Did you read the script or the novels first - and what was it that made you want to direct this?
I read the script and completely fell in love with the writing. It was a combination of the epic scale, the emotional sweep, and the humor - which is particular to Tom. Within ten pages I was completely gripped.
Did you then read the novels?
I did. I used them as a resource for character backstory and for visual inspiration. Ford Madox Ford is such a visual writer. He came from a family of painters - his grandfather was painter Ford Madox Brown and his uncle was Rossetti. The books are tremendously visual and that was a big inspiration in my approach to shooting.
When you read a screenplay, do you see the movie in your mind? What is your process for taking it from script to page?
I'm always thinking visually when I read. Tom's writing is very particular in that he self-avowedly writes "talkies." There's a lot of dialogue in "Parade's End" and because it's very complex, part of my job was to make the meaning shine through. I was trying to both be truthful to Ford's material and honor Tom's script.
Is there a specific example of how Ford's writing influenced your visual approach?
Ford was very friendly with Cubist painters like Juan Gris and Picasso. He was also involved in the Vorticism movement which is like a British version of Cubism. Coincidentally, when I was prepping, there was a big Vorticism exhibition in London and I discovered photographer Albert Langdon Coburn who put three mirrors in front of the lens and fractured it. I thought it would be extraordinary if I could handle things like time shifts and memory by fracturing the image - like Cubist television.
You're referring to the scenes of Christopher's flashback memories?
And the opening sequence. Also, if you think of Picasso's portrait of Dora Maar, where her nose is in a place where her ear might be, I thought it would be interesting for the flashback sequence when Christopher is looking at Sylvia on the train and he's disturbed by what's happened in their relationship - it seemed very appropriate to reflect the emotional complexity. As for other visual inspiration, Ford also had references to specific paintings, like the war paintings of Paul Nash. We were shooting at the same time Steven Spielberg was making "War Horse" and I felt like we had to make our World War I look distinctive and original. For episode five, I did two things: I went back to a combination of documentary footage of the trenches, and also the Nash paintings.