Tim Pope

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Timothy Michael Pope (born 12 February 1956 in Hackney, London, England) is a film director most famous for his music videos, having directed feature films, and for a brief pop career.

Early life and career[edit]

Pope grew up in the north London suburb of Enfield. Both his parents were bankers, and he has a sister, Amanda. He always knew that he wanted to make films, boasting in an interview once, "Even my dreams came with dirt on them, like my Standard-8 movies". He attended St Andrew's primary school, Cecil Road, Enfield, and then went to St Michael's boarding school in Otford, Kent, returning to north London to attend Latymer Grammar School, Haselbury Road. While still attending Latymer, he participated in the first ever Film Studies O-level and was featured in the Evening Standard as “Tim Pope, aged seventeen, who wants to be a film director”.

To achieve this aim, he began to attend Saturday morning film classes at Hornsey College of Art. Here he was able to experiment freely with cameras, spending much time photographing various happenings. His first school film was entitled Voyage, which was shot on a 16mm Bolex camera – and another equally absurd creation was the film Canine Excrement, where he is purported to have followed a dog around the then bombsites of Seven Sisters, waiting for the inevitable to happen.

Pope applied to many film colleges, realising that film was something he seriously wanted to devote his life to, and having been turned down by many, he finally attended Ravensbourne College of Art & Design, Bromley. The course was more TV-oriented, and Pope achieved his highest course marks when a brief was set to create an idea to a piece of music. He chose Frank Zappa’s "I'm the Slime" from his album Overnite Sensation.

When Pope left college, two years later, he found himself unemployable and, after a period of working for Williams & Glynn’s bank in Islington, he got his first job with HyVision, a company in Covent Garden that trained politicians to appear on TV. One of the many people he worked with, apart from Trevor McDonald, Melvyn Bragg, and others, was the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey, whom his boss, Stanley Hyland, trained to appear on the BBC’s Panorama programme. Pope says that he left 10 Downing Street with the same camera and then went to Guildford to film the ska band The Specials on stage. Terry Hall, the lead singer, was later to be one of Pope’s many clients, as a pop promoter director.

Middle career[edit]

While still at HyVision, in 1979 Pope met Alex McDowell, who ran Rocking Russian, a company that designed T-shirts and record sleeves from a studio in Berwick Street, whose stairwell was shared by an S&M prostitute. Alex had designed Iggy Pop’s album sleeve for Soldier and Pope was a massive Iggy Pop fan. (Pope later became a close friend to the singer and worked with him many times). The duo went on to form a very successful and long-lasting relationship with McDowell as production designer and Pope as director – before McDowell emigrated to America in the mid-1980s to become a movie production designer for people like Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton.

At about this time, pop videos were starting to be made more frequently by directors like Russell Mulcahy (Duran Duran), David Mallet (David Bowie) and Brian Grant (Olivia Newton-John). Pope decided to turn his hand to this new form. His first attempts at rock video were shot in Carnaby St and in Putney Bridge's subterranean tunnels on a non-broadcast format for the single, "Cut Out the Real", by Jo Broadbery and the Standouts and its B-side. After unsuccessfully pitching on many videos (and with very little to show as his own work) he was finally engaged to make Soft Cell’s first video for Some Bizzare Label , Soft Cell song "Bedsitter". The video had Pope’s trademark individuality, as it featured the band’s singer, Marc Almond, wearing shirts that matched the walls behind him. In many ways, it is considered this video bears all the major hallmarks of a Pope video: individuality; linear progression in terms of story; a slight psychedelic feel. (Pope has many names for different genres of videos and this type he calls a narrative/atmospheric. He has lectured all over the world on the subject, including at London’s National Film Theatre).

More Some Bizzare videos followed with Soft Cell, including "Say Hello and Wave Goodbye" and thereafter an entire album of videos for "Non-Stop Exotic Cabaret", including the infamous Sex Dwarf that featured a handful of real-life prostitutes, their pimp, a trainee doctor in leather trousers and a handful of maggots that Pope chucked in during filming of the song, causing a riot when the prostitutes fled from the St John’s Wood film studio. The video was later seized by the Scotland Yard Pornography Squad, but handed back soon after, as it was realized that hype was more at play than real facts about the video’s contents. The video is considered a cult classic and is even banned from TV programmes about banned videos. It was probably this Some Bizzare video that earned Pope his early reputation as a ‘bad boy’.

