BAFTA Masterclass with Cinematographer Dick Pope

A rapturous round of applause ensues as Dick Pope, a leading creative force in cinematography, takes to the stage. The academy award nominated Mr Pope is still working today, and his impressive portfolio spans many films including a variety with the iconic film maker Mike Leigh to Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008) – the later which was neglected from the talk, unfortunately.

What came next was a selection of personally selected clips, conversation and audience questions. Dick seemed a lovely, humble gentleman passionate about his craft who saw cinematography as an art form. At its core cinematography is the basics of what goes into a shot – the colours, lights and camera shots for instance that creatively manipulate every frame we view and can add so much more depth and intrigue. This is what Dick went onto explore and it was highly enlightening to hear from a man at the top of his game; as someone trying to comprehend the manual of how to even start.

Most prevalent in the talk was the discussion of his collaborations with Mike Leigh, in fact it may as well have been Cinematography as an excuse to ask questions about Mike Leigh with Dick Pope – however, it was riveting to hear how much consideration went into the simplest of his shots. For example, he explained that a motif and fascination of Leigh’s films is framing families and events from behind door frames and to have action take place on stairs. The motive of this to make the viewers voyeurs on these slices of life created in films such as Naked (1993) and Secrets and Lies (1996) – it allows us to feel involved with these situations and just simple devices like this can give us a heightened sense of involvement.

From a personal perspective, perhaps what I found most fascinating was his discussion of his most recent work on Mr Turner (2014). The beautiful attention to detail in the colour of the film felt similar to the brushstrokes of Turner himself and it reminded me how much thought goes into a scenes construction and the power this gives to the story itself.

The talk was truly inspiring and fired up an instant desire to go home and watch as many films as possible. There is nothing better than learning from the masters and I’ve discovered a little gold mine of films through the talk – a solid Tuesday evening.