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Interview with Mike Figgis on Sony Ericsson and ‘Life Captured?

To celebrate his involvement with Sony Ericsson’s Life Captured, a pioneering film made entirely out of still images, film director and photographer Mike Figgis talks about his reasons for getting involved, his ideas for the project and discusses his work – past, present and future.

Why did you decide to get involved with Sony Ericsson and ‘Life Captured?’

A: When Sony Ericsson first asked me to get involved with Life Captured I was reluctant. I’ve seen a lot of competitions come and go and have doubts about the merits of many of the ideas. But when I researched this project a bit more I thought it could be interesting. Also Sony Ericsson seemed interested in the idea of me giving a lot of input about the aesthetic ideas.

Can you tell us a little about what you have in mind for ‘Life Captured’ – can you give us a sneak preview of the brief?
A: The idea is to bring out originality and talent, often in areas of the world where there is little possibility of individuals being discovered as artists. So the brief is broad in one in a sense, it invited original thinking and a fresh way of looking at the world whilst at the same time giving a portrait of the individual’s life.

Will there be a soundtrack for ‘Life Captured’?
A: There will be a soundtrack – and it clearly needs to be influenced by the intake that we will be looking at in the coming period. Right now that is an open book.

What are you looking for when judging the story boards?
A: I’m looking for individuals who have that special quality that enables them to convert the ‘ordinary’ into the iconic. The quality that all good artists, and in particular photographers, have in common.

Any tips to give the budding film makers out there an edge in the competition?
A: I can only suggest doing what I try to do – which is to always look at an image with fresh eyes, so that the ordinary becomes unique.

Where are you based currently?
A: London and Europe.

What do you think it was about Leaving Las Vegas that made it so successful?
A: It was a story about two people that we cared about, despite their problems and circumstances they remained very human throughout. And as far as the Nicolas Cage character was concerned, it seemed to touch many people who had experience of substance abuse within their families.

Which of your previous films is your personal favourite and why?
A: I have no favourites in terms of the films themselves, they are like children, you love them all equally despite the problems. As far as having a good time during the making of, well probably TIMECODE because it was so exciting to be challenged on a daily basis.

We understand two of your recent films, LOVE LIVE LONG, was shot in just one week and TIMECODE was shot using four separate cameras. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
A: TIMECODE was shot on four cameras in 2 weeks. LOVE LIVE LONG was shot on one camera over one week – in Istanbul, Bratislava and London. There were two actors and three crew.

You directed a music video for David Gray in 2000. Do you see yourself doing more of this kind of thing in the future or was that a one-off?
A: I remain open to any kind of film-making experience – it is always the material that interests me first, the genre is less important. In the last years I’ve done short films, documentaries, video installations and features. Right now still photography has taken my interest.

Your film-making techniques are described by many as highly experimental – what’s your take on that?
A: Well… probably compared to the mainstream ideas on film-making I may seem to be experimental. I am excited by new ideas and always looking for different ways to make things more interesting and fresh. That’s one of the reasons I agreed to do the Sony Ericsson Life Captured project.

Who would you really like to work with in the future?
A: Anyone bright and innovative – I have no interest in working with people set in their ways of doing things. There is always interesting new talent emerging and they seem interested in working with me, I guess because of my experience and acquired knowledge, and I am interested in them because of their enthusiasm and energy.

Who has inspired you in your work – do have any mentors or people whose work you’ve been influenced by?
A: Inevitably one is influenced by a wide range of artists. In cinema I love the ideas of Godard, his unique blend of politics and philosophy and also his genuine love of film. Then there is Cassavetes and Huston and Coppola and Bunuel and Bergman. But just as strong an influence has been certain writers and artists. You really cannot separate the elements.

What other projects are you working on currently? Can you tell us about your Soho Composites photographic exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery?
A: The exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery was the first phase of hopefully three exhibitions – Soho-London Soho-New York and Soho-Hong Kong. They are all designed to raise awareness and funding for a new space for the gallery in London. I’m also teaching quite a bit and preparing for another exhibition in Basel.

You recently held your own photography exhibition at the Proud Gallery in London – what kind of photography do you enjoy the most? Are there any up and coming international photographers you rate?
A: I’m hoping to really rate the winners of the Sony Ericsson competition. I am not entirely happy with the way photography is going right now – there is too much emphasis on the financial side of the art market and not enough on the humanity of the art of photography. As usual the galleries and dealers are spoiling things. Personally I enjoy photographing people but if I see something interesting on the street I will photograph it as well. Really it’s an extension of the eye.

And finally, I believe you have been testing out the new Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot™ C902 – what do you think of the phone as a photographic tool?
A: It’s funny – I recently upgraded one of my ‘professional’ cameras and discovered that the previous model was technically inferior to the new Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot™ C902. It’s extremely impressive, technology has moved on so quickly in the last years, it is science fiction in fact.

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