American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 70

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Mike Leigh's Method

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process, and it isn't just about the actors;
it's very much about my work with
the cinematographer, the production
designer and the whole team.
What is your rehearsal process
with the actors during production?
Leigh: During the course of the
shoot, we build the scenes in rehearsals
and then shoot them. Generally speaking, we have lots of rehearsal days
during the shoot where we don't call the
crew, and that includes Dick. Nobody's
there apart from the actors and a
support team.
And rehearsals have to take
place at the location?
Leigh: Yes. I can't create a scene
unless I'm at the location. I have to see
it [along with] everything else. The
place makes its integral contribution to
the dynamics of the action.
We start off by doing improvisations at the location and then, through
the process of rehearsal, we take the
improvisations and break them down
and build them up, and gradually script
them. We arrive at something very
ready and finished. We rehearse and
rehearse, so that we've got something
very precise and scripted, even though it
has all come out of improvisations.
And then you present the scene
to Dick Pope and the crew?
Leigh: Dick and everyone will
show up, and the team runs the scene

for them. Then Dick and I talk. There
will be scenes where I'll say, 'I think the
camera's here.' He will often say,
'Absolutely. I see exactly what you
mean, but let's decide on the lens -
let's refine it.'
There might be occasions when
I'll say, 'I think it's this,' and he might
say, 'Well, yes, but I was standing over
there and the light looks better,' or
whatever - in which case, we'll talk
about it and we'll arrive at what we like.
In the end, Dick and I work
together to explore how we're going to
shoot a thing by being there. It's not
storyboard mode, and the time that
takes is an integral, essential part of the
filmmaking process.
And after shooting a scene, you
go back to rehearsals with the actors to
prepare the next scene?
Leigh: Yes. So scene by scene,
sequence by sequence, location by location, we build the scene, we shoot, we
build the scene, we shoot.
You've been working with Dick
for a long time.
Leigh: Once I started working
with Dick - no disrespect to anybody
else - I saw that we just absolutely
clicked and that we are absolutely on
the same page and the same wavelength. And we have the same taste in
Chinese food! [Laughs.]
- Benjamin B

D

irector Mike Leigh's unusual filmmaking process involves rehearsing
with the actors to create each scene.
There is no initial script.
American Cinematographer: In
the film you show Turner seeing a
train or a storm, and then later show
that experience transformed in a
finished painting.
Mike Leigh: I'm glad you
mention that, because the truth is that
you cannot really film or show the
creative moment on the screen - I
mean, you really can't. You can evoke it,
you can imply it, you can present the
justification of images, but the actual
creation itself is elusive and I would say,
in strict terms, unfilmable.
What is your own creative
process?
Leigh: The whole process of
making a film, for me, is a journey of
discovery.
How long did you prepare Mr.
Turner with the actors?
Leigh: Six months formally in a
building, preparing before we shot -
but before that, Timothy Spall took
painting lessons for two years with a very
good artist/teacher. [During those six
months of prep,] actors were coming
and going, building their characters, and
doing research. Improvisation is part of
the preparatory work. And then we
spent four months actually shooting it.
Do you take any photographs or
videos during the preparatory period?
Leigh: Never. It's important that
the preparatory process be organic and
ongoing, and if you try and capture that,
you make a great mistake. It's the same
as all kinds of artists, including Turner:
putting things in a sketchbook. Later, it's
the finished work that is important, not
the sketches. And I prefer to have them
in my head or in our experience.
How do you start production?
Leigh: Our process of making the
film is going out on location and, as it
were, making the film up as we go along
- albeit very much informed by having
planned it in parts. That's the creative

70

January 2015

American Cinematographer



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - January 2015

Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Intro
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Contents
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 4
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 5
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 6
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 7
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 8
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 9
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 10
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 11
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 12
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 13
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 14
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 15
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 16
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 17
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 18
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 19
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 20
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 21
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 22
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 23
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 24
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 25
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 26
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 27
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 28
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 29
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 30
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 31
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 32
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 33
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 34
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 35
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 36
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 37
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 38
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 39
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 40
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 41
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 42
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 43
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 44
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 45
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 46
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 47
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 48
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K1
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K2
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K3
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K4
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K5
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K6
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K7
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K8
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K9
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K10
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K11
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - K12
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 49
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 50
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 51
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 52
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 53
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 54
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 55
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 56
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 57
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 58
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 59
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 60
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 61
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 62
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 63
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 64
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 65
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 69
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 70
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 71
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 72
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 73
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 74
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 75
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 76
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 77
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 78
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 79
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 80
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 81
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 82
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 83
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 84
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 86
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American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 88
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 89
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 90
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 91
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 92
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 93
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 94
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 95
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - 96
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - January 2015 - Cover4
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