Promos for The Cure[edit]

By 1982, and with a few more videos made, (Scottish band Altered Images, Nancy Nova, Jersey pub-rockers-financed-by-a-millionaire “Volcano”, etc.) Pope met The Cure’s singer Robert Smith and the shape of pop videos as previously understood was to change for all time. Their work together was to prove that directors could be constantly innovative, on a factory-line basis. Pope ultimately directed over 37 videos for the group, including many of their most famous songs – "Let’s Go To Bed" (1982), "Close To Me" (1985), "Just Like Heaven" (1987), "Friday I’m In Love", (1992), "Wrong Number" (1997). He also directed the 35mm movie of “The Cure in Orange”, which captures their performance at the eponymous theatre in the south of France. He recorded his own song with them, called "I Want to be a Tree", with its B-side "Elephants" and "The Double Crossing of Two-Faced Fred" (a choral verse poem he had written and performed at Latymer, a few years earlier). The single is a collector’s item for many Cure fans and Pope was the only early collaborator, apart from their postman, with a song called “I Dig You”.

Pope, of course, provided the video for "I Want to be a Tree", which was famously achieved in a single, unbroken shot of over three minutes duration – the first time this was ever attempted in a pop video. Pope also musically supported another band he was working with at the time, The Psychedelic Furs, at Hammersmith Odeon, the same stage David Bowie had ‘retired’ from as his fictional character Ziggy Stardust. Pope parodied Bowie, referring to his own character as “Twiggy Sawdust” (a play on words from the Tree song). This appears to be the climax of Pope’s burgeoning wannabe-pop star career. The single reached number 137 in the British charts.

Work in the U.S.A.[edit]

He was invited to America for the first time in 1983 by Neil Young who asked him to film the video for his song "Wonderin’". Young personally drove him around Los Angeles on a guided tour to see the sights, using the car that was ultimately to feature in the famous "Wonderin’" video, filmed with its idiosyncratic speed-up, speed-down style. Pope shot many more videos for Young until 1997. He said of the experience: "I thought it was everyone’s lot to be brought to America and driven around by iconic pop stars in flash motors."

He also shot many more videos in the USA for various bands, including Hall & Oates, Iggy Pop and Wendy & Lisa, as well as more bands in the UK: The The, David Bowie, Strawberry Switchblade, Men Without Hats, Talk Talk, Paul Weller, Siouxsie and the Banshees and others.

Pope’s career in commercials began at this time, too, and he soon achieved a worldwide reputation, shooting for clients all over the world.

In 1989, Pope directed the TV comedy series The Groovy Fellers which he co-wrote with Squeeze keyboardist and TV presenter Jools Holland and comedian Rowland Rivron, about a Martian (played by Rivron) who lands in England and is shown around the country by Holland, being presented with many of the eccentricities of life peculiar to the United Kingdom. The TV series was one of the first to use members of the public and also featured David Steel, Michael Heseltine and Sir Patrick Moore. The Martian lands naked in episode 1, walks into a pub, and the series climaxes with a car chase with Holland and the Martian attempting to answer the question "Why are we here on Planet Earth?" with the police in hot pursuit. The programme was produced by Border Television for Channel 4.

Later career[edit]

In 1991, Pope directed his first short film Phone that led directly to his being asked by the Weinstein Brothers of Miramax to make The Crow: City of Angels for them. Phone starred Bill Pullman, along with Linda Blair and Amanda Plummer. The film earned many awards from around the world, and was based on a real-life phone prank that Pope came across on a tape in a skip behind a strip club in Hollywood Boulevard.

He continued working on videos, spending more time in America. He worked with many new bands of the period, though old clients like Neil Young, David Bowie, The The and the Cure continued to request his services.

The Crow: City of Angels (1996) put Pope together again with production designer Alex McDowell and the duo gave the film an individual look and feel. It reached number one in the American movie charts, though Pope refused to do the commentary on the DVD, saying the studio had tampered with his film too much.

He directed David Bowie’s 50th birthday celebration at Madison Square Gardens in 1997, working with Bowie to construct the show over a long period. The show featured other artists, including Pope’s old friend Robert Smith of The Cure, Billy Corgan, Frank Black, The Foo Fighters and Lou Reed.

Shortly afterwards, Pope read and bought the book for The Last King of Scotland and brought Oscar winner Forest Whitaker to the project as Idi Amin (though he left the project due to differences on the progress of the film, in particular with the studio wanting to use writer Joe Penhall).

2000 to present[edit]

Pope returned to London from Hollywood and continued with his career making commercials.

In 2005, Pope was awarded a CADS lifetime achievement award by the music industry and after a prolonged and self-imposed period of 12 years, he returned to making videos again, working with The Darkness, KT Tunstall, The Kaiser Chiefs and Fatboy Slim.

In 2013, Pope embarked with The Cure to film their "LatAm" tour across South America and Mexico, and a tour film is expected to be produced later with material both off and on stage.

He now lives with his family in Brighton, East Sussex.

Music video filmography (incomplete)[edit]

External links[edit]