On Celluloid Film: Dick Pope

Dick Pope has been the cinematographer for director Mike Leigh for a long time. See what he has to say about celluloid film from the point-of-view of a director of photography.

image via V Pop

British cinematographer Dick Pope has worked on several films and TV movies. He is mostly recognized for his work for the animated film, The Illusionist, which garnered him a nomination for an Academy Award. For a cinematographer, there is a great difference between shooting with film and shooting digitally. Here’s what he has to say:

Dick Pope on set image via Thin Man Films

Film? 1974, 27 years old, first break as a cameraman, major TV documentary, stone age tribe, expedition, only three of us, director, camera, sound, no assistants, incredibly remote, hauling 500kg of gear across world, air, road, sea, river, hike deep into rainforest, scorching heat, intense humidity. Sixteen-millimetre, 200×400ft rolls, stored in coolest place, every foot used, no waste, Eclair camera, three magazines. Arms in black changing bag, open can, lift out, peel off tape, load mag, close lid, pull out arm, unzip bag, finish lacing, snap mag on camera, lift on to shoulder, turn over, shoot! Is it there, did we get it? Will it be any good? No way of knowing, just wait, see and shoot.

Three months of tribal ways, incredible life-changing experience, finish, farewells, canoes back down river, return home, 80,000ft to lab, develop and print, wait, terrible uncertainty, what if? At last: rushes, into cutting room, everybody there, stomach in mouth, print loaded on Steenbeck, blacked-out room, run it, and bang, there they are, those faraway people and places, it has come out, it is there, it’s wonderful, everybody happy, waves of relief, complete and utter magic, it’s film. Outside in the street private tears of relief and joy, that’s it, I’m away, I’m a cameraman.

Later in the darkroom’s red glow, printing my stills, black-and-white portraits of the tribe conjure up and materialise in the tray, this wondrous photochemical reaction of liquid solution, emulsion, celluloid, silver grains, gelatin and again the very same magic. It’s film.

From documentaries to movies, from a crew of three to what feels like 300, and until very recently only on film and mostly 35mm. Sometimes, when I want to work with a lighter, smaller, lower profile or seek that grittier, uniquely textured image, I choose 16mm. When I photographed Mike Leigh’s 2004 film Vera Drake, nobody ever flagged up or gave a damn that it had originated on the cheaper, smaller “shoestring” 16mm format, because it created exactly the right cinematic look for the film. In the end all that matters is the world created up there on the screen. This was reinforced to me with the success of The Hurt Locker in 2008 and Black Swan in 2010, both shot on 16mm, both winning countless awards, including cinematography. 16mm is very much alive and well, and it’s crucial it remains so, yet its future is seriously under threat. Before too long, I fear it will be film itself that’s cast out, and in the stampede towards the blinding, flashing light of the digital age, the fabulous physical and spiritual magic of it will be trampled underfoot for ever. – via The Guardian UK

The Illusionist image via Dr. North
Rachel Weisz on ‘Swept From the Sea’ (Director of Photography: Dick Pope) image via Available Images

It’s amazing how utilizing film can have a big effect on someone. Like Dick Pope’s statement, it can leave memories and even offer life-changing experiences that will be cherished forever.

Dick Pope image via AF Cinema

Sources:
The Guardian UK
Wikepedia: Dick Pope

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written by jeanmendoza on 2011-11-21 #lifestyle #film #cinematographer #on-celluloid-film #dick-pope

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