Out For Blood

Dick Pope BSC /Peterloo

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Out For Blood

Dick Pope BSC /Peterloo

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Below is only a teaser, and the full interview can be found in the November 2018 issue (90) of British Cinematographer magazine.

If you purchase a year’s digital subscription from just £30, or a year’s all-inclusive subscription from just £64, you can read the interview in Issue 90 by clicking HERE. You will also receive access to the rest of our extensive back catalogue.

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Director Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, screening in-competition at the 2018 EnergaCamerimage Festival Of Cinematography, with DP Dick Pope BSC in the running for the Golden Frog, depicts a bloody and brutal episode in British history.

The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, and the introduction of the first of the Corn Laws, had resulted in periods of chronic famine and unemployment, felt with particular hardship in the industrial north of England. By 1819, the pressure generated by poor economic conditions, coupled with the relative lack of suffrage in Northern England, had enhanced the appeal of political radicalism, causing alarm amongst the government of insurrection.

On 16th August 1819, a crowd of some 80,000 people from Manchester and its surrounding towns gathered in St Peter’s Fields to demand Parliamentary reform and an extension of voting rights. The meeting had been peaceful, but in the attempt to arrest Henry Hunt, one of the leaders of the meeting, a cavalry charge by local yeomen and the 15th Hussars into the huge crowd resulted in at least 15 people being killed, with an estimated 700 others injured. The massacre was quickly given the name ‘Peterloo’ in mocking comparison to the Battle Of Waterloo, which had taken place just four years before.

Production on Peterloo began in May 2017, concluding at the end of August. With Manchester offering precious few authentic shooting opportunities, production took place at locations around Northern England, including rural exteriors in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and interiors in Chester, Halifax and Burnley. Production also encompassed a working cotton mill, where the original weaving machines were used to make an impressively thunderous appearance in the film.

PETERLOO

The scenes of the Peterloo Massacre itself were shot at Tilbury Fort, Essex, along the Thames Estuary, during the course of a mainly overcast August. Along with live action of the actors and extras, the sequence also involved practical augmentation and digital set extension for authenticity.

Peterloo was screened at the Venice Film Festival, with critics hailing Pope’s cinematography and the depiction of the massacre.

“Making Peterloo was no pushover,” admits Pope, who shot Mr Turner for Leigh in 2014. “In fact, conjuring-up the events in St Peter’s Fields on to the big screen represents one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced.”

Ron Prince caught up with Pope to discover more about his work on the production.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

"Making Peterloo was no pushover... conjuring-up the events in St Peter’s Fields on to the big screen represents one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced."

- Dick Pope BSC

You’ve worked with Mike for a very long time. Remind us about your working practices with him, and what this meant for Peterloo.

DP: Yes, Peterloo is my 13th film with Mike. His way of working is unique, and the way he goes about bringing his films to the screen, much has been written about. But he always maintains that how one gets there is immaterial, what matters is the result. Suffice to say there is never a conventional script whilst we are in production. This is the only way he works; there is never another way. This means I can’t really plan ahead in detail. Instead I embark on a journey of discovery, whilst keeping things as flexible as possible.

So, when did you first hear about Peterloo?

DP: In March 2015, Mike invited a group of his regular band of collaborators to a lunch celebrating Mr Turner at the time of the BAFTA awards in London. After lunch, Mike announced that he was going to make Peterloo.

What references did you consider for the production?

DP: I looked at all available filmed footage of what became known as ’The Battle Of Orgreave’ during the 1884 Miner’s Strike when, notoriously, many mounted police charged into miners at a mass picket in South Yorkshire. One shot really stayed with me – taken from a slightly higher vantage point, on the end of a zoom lens – of mounted police charging across the frame beyond the sea of miner’s heads, before they turned towards the camera and cut a swathe into the crowd.

READ IT ALL

The full interview can be found in the November 2018 issue (90) of British Cinematographer magazine.

If you purchase a year’s digital subscription from just £30, or a year’s all-inclusive subscription from just £64, you can read the interview in Issue 90 by clicking HERE. You will also receive access to the rest of our extensive back catalogue.

CLICK TO BUY A DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION
CLICK TO BUY A PRINT & DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION