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26th March 2023

Olan Collardy Interview: Reclaiming Narratives in Rye Lane

The Mancunion had the pleasure of speaking to Olan Collardy, Director of Photography on Raine Allen-Miller’s Rye Lane
Olan Collardy Interview: Reclaiming Narratives in Rye Lane
David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah in RYE LANE. Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

This year’s Manchester Film Festival (MANIFF23) started off strong with Raine Allen-Miller’s whimsical and vibrant feature film debut Rye Lane. Collaborating with screenwriters Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia the film consists of a simultaneously refreshing yet simple approach to the comedy-romance genre. Rye Lane was also the film’s cinematographer Olan Collardy first feature length and for first timers, the crew absolutely smashed it to the point of gaining praise at Sundance earlier this year.

To further understand the thought processes behind the highly engaging visual language of the film, I spoke to Rye Lane’s cinematographer Olan Collardy, who shared insight on what it was like working on set and more generally the beauty of filmmaking.

David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah in RYE LANE. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

References : “Borrowing from these films and adding our own personal influences”

One of the nearly countless reasons why I enjoyed Rye Lane is that it reminded me slightly of films that inspired me to pursue filmmaking in the first place. Like wine tasting notes on Italian fine wine, I sensed a hint of Do The Right Thing and Sorry To Bother You, and my feelings were confirmed by Olan who shared that these films were loosely used as references. Besides the bright and bold colours from Sorry To Bother You, or the depiction of a lively and culturally rich neighbourhood in Do The Right Thing, Rye Lane oozed with authenticity similar to these films. He also mentioned Dope by Rick Famuyiwa and the TV series Dear White People as references, as well as Edgar Wright’s filmography, however, more for the dialogue and pacing of the film. Nonetheless, Rye Lane has a uniqueness that allows it to stand out on its own. 


Energy on set : “The spirit of the set always finds a way to imprint itself on the film” 

Rye Lane is simply a fun movie! The charisma and emotions of the characters are contagious and the comedic instances perfectly tickled the funny bones of audience members, myself included. 

Olan spoke about how the funness of Rye Lane was a reflection of the energy on set. He also attributed the energy and spirit to the fact that a large amount of the crew was Black, and how the set felt in some ways like a barbecue with friends and family. In his own words, “there was a lot of fooling around, comedy, and lots of joy”. 


Anamorphic Lensing : “That’s the way Raine sees the world”

Olan’s use of anamorphic lenses in Rye Lane facilitates the audience’s engagement as it widens the image pushing the viewer further into the filmic universe of the film. I felt enveloped by the imagery, as though the cinema screen was being wrapped around my head. Olan explained to me that Raine sees the world through anamorphic lenses and as a cinematographer he aims to execute the director’s as well as the story’s vision as accurately and effectively as possible. 

David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah in RYE LANE. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.


Shooting exteriors : “How can we work around the situation by leaning into the situation”

As a large part of Rye Lane takes place in exterior locations spread across South London, and as a cinematographer in progress, I know how boring it can be to shoot in daylight. I asked Olan about how he overcame potential challenges of filming outside in daylight. He uses a philosophical analogy to explain his filmmaking mindset; from a book of text known as the Tao Te Ching that dates back to around 400 BC. 

Olan compares his behaviour on set as to the behaviour of water. Instead of the water bending to the will of a potential obstacle like a rock, or the filmmakers bending to a potential obstacle on set, the water embraces the obstacle and actually moulds and shapes it over time. In that way Olan leaned into the daylight obstacle and found a way to embed it into the look of the film. 


Favourite & Hardest scenes : “Funny enough, sometimes you can’t win”

My curiosity got the best of me as I asked Olan Collardy about his favourite scene to shoot, and while he said that because of daylight exteriors many of the shots were set up relatively similar, the restaurant scene was his favourite. I can guarantee that as a viewer this scene stands out as all the filmmaking elements are working efficiently… and it was extremely funny too.  

Additionally, Olan enjoyed shooting the first sequence in the film because setting the tone and visual language of the film is very important to him. The more difficult shots again had to do with the daylight, and the lack thereof, especially in the UK, in scenes like the garden party. Olan admitted that at times he wasn’t happy with the look but that you just can’t win all the time. The bridge sequence was also challenging due to time restrictions of shooting on a major bridge in London, only five minutes, including time taken to clear the area.

At the end of the day, Rye Lane left me with a feeling of excitement for the future of Black filmmakers and how slowly but surely we are getting opportunities to control our own narratives. The Western world of filmmaking is sadly mainly white men shaping stories of everyone but films like these keep me hopeful and motivated for positive change. As Olan said “for us it was a celebration of the fact that we were really happy with the story we were getting to tell”, and this is exactly why I pursue and strive to make films. To celebrate. 

Olan Collardy and Raine Allen-Miller on the set of RYE LANE. Photo by Chris Harris. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.


Rye Lane is released in cinemas

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