the 4x3 academy size ( as cinemas have done away with native academy lenses in their projectors) but in the edit the realisation of all the post effects work meant we went a Digital intermediate route instead in which I tried to adhere to the photochemical finished look.
What are you working on in the future?
I'm doing a short film at the moment called the karman line which is a film about long term illness done in a very interesting way.
What cinematographers have influenced you during your career?
I am a huge black and white fan so stanley cortez is a cinematographer who knew a thing or two about lighting for black and White ...Night of the hunter is an amazing piece of cinema . Of the cinematographers today I really like rodrigo prieto's work he's a very versatile chameleon of a cameraman and Anthony dod mantle also pushes the cinematographic boundaries to their limits!!
What is the last film you saw that you admired / inspired you?
One of my favourite films of the year is Meeks cutoff. A film about the frontiers folk hardships crossing america in 1845. I loved it, not because of the academy ratio but just the sparsity and beauty of the imagery I think it's amazing! The night scenes have some of the bravest cinematography I've seen in ages it's so dark that you are squinting to see what the characters are doing then bang the next scene is in bright daylight and it almost blinds you the change is so startling!! That's cinema.