Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red
100 years since WWI. 888,246 ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London
The poppy installation at the Tower of London may be over, but its memory, along with the memory of the 888,246 British military fatalities during the war, live on with the beautiful, moving short films created by Blind Crow Pictures. We chatted to co-founder Peter Wilkinson from Hexham about capturing the project from start to finish.
We pitched to become involved in the project. It was quite exciting, to be honest. From the word go, we knew we’d be following a process over a long period of time and it’s quite rare when making promotional films or films for the internet that you really get to take your time and tell a story, and that was exactly what we were brought in to do.
Our first day of shooting was down in the workshops of ceramic artist Paul Cummins in Derby. We saw the poppies being made and had interviews with Paul and some of the artists he was working with.
I remember the very first time I went to shoot at the Tower of London and there was just a little strip of poppies going along the immediate outside of the tower and the moat. Tt was only about a foot wide, and you try to imagine how that’s going to spread, but you can’t.
We had hundreds of hours of footage. There were two cameramen, a time-lapse artist, a drone footage company to capture aerial shots of the towers, and freelancers to come in and shoot some of the royal visits.
You have these wonderful, poignant moments. On our last day of shooting, when the last poppy was planted, the guns were fired across the Thames, and there was the silence and role call – it’s hard not to get caught up in that. It was very moving. You’ve got one eye on that and know that it’s a once in a lifetime experience, but at the same time you’ve got a technical job to do with camera operations and making sure the sound levels are correct!
We captured moments rather than choreographing them. We went with the flow and captured the true feelings and atmosphere of the day. The film of the story was dictated by the people and their reactions opposed to any structure we set out. It was definitely the way to go. We hope that’s evident in the final product.
A lady we interviewed said, ‘Each poppy represents a fallen soldier who didn’t get to go home.’ Now, as members of the public have bought one of the poppies to have in their home, in some ways it could be seen as the soldiers going back to their homes.