LA based cinematographer Matt Ryan’s enthusiasm for finding the most capable technology to support his creative process has enabled him to shoot across genres and formats. As a director of photography, Ryan has shot television for such networks as Disney, FOX, Warner Bros, MTV, PBS, and TruTV. Outside of narrative, Ryan has lensed high-profile commercials, including the Turbo Tax’s “Matched for Football” aired during the 2022 NFL championship. An early adopter and owner of the ARRI Alexa 35, Ryan is quick to pair the camera with Zeiss Supreme Primes, resulting in what may be his favorite combo for almost any project. Counting on the optics and camera compatibility, Ryan brought this package to recent music video “Fake Love” for rapper-singer Tink.
“Fake Love” is a song about women calling out the fraudulent behaviour of their male partners. Directed by Michelle Parker, it features vignette-sequences of women rebuking the men who’ve failed them in relationships, along with a march of many women, protesting the titular ‘fake love.’ The piece culminates in a scene where Tink and two other women set fire to an ex-boyfriend’s car.
The entire project was shot over one night at the Anderson Warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. “It’s an incredible space. You can’t point the camera in the wrong direction,” says Ryan. “It lends itself to a lot of cool possibilities with lighting, contrast, and atmosphere. Approaching this shoot, we wanted to play with silhouettes, while keeping Tink lit in a glam poppy key light. We also wanted to use Steadicam to move through the location’s tight corridors. To accomplish all this, I needed a camera package that was compact, but high-speed to capture the warehouses’ cavernous spaces, using the limited lighting package of our production.”
Ryan knew right away he wanted the Alexa 35 with Zeiss Supreme Primes. “We shot at a T2 most of time and that camera can dig far into the shadows. When you have a camera sensor with that much dynamic range, you also need a lens that can also resolve to that image. The ARRI Alexa 35 has an unbelievable amount of latitude and potential for looks. It is a great pairing because this this camera can see so high into the highlights and low into the shadows–it’s perfectly matched for these lenses which can handle those same characteristics.”
When it comes to lenses, he prioritises the optics that best allow him to tell the story, especially when the story calls for spontaneity and pushing his equipment to its limits. He details, “The first thing I look at is does the lens set match aesthetically–does the 21 look like the 85 or the 50? Then, how does it look on a closeup? Can I have most of the face, nose, eyes, and ears in focus and then have a graceful falloff? How does the bokeh look if I have specular highlights out of focus right next to a closeup? Will it overtake a person’s face? For me, the Supreme Primes fit the bill. I can get that clarity that I’m looking for.” Armed with high-speed lenses and the high dynamic range of his camera, Ryan was ready.
“On music videos, sometimes you have to improvise. There’s always a lot of variables, unlike commercials where for the most part everything is a known quantity,” says Ryan. The most iconic shots can come from a fortuitous accident on set. He describes one such moment, “The Steadicam was docked, with the camera pointing away from the set towards a frosted window with a motivated fire in a drum barrel acting as a lighting gag with a fog machine.” A crew member stood silhouetted in the accidental frame and Matt was struck by the unexpected cinematic vision. The director was equally taken, and they added a shot to capture Tink dramatically and colourfully silhouetted in front of the grimy window, an image that plays at the video’s climax. “If I didn’t have that combo of lenses and camera, I probably couldn’t have gotten that shot. It was a happy accident.”
Ryan has come to appreciate the combination of Alexa 35 and Zeiss Supreme Primes and it is one of his go-to filmmaking packages. “I think of the lens sensor as the canvas and the lens as the paintbrush. It comes down to a feeling–can it help me go to battle with this low light? When I have a versatile lens that has everything I need, with such resolve, clarity, and close focus–– it’s beautiful.”