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

Early life and career

Pope grew up in north Londonmarker in the suburb of Enfieldmarker. Both his parents were bankers, and he has a sister, Amanda. He always knew that he wanted to make films, boasting in an inspiring interview interview once, "Even my dreams came with dirt on them, like my Standard-8 movies". He first attended St Andrew's primary school, Cecil Road, Enfield, thereafter he went to St Michael's boarding school in Otford, Kent, returning to north London to attend Latymer Grammar School, Haselbury Road. Other luminaries of this same school (apart from his own parents who met there) are Bruce Forsyth and actress Eileen Atkins, although he was not contemporaneous with them. While still attending Latymer, he participated in the first ever Film Studies O-level and was featured in the Evening Standard, quoted as saying, “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 Artmarker, where Adam Ant in pre-Ant days simultaneously attended. Here he was able to experiment freely with cameras, spending much time photographing various surreal happenings. His first school film was entitled “Voyage”, which was shot on a 16mm Bolex camera – and another equally as absurd creation was the film “Canine Excrement”, where he is purported to have followed a dog around the then bombsites of Seven Sistersmarker, 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, Bromleymarker. 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 Am The Slime" from his album "Overnite Sensation".

When Pope emerged from the college, two years later, he found himself unemployable, and after a period of working for Williams & Glynn’s bank in Islingtonmarker, wearing a suit like a Brillo Pad, 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 Number Ten Downing Street with the same camera and then went to Guilford 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 promo director.

Middle career

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 would go on to form a very successful and long-lasting relationship with Alex as production designer and Pope as director – before Alex emigrated to America in the mid-eighties to become a movie production designer for people like Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton.

At about this time, pop videos were really 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 and after unsuccessfully pitching on many videos (and with very little to show as his own work) he finally landed Soft Cell’s first video for their 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 Theatremarker).

More 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 hookers, 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 hookers fled from the St John’s Wood film studio. The video was later seized by the Scotland Yardmarker Porn Squad, but handed back soon after, as it was realized 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 video that garnered Pope his early reputation as ‘bad boy’.

By 1982, and with a few more videos under his belt (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 would ultimately direct 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” and 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 No. 137 in the British Charts.

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’”. Neil 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 would shoot many more videos for Young right 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 would also shoot many more videos in the USAmarker for various bands, including Hall & Oates, Iggy Pop and Wendy & Lisa, as well as more bands back home in England: The The; David Bowie; Strawberry Switchblade; Men Without Hats; Talk Talk; Paul Weller; Siouxsie and the Banshees…and many, many more.

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, he shot the TV series The Groovy Fellers with famous musician/TV presenter Jools Holland, about a Martian who lands in England and is shown about by the TV presenter, being presented with many of the eccentricities of life peculiar to the UKmarker. 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 Jools Holland and the Martian attempting to answer the question ‘why are we here on Planet Earth?’ with the police hot on their tails.

Later career

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 garnered 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 joint on Hollywood Boulevardmarker.

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 back together again with production designer Alex McDowell and the duo gave the film an individual look and feel. It achieved the Number One spot 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 David to construct the show, across a prolonged period. The show features 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 project, in particular with the studio wanting to use writer Joe Penhall).

2000 to present

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 is currently back to making videos again, working with The Darkness, KT Tunstall, The Kaiser Chiefs and Fatboy Slim.

He is rumoured to be working again in 2008 with The Cure and also to be about to make another feature film, as well as working with long-time collaborator Neil Young on a concert/conceptual film.

He now lives with his family in Brightonmarker, East Sussexmarker.

Trivia

  • Pope once said: "The largest muscle in my body is my imagination."
  • He once said in an interview in 'Shots' magazine that he would wish to be reincarnated as Iggy Pop's penis.
  • Bob Weinstein, the film mogul, asked Pope if he "would like to see the director's cut" of the Crow 2.
  • The B-side to "I Want to be a Tree" is "The Double Crossing of Two Face Fred," a Pope-written choral verse poem, here performed by one - Pope himself. He wrote it at school in north London and first performed it there.
  • There is a second B-side song called "Elefunts" on which Pope played most of the musical instruments.
  • The organ playing on "I Want to be a Tree" was the same one used on Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale."


Pope has recently left Brighton for a more rural domicile which I will not, in regard to his privacy rights, disclose

Music video filmography (incomplete)



References






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