(20/06/07) – Since releasing his split-screen film Timecode (2000), British film director Mike Figgis (also the director of Leaving Las Vegas,1995) has been has been one of the most eloquent supporters and theoreticians of cinema shot on digital cameras. His thinking can roughly be summed up like this: as cameras have become cheaper and more recently, semi-domestic devices have reached broadcast quality, cinema production no longer has to be thought of as a military operation with a director cracking a whip a la Joseph Von Sternberg and the number of staff that matches a factory. Digital filmmaking is more minimalist in terms of logistics and therefore, potentially more inclusive of women film directors and everyone else historically excluded from the filmmaking process, including you and me, probably.
But Figgis also believes in discipline and a close relationship with equipment, two of the main tenets he preaches in this small, but very useful book called simply Digital Film-Making, which came out on Faber & Faber a couple of months ago. Figgis comes across as a very generous player, willing to share his gained experience and to give father-to-son/daughter advice to novices. He also writes in a very intimate, casual way that makes the reading of his book a pleasant, smooth ride.
Figgis describes his artistic trajectory, his familiarisation with video cameras, dispenses advice on the procedures of pre- and post-production, location, lighting (in fact, he devotes quite a few pages to this particular topic), camera movement, working with actors, music and distribution. You find out that he loves Godard, and that like a lot of directors who look up to the Novelle Vague god, his feelings for him are a mixture of awe and irritation. You also find out that he dislikes Dogme 95’s penchant for shaky camera work as it can make the viewer sick.
If I had to carve out what is at the core of Figgis’ guide to filmmaking, it is the relationship a digital filmmaker has to develop with his equipment. Figgis tirelessly stresses this aspect of the office and with a good reason too: the blurring of the lines between professional and domestic equipment can make us a wee too casual about it and it’s important to avoid that. It is, after all, the director’s electronic eye and it should be treated with love and respect.
Digital Film-Making by Mike Figgis is out now on Faber & Faber. Please follow the links provided to buy a copy and support Kamera by doing so.