Last July, The Cure celebrated the 40th anniversary of their debut with a concert at Hyde Park, London. The show was played to an audience of 65,000 and was captured on film by the band’s longtime collaborator Tim Pope for the new concert film The Cure –Anniversary 1978-2018 Live in Hyde Park London. The film will be screened in theatres for one night only, July 11. Tickets and showings near you can be found at thecure.film.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Pope on his experience working with The Cure for over 37 years and how that informed his process for documenting their 40th anniversary. In addition to this film, Pope has directed many of the band’s music videos, starting with 1982’s “Let’s Go to Bed”. This new concert film is Pope’s second for the band, preceded by 1987’s The Cure in Orange.
TYF: What collaboration exists between the band and a director when filming a live set?
Tim Pope: I think the collaboration that exists is probably how much access they actually sort of let you have and how much trust there is between you. Obviously, in terms of filming the thing, that’s down to me really and the camera positions and such like. Though I very much in this instance worked with Robert, he knew where all the cameras were. He specifically had a point of view that one of the cameras should be bang on to his eye line and directly at him, which was kind of a covered camera. So there was that much, but I think really, particularly with someone like The Cure with whom I have worked for thirty-seven years, there is a lot of trust there. I think some bands from what I’ve heard can be worried about the intrusion of cameras, but certainly when I work with The Cure it’s not like that at all. One of the things they let me do for example was the day before the actual show, I sat in the middle of the band. Literally, they played me the entire two-hour set. At that moment I was really deciding how I was going to film it and there were two things that I wanted to capture that were big epic quality of the music, but also the intimacy of the band. The little looks between them. I think in my instance it comes down a lot to trust.
TYF: How much improvisation if any occurs on the night of filming?
Tim Pope: I literally camera scripted the whole thing. One of the things for me when doing a live show, and I haven’t done that many, and the people I’ve worked with for live shows are David Bowie, Neil Young, Iggy Pop, and The Cure a couple of times. It is not particularly my thing to do live shoots. So what I did, I think the main thing for me to do is get inside the music and crawl around and particularly to know when cues are coming up so you get cameras there at the right position. So having said that, as soon as the concert began, I threw the script away and just started working with cameras and following actually what was happening.
What I tried to do was to film the whole thing like a conversation. Anyone can cut music if you like. I wanted to film it like a conversation between the band, a musical conversation. So that entailed me using my eyes. Just an interesting story, because you’re talking about improvisation. We had to, because we were filming at this festival, when you are filming at a festival you inherit cameras, which are putting images to the screen. And we wanted to film the thing in 4K, which is twice what you actually need in cinema, but it is a great thing. It future proofs the project. To do that, we had to get all of our cameras in, literally up to the point that the band was coming on to the stage, which I knew was a risk. So when I was in my little truck, I could see the band besides the stage, and I didn’t actually have all my camera feeds, but because I knew where all my cameras were and that the cameras were recording, although I couldn’t see them, all I had to do was direct by brail for the first four songs. I literally had to close my eyes and direct the cameras, so yeah, improvisation is a handy trait in my line of business.
TYF: What is the goal when capturing a live performance? Do you want to capture as much video as possible and find the story in the editing room or is there a narrative you are trying to establish from the start?
Tim Pope: My idea was actually to tell the story of the gig. I knew that would give it implicitly a kind of cinematic sense. So I really wanted to tell the story, get the cameras to the right places, and actually cross shoot the band to be able to cut them like conversations.
The whole point would definitely be not to have too many cameras. Now a lot of people film concerts on two or three nights and stitch them together. My whole thing on a concert, even if I had the choice, I would shoot it on one night, just to keep it dangerous, to keep it real, to keep it edgy. My whole thing is to make it feel real and edgy. Now I described to you earlier on how I sat during a two-hour rehearsal in the best seat any Cure fan could ever have. I literally sat in the middle of the band and watched them. So what I wanted to do with the film is to put the audience into that position. To say to them, look, you are sitting and seeing this from the best seat you could ever see this concert from. I think this film is anything but television. It is nothing like TV at all. This is a cinematic immersive experience. My ultimate goal would be to put people watching inside the music. To feel it, to feel the music, that would be my ambition.
TYF: With more than 65,000 fans in attendance, how do you capture the excitement both on stage and in the crowd? And what kind of team do you have filming with you?
Tim Pope: Oh my god, the team is like a small army. I don’t know how many cameras we had, but all in all, I think I had something like twenty-six cameras, so if you work out how many people per camera there are, the people to move the camera, the people to protect the camera, it’s a lot of people. It is literally like an army.
