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Cinematographer Robbie Ryan details Nick Cave’s ‘Idiot Prayer’ project


Robbie Ryan, the award-winning cinematographer who has filmed Nick Cave’s new livestream Idiot Prayer, has explained how the project “captures the purest form of his music”.

Idiot Prayer, which took place in an empty Alexandra Palace, has been filmed in the West Hall of the iconic London location.

The show sees the Australian frontman roll through his extensive back catalogue, performing a string of hits and rarities from the earliest and most recent Bad Seeds material. On top of that, Cave revisits a series of tracks taken from his Grinderman side project too.

“It was an interesting process for me, because there was no director really,” Ryan told NME. “Nick was the director of sorts, but he wouldn’t call himself that. Normally in my world, you get picked by the director and then they run the show. This was different, so Nick was very curious about how we went about it and was very collaborative as to what I thought.”

Adding: “It’s just Nick at a piano for an hour so we wanted to give each song a subtle difference in terms of colour and effects,” he said. “It’s a really great performance, and you could just film Nick with nothing and it would be magnetic – but hopefully it all comes together.

“Everything is totally live. He’s singing to everyone and himself at the same time and is really just focussed on getting it all right in one hit. We didn’t do any more takes. We ended up with two cameras, and it really draws you in. The one-take approach gives it a real frisson and energy that you only get from something truly live.

“To see him performing is what you pay the money for,” Ryan added. “There’s definitely an essence of that which translates into this. I wasn’t an aficionado on Nick’s music, but I know that I was mesmerised. I was shook. There are four or five songs I’ve watched over and over again. It’s the purest form of his music as it’s just him at the piano, and his playing is phenomenal.”

See the first taster, below.