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FIGGIS, MIKE: TIME CODE

OPENING HUGE DOORS
Sony wanted to show itself as a hip studio in touch with new technology, just when Mike Figgisí brave new whirl of a feature film, Time Code, shot digitally in real time, came along. And opened huge doors for Figgis. In keeping with the digital nature of the project, he conducted this Q&A with Urban Cinefile via email.

What is the origin of the title - Time Code ?
Itís a reference to the time-code system on the digital equipment that allowed me to stay in syncí over the long 93 minute period of the film.

How did the idea begin, and how did it develop?
It came out of my fascination with the new digital equipment. I was impressed with the picture quality and the portability etc and that lead me to speculate on a "what if?í basis. What if I could shoot an entire film in this way with one take. I planned to shoot it in London just using friends and borrowing the cameras. To cut a long story short this then was picked up by Sony Studios, mainly because they wished to show a small interest in the new technology and show that they were hip to the Blair Witch thing. I grabbed the opportunity and rewrote the story as a Hollywood film comedy. A story about the film we were making in fact. Opportunities like that do not come by every day.

What was/were the major challenge/s?
A huge mountain of logic and timings and co-ordination. It was daunting at first and then once we were up and running it became easier and then deeply enjoyable to be on top of all of this timetable stuff.

What are some of the key reference points that ignited the outline given to the actors?
Much of it developed during the filming. The original outline was free of deep significance and Art. It began to creep in later. For example Ė Saffronís reference to blood in the opening scene is then echoed by Holly in her pitch for a script called Botswana wanna Be. She refers to "lotta blood, whole lotta blood". Then at the end Danny Huston (security guard) also says the same line when he sees Stellan on the floor. This gave it some kind of traditional structural shape with premonition and co-incidence and then closure. Itís a nice way to work, quite close to the way I used to work in experimental theatre.

How does Time Code open the filmmaking process and what implications does it have for cinema?
I can only speak for myself. Itís like a huge door opening for me. A completely different way of dealing with imagery and plot and the dream state and the audience and so on. The implications for me are therefore immense. Itís like arriving at a fork in the road and deciding to take the unfamiliar road which arrives at an unexplored country.

How does this idea develop further - what are you thinking about that uses this experience?
Iím working on a new film, full length, which goes further with the real time stuff and split screen and improvisation. My head is spinning in fact, itís very exciting. Itís hard to focus sometimes and Iím also having to spend a lot of time promoting the films.

What were some of the more memorable responses to your idea before you made the film?
There was a day when I had to go into the studio at Sony and try to explain the whole concept and everything to the top executives there. Iíd already been assured of the finance so I wasnít thinking that it was important in a financial sense, but at the same time one wants to be understood and endorsed. About ten minutes into the pitch I became aware that my words were baffling the audience. I also understand why. I was talking about string quartets and real time film making and four cameras and no rehearsal and 27 actors improvising and the fact that there would never be a script to look at. One guy was shaking head looking pissed off. Another guy was quietly chuckling to himself. Elements of the scenario ended up in TimeCode.

(September 14, 2000)

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