To capture the excitement, I knew all the songs and I know them inside out. I traveled with The Cure about five years ago all across South America, and I have probably seen a hundred concerts of theirs across the years. For example, I had a hilarious bucket list moment. There was one song, “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” where Robert sings this amazing piece of vocals. He throws his voice out in an unbelievable way and I wanted the camera movement to reflect that. So I had this amazing craning shot, which on the big screen is so epic. So Robert screams, this camera pulls back, and back and back and back, and it’s such a powerful moment. It goes with his voice. That was something I always wanted to do and I finally managed to do that on this show.
TYF: Back in December 2017 you mentioned a chronological documentary of The Cure’s history. How is that project going and is there a potential timeline for its release?
Tim Pope: The timeline, we’re in Robert World. Robert World doesn’t particularly have timelines which would relate to other people’s timelines. So Robert will do that when he wants to do it. Yes, it is true that it will happen and I hope we will start on it early next year. From a fan’s perspective, it will be amazing, because Robert is giving me access to 50 boxes of film, of unseen material and that will be totally amazing. I think for a fan, my god, would I want to see that. Actual timeline, no idea, but it will happen, the question is when. Robert is just about to release a new album now, so I am sure that is going to be first up, but I hope we’ll get to it next year, I would like to.
TYF: You also filmed the 1986 In Orange concert film for The Cure. What differences were there in techniques and technology between then and the “Hyde Park” performance?
Tim Pope: The band was much simpler in those days I think in terms of what they did. The performance was very different. We shot that concert on 35mm film, regular movie film. That film too got a theatrical release, but in those days, to make a print cost about £10,000. It cost a lot of money. That film only probably played in about six cinemas. What’s really exciting about this film, through new technology, is this film is going to be in about one thousand five hundred cinemas in fifty countries, virtually all in the same night, I think Latin America is slightly different. That is so exciting to be embracing that technology. To know that the technology brings the world together. To know that as we are watching it in London, people will be watching it in Hawaii, will be watching it in Iceland, in Denmark, in Finland, in Australia, in Moscow. I mean, it’s incredible, so I think the move on in technology it’s amazing. Similarly, the cameras I filmed with and the lenses I used gave it a very filmic look. We filmed it in this thing called 4K, which is an incredible amount of information, so the images are pristine and beautiful. And the sound was mixed at Abbey Road, where the Beatles recorded. On the latest technology, it was actually the studio where they mixed the Bohemian Rhapsody Queen film. It was absolutely amazing. We used all the latest cutting-edge technology. Wonderful.
TYF: In filming a live performance, were there any technical errors or accidents that had to be worked around the night of filming? You mentioned earlier having to direct by brail to get started and I was wondering if there were any other instances?
That was primarily it. That was a big one. For a director who has two eyes and has one monitor with 26 [feeds], and I’m playing [in the dark], that was a hell of a thing. I thought at that moment, my goodness, I could actually really lose it here. Cause I wanted this film to be good. And I had no idea what the cameras were doing. So I literally had to close my eyes and imagine and see the shots and talk the cameramen through the shots, and as I said it took me four songs to get all my monitors up and working so I could see what the cameras were doing. Apart from that, the people we work with are very top end. I don’t recall any major problems at all actually from there on, but that was a pretty big one. Apart from that everything ran very smoothly.
TYF: You mentioned you wanted cinemagoers to feel in the thick of the action. Is there any advice you would give to aspiring documentarians and filmmakers to capture the aesthetics of a band and live performance?
Tim Pope: Preparation is the key thing. Once you are prepared, like I said to you, I literally knew every song inside out. I knew every musical cue. In fact, there was a producer there that night, she just watched me with her jaw open because I literally, to get the shots I described to you where the camera pulls back, bear in mind, I am moving probably five tons of camera crane. Means I’ve got to cue it at a certain point for the camera to swoop back and capture what I need. There’s a lot of anticipation on my part. I would say there are two things, preparation and then secondly, throw all that preparation away on the night and go with what is actually happening.
TYF: Is there any question I have not asked that you would like presented in this interview?
Tim Pope: I would just like to say to people, please go see this film. You know, The Cure are touring a lot at this moment. This film essentially is going to be on for one night, in some places it is on more, and I really urge people to go see it because it is a fantastic film, because if you are a Cure fan, even if you are not a Cure fan, it is a fantastic cinematic experience. People have been asking me what I mean by that, and what I mean by that is it puts you inside the music and takes you, transports you on a journey if you like. Everyone is asking me, will it be coming out on Blu-Ray, of course it will. I don’t know when, but it will be coming out on Blu-Ray and everything, but the real experience on this movie will be seeing it in theatres. I just say to people, do not miss this chance if you want to feel what it feels like to sit in front of The Cure at a concert.