It takes a uniquely talented artist to take a film’s scripted story off the page and translate it into the shot by shot visual language that moves viewers. Many will try, but only a small portion will ever truly succeed.
Over the past seven years cinematographer Yan Rymsha has proven himself to be one of those rare and diversely talented visionaries who’s able to authentically capture a script’s story and paint it visually on the screen through his camera lens. No matter how opposite the previous project is from the next, Rymsha’s keen understanding of film, vast skill as a cinematographer and his ability to connect and communicate with those he works with have ensured that he nail the director’s vision every time.
Last year Rymsha earned the prestigious Artistic Vision Award for Best Cinematography from the Santa Monica Film Festival for his mesmerizing work on Ibrahim Nada’s film “Zaar,” a dramatic thriller that did exceptionally well on the film festival circuit taking home several awards from the Cleveland International Film Festival and San Antonio Film Festival as well.
For Rymsha, who hails from Saint Petersburg, Russia, the past two years have been riddled with accolade after accolade leading his name to become more and more well-known across the United States. In 2016 Rymsha was nominated for the Indie Gathering Award for Best Cinematography from the Indie Gathering International Film Festival for his work as the cinematographer on Vasily Chuprina’s dramatic crime film “The Rat,” yet another one of Rymsha’s projects that was highlighted by film festivals across the states.
“The Rat” director Vasily Chuprina, who’s earned countless awards including the Platinum Award from WorldFest Houston for the film “The Boy By The Sea,” explains, “Some directors don’t get too involved with the cinematography process and prefer to focus on the story and performance– I’m that type of director… and that is why I work with Yan Rymsha… because I trust his vision and I know that he understands my vision.”
Last year Rymsha was the cinematographer on the film “Plaything,” a dramatic musical directed by Yufei Qiao (“The Sadness Shop”), which earned the four awards from the 2017 California Women’s Film Festival, as well as the Award of Merit from The IndieFest Film Awards.
As a musical, the film was starkly different from anything Rymsha had worked on prior, yet his visual skill behind the lens shone through clearly and his work proved to be tantamount to the overall success of the film. The integral nature of Rymsha’s work on “Plaything” was singled out and praised within the industry earlier this year when he was awarded the Master of the Craft Award for Best Cinematography from the Southern Shorts Awards for his work.
Starring Marianne Bourg (“Awkward,” “Sketchy”), Gabriel Burrafato (“RoboCop,” “Street Legal”) and Samantha Sutliff (“The Leslie”) “Plaything” tells a story of a woman trapped in a dangerous polygamous relationship. Desperate to fight for her love, she engages in the ancient Chinese game known as Mahjong with the other women serving as her opponents, but when she finds out what’s really hidden behind the game, the truth may be too painful to face.
“From the first moment I fell in love with this project. It was period piece, it was challenging and it had an awesome storyline,” recalls Rymsha. “For this project I paid more attention to lighting. Me and my gaffer spent quite a lot of time deciding on the lighting style. Since it was a period piece, Yufei wanted to have an antique, vintage feeling.”
Influenced by the work of master painters such as Jan Vermeer and Hans Holbein Younger, Rymsha designed the lighting to reflect a visual warmth that both softened the skin tones of the actors and helped transport viewers into a world set in the distant past.
While Rymsha’s versatility behind the camera and his unparalleled knowledge of how to use certain angles to create a desired feeling within the audience have been a powerful tool in his work, his use of lighting has been equally as important to each and every film he’s shot to date.
Earlier on in his career Rymsha was the cinematographer on the dramatic sci-fi film “Sandbox” from Latvian director Gleb Kiselov (“Dollar for a Thought”), which earned Gleb a Best Director Award nomination at the Largo Film Awards and was also chosen as an Official Selection of the Short Stop International Film Festival. Starring Andre McQueen (“It’s Temporary,” “LaLa Land Sketch”), Al Gerschutz (“Nightcomer,” “Dirty South”) and Masha Malinina (“The Labyrinth,” “Fresh Off the Boat”), the film follows Jack (McQueen) a man who wakes up in the middle of nowhere with complete amnesia. As he sets off scouting the mysterious place, he encounters Judas (Gerschutz) who triggers Jack’s memory sending him back to a specific day in his life when he nearly lost his daughter.
For the film Rymsha was essentially tasked with creating two worlds, that of Jack’s present experience and the one where his past memory unfolds. In order to represent the strangeness of the present world Jack wakes up in, Rymsha chose to use neutral density filters, which created an infrared appearance that drives the feeling of being stuck in purgatory and the hopelessness Jack experiences. When it came to the world of Jack’s memories however, all the scenes were shot with vibrant color, which perfectly represented the nature of his past being full of life on a visual level.
His strategic choices as the cinematographer of the film were invaluable in painting the film’s story visually. Once again, Rymsha nailed the visual mark,
It’s easy to see from the montage of his work below why he has earned such staggering acclaim for his work internationally. He is a proverbial genius when it comes to crafting the perfect lighting, and knowing precisely what angles and camera movements will best support the story.
With nearly 30 films already under his belt, including the upcoming film “Battle Fields” from CineRockom International Film Festival Platinum Award winner Anouar H. Smaine, several prestigious awards and an unparalleled capacity for taking on diverse projects, Yan Rymsha is one cinematographer audiences across the states will assuredly being seeing a whole lot more from for years to come.