RESFEST '99: The Future of Filmmaking, Part 1: Figgis Discusses New Digital Feature
by Eugene Hernandez
Poster children for the digital filmmaking movement have emerged steadily over the last eighteen months as filmmakers and audiences have discovered the possibilities afforded by moviemaking without film. Along the way, RESFEST — the multi-city digital film festival — has showcased their work and trumpeted their techniques as “The Future of Filmmaking.” The tour’s signature seminar of the same name annually welcomes these makers as advocates for new digital technologies. Last year on the tour it was Bennett Miller (“The Cruise“), Iara Lee (“Modulations“) and Stefan Avalos & Lance Weiler (“The Last Broadcast“), while this year, at the Los Angeles stop, the tour has introduced a new booster, filmmaker Mike Figgis.
Figgis participated in Sunday’s “Future of Filmmaking” panel at the Directors Guild of America to discuss what is undoubtedly the highest profile digital project to come from Hollywood — “Time Code 2000.” Currently being shot here in Los Angeles, the movie is a pet project of Sony executive John Calley who greenlit the movie and reported $2 million budget. “Timecode 2000” is being shot entirely in real time, on 93-minute tapes with four cameras, without a script or rehearsals. The actors — Salma Hayek, Holly Hunter, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeanne Trippelhorn, Steven Weber, Saffron Burrows and Laurie Metcalf among them — are responsible for their own hair & make-up and they wear their own clothes. Figgis added, “There are no trucks and no director’s chairs.”
Each of the four DV CAM format cameras starts in a different location and follows one story with one group of actors — monitoring their synchronized watches so that they can achieve certain story points at the precise moments, the actors end up in the same place by the end of the movie. After shooting the four strands they are synchronized for presentation on a square format screen with all four storylines on screen at the same time. While the movie is still in production nightly, eight full-length feature versions have been shot so far. “We’ll keep shooting until they basically pull the plug on us,” explained Figgis. The studio will select one “take” of the movie and release it theatrically — it may hit theaters before the end of the year.
Explaining the origin of the project, Figgis explained, “I have always been interested in the crossover between live performance and film.” Unhappy with his experience making the 1993 film, “Mr. Jones,” Figgis explained that it was his “urge is to go back to small unit creativity,” yielding the 16-day, 16mm shoot for “Leaving Las Vegas,” a three-week shoot on the experimental “Loss of Sexual Innocence” and another 16-day shoot on the upcoming “Miss Julie.”
Figgis call the current project, “The happiest film experience I’ve ever had in my life.”
“Time Code 2000” is being shot on DV CAM, to accommodate the 93-minute tape length. The union shoot is taking place on Sunset Blvd. nightly. While Figgis had initially intended to shoot in London, Sony’s Calley convinced the filmmaker to make it in LA.
The website for the film http://www.timecode2000.com describes the movie as “a black comedy thriller set against Los Angeles lifestyles.” As part of the online push for this unique project, daily live America Online chat’s from the set are being conducted, and tomorrow, Figgis and cast will participate in an AOL chat.
“Clearly its here,” Figgis told the large crowd of RESFEST attendees on Sunday, commenting on the digital revolution, “You can either get out of the way, or buy a surfboard.”
“All that (filmmaking) equipment that seemed so valuable ten years ago,” he added, “Is totally redundant.”