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Andrea Arnold’s D.P. Robbie Ryan on Why He Still Shoots Shorts and Getting The Shot Off Set

Best known as Andrea Arnold’s right-hand man, Robbie Ryan has a surprisingly large number of short film credits for a cinematographer of his standing. While the majority of d.p.s graduate to the feature format and stay put, Ryan has shot a whopping 14 shorts since his breakthrough lensing on Fish Tank. Beyond a steadier flow of income, short films afford Ryan a sort of trial period with directors.

Speaking in an in-depth interview with Barry Ackroyd (d.p. of Captain Phillips, The Hurt Locker) at the 28:25 minute mark, Ryan puts it plainly: “I think the reason I do short films is to meet with new directors and to kind of see how it goes. Either you go ‘I ain’t go do that again,’ or ‘Wow, that could lead to other things.’” Indeed Arnold and Ryan first worked together on her Oscar-winning short Wasp. He is far more inclined to accept a feature script when he has an idea of the director’s on-set behavior and working habits rather than relying on his gut instinct during a one-off meet-and-greet.

Ryan also speaks about Arnold’s atmospheric interests and the importance of capturing nature in her films, around 40 minutes in. On Fish Tank, Ryan relied on the “one man band” ARRI CII to allow him to run off and shoot the elements at a moment’s notice, while the rest of the crew readied set.

For Arnold’s next film, an American-set road trip which she was allegedly prepping during her residency at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Ryan hopes to shoot on 16 mm with “very little crew…to let the environment influence us.”

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