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ASC Award winner John Conroy ISC speaks with IFTN
31 Jan 2020 : Nathan Griffin
John Conroy ISC at the ASC Awards
The Irish Cinematographer picked up the American Society of Cinematographers Award in the ‘Motion Picture, Miniseries, or Pilot Made for Television’ category.

Conroy received his first ASC Award for AMC’s The Terror: Infamy (Ep- "A Sparrow in a Swallow’s Nest"), having previously been nominated for Penny Dreadful. This year’s ASC Awards marked another strong showing from Irish Cinematographers as PJ Dillon ISC and Peter Robertson ISC were also in contention in the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland complex. 

John Conroy ISC spoke with IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin about the win, the quality of Irish Cinematography at present, and the influence his late father has had on his career.   

IFTN: Can you tell me a bit about your experience of the night and your reaction to winning the award?

John:“The experience was unbelievable; the stuff dreams are made of. To be nominated, to even be in the room with so many icons of the Cinematography world was amazing. The First ASC nomination I received was such an honour but to be nominated a second time and then to be lucky enough to win was amazing! Having my partner Yvonne Connolly there too was very special, very emotional.”

IFTN: You were there alongside two other Irish DoPs, PJ Dillon ISC and Peter Robertson ISC. What does that say about the quality of Irish cinematography at present?

John: “There’s not enough I can say about PJ & His talent. It was his second ASC nomination too. He’s an inspiration for so many of us. We both started off as Clapper Boys on "The Field” so it’s great to be such friends & close colleagues now too. I was a focus puller for Peter and he is such a generous, talented man. I was so happy for him to be nominated, it was so long overdue. 

“Irish cinematography is in very rude health, for such a small country we have so many amazing DP’s shooting projects all over the world. I think we are really punching above our weight. From what I can see it’s a combination of our natural Storytelling and a very good work ethic that is ingrained in most Irish people. I also think Irish people are very open, not closed off to ideas or inspiration, this is vital to be a DP.”

IFTN: You mentioned at the event that your father was also a cinematographer and passed away in November. Can you tell me a bit about your relationship and how he inspired your career?

John: “My Father. Where do I start? He was a ground breaker, as a gaffer, travelling all over the world when no one else was, and proving that Irish crews were as good if not better than most. As a DP he was a Titan. Making the move from gaffer to DP yet again when no one else was. He was warm and embracing with Jim Sheridan on "My Left Foot” and "The Field”, which were seminal moments in the fledgling indigenous Irish film Industry. He then moved to the US to shoot with legends Like Sam Shepard. Personally, I couldn't have had a better role model. His work ethic was second to none and his talent and enthusiasm was infectious. Most of all I think his loyalty to his crew was paramount. I miss him terribly.”

IFTN: You have worked on a really diverse mix of feature films and TV Drama. Does your approach differ between the two formats? 

John: “My approach for Film & TV doesn't differ at all. Ultimately it all comes down to the narrative, Camera & Lens choice for me are almost always different on every project I’m lucky to shoot. It’s one of the reasons I don’t own much equipment.”

IFTN: Can you tell me about how the different production environments influence the cinematography?

John: “Budgets & Production environments affect me a little more but once you get into the mind-set of where your boundaries are you can then start concentrating purely on the story. It’s all about the performances and The Story. (I think I might push the Boundaries a little too he he)”

IFTN: Whose work impresses you at the minute in the industry?

John: “The Crews impress me in the industry, Grips, Focus pullers and Gaffers impress me, they don't get much recognition but do all of the heavy lifting. They are inspirational.”

IFTN: What’s next for you?

John: “I’m currently lucky to be shooting Penny Dreadful “City of Angels” in Los Angeles. It’s an amazing 'John Logan' set world in 1938 Los Angeles. I’m here till mid-march. It’s being aired on Showtime at the end of April.”

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