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netribution > features > interview with mike figgis > page one
In case you didn't know, Mike Figgis', Timecode is perhaps the most daring project attempted by a filmmaker in many, many years. With the screen split into four narratives that run independently of one another and yet concurrently to make up the whole story, he shot the entire 90 odd minutes in one take. As if that wasn't henough, he decided to do it four times. At once. Orchestral paper served as the script as well as the score, with four digital cameras running on every scene - using natural light - following different actors at the same time. Sheer lunacy and foolhardiness that somehow managed to work! I spoke to him over coffee on a busy street in Edinburgh and he even helped me get the most out of my digital camera


| by nic wistreich |
| photos by nic wistreich|
| in edinburgh |

This seems a particularly apt film to kick off the Millennium.
I had the idea last year, I shot the film in November and I wanted to have it playing as we went into the next century. Perhaps that was a bit pompous of me! In a communicative kind of way a lot of those issues were being discussed in the film as well, I thought that would be a fun thing to do. Whether anyone could be persuaded to go to the cinema or not, I'm unsure. It didn't happen. Sony decided, from a marketing point of view, that they liked the movie for advertising purposes and it ended up coming out later on.

Did they end up financing it?
They did and it was a bit of a joke. I wasn't asking them for the money, I'd already decided to do it in London as a very, very low budget one off and I was going to get my mates to do it with me. I told the head of Sony what I was doing, almost as an anecdote and he asked me whether I'd be interested in doing it in LA as a studio film, I was very taken aback. They were interested in the digital aspect and then he asked me how much it would cost, I told him about £3m or something like that. I was suddenly struck with the possibility of having a great deal more to make the film, after £3m is a very small amount to Sony.

I understand you used music sheet to write the script.
It was used to deal with the rhythmic problems that come with using four cameras and four stories. I wanted to come up with a system of tabulation that could tell be, like a road map, what was happening at any point in the story. I struggled with conventional script writing techniques, parallel paragraphs and things like that but it was a mess. Then I thought, 'a system already exists, its called music.' I used orchestral paper and mapped it out in the way one would write out a string quartet, each bar represented exactly one minute of screen time, I could then think of it as a 95 bar film. I could then duplicate that and give it to the actors. When rehearsing, I could say, "let's go to bar 32. We've had an earthquake, Salma Hayek's doing this, Stellan Skarsgard's in the office. That's not quite working so we need to move the earthquake back 2 minutes." They would change that on their own sheet, it's just like doing music changes.

Have you used that system before?
Yeah, I've done it before on theatre pieces, not with music paper but I've used parallel systems of writing like that. It's very important for me to be able to visualise and do a sort of paper edit if what's going to happen in the film. I can't hold that much information in my head and be able to visualise things. I also find it very stimulating. Like music, once you have the melody, you start seeing the harmony, ideas lead to other ideas so I like the system.

Do you find that by directing and filming yourself and composing the music as well, you had a lot more control over the rhythm of the piece?
That's the only reason I did it. I don't think I have huge ego problems in terms of control, I want to control everything because I have an overview of how it should be. Sometimes you find a great collaborator but often you spend most of your time explaining something and being diplomatic, whereas if you've done it on your own you can be really vicious with yourself. I've no problem trying an idea then ditching it because it's stupid. If someone else has written it I find myself saying, "That's a very interesting idea, I love it, I'd like to see if we can do it a different way." It's all bullshit. What I'm really saying is that it's a crap idea. You can't be that brutal with people but you can be to yourself.

You once said of that anarchy begets art, do you still feel that?
Yeah, without a doubt. In situations of extreme emotion or when things break down, it initiates a response in all of us and we are all driven by order. Whenever we are faced with anarchy we try to create something beautiful and harmonious from it. Anarchy brings out a pure desire in people for peace and harmony. That's something art has a very strong relationship with, peace and harmony.


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