Timecode : Time Code Interview

O.K, can we move on to Timecode (2000)? I read that you got the idea for Timecode whilst you were doing Miss Julie (2000).

"Yeah, in Miss Julie there's some split screen which came about from the fact that I shot the entire film on two cameras simultaneously, and that in turn lead to me thinking if one could shoot an entire film using split screen techniques and about using video cameras, which means you would never have to cut and that would be a different kind of drama. That was the initial thought - one of pure experimentation. I'd be intrigued to see how that looked, and that directly lead, quite a short time later, to actually shooting Timecode."

By using this additional technology did it make it a cheaper film to do?

"Without a doubt. Even to film the 16 mm, the cost of film processing and the cost of all the film stock is still a fairly prohibitive amount of money, whereas with digital technology it's not inconceivable that you could actually just own that equipment, and to buy a tape to record a two hour film is only going to cost you 15 or something. So suddenly you're talking about that much film, including the processing and everything before you even transfer it - costing thousands of pounds for exactly the same amount of recording time, so it's a phenomenal difference. "

What sort of technical problems did you encounter, because you are pushing the boundaries a bit there?

"One of the problems was that it's hard to convince people sometimes that you are making a film, because they just see a video camera and they don't take it seriously, but that's also the good news. It means that you can shoot on the street without really advertising the fact that you are shooting a feature film. People are just walking along and don't even bother looking at the camera because it's not significant, so it allows you into areas of filming of naturalism that you would never get with a regular film. Problems? Occasionally. I suppose if you're doing a 93 minute tape on four cameras there is the possibility that something may go wrong with the camera during the take, I only had that happen twice. That was about it really, I have nothing but really positive things to say about the process. "

But you didn't use a script.

"I didn't use a script, as such. I didn't use a document which contained literal text for the actors to learn, but I used actors that I knew could improvise dialogue, and I told them exactly what their characters and what the story was. When certain things should take place, I gave them a sort of script, i.e almost like a word map, and said at these points this is the information I need to get on camera, and then let them get on with it. Most actors are pretty good at improvising if you choose well. "

You shot the film about 60 times?

"That's a P.R exaggeration, I shot the entire film 15 times but each time I shot the film there are in fact four films, so that becomes a very impressive statistic, which of course is bullshit. "

That's a P.R exaggeration, I shot the entire film 15 times but each time I shot the film there are in fact four films, so that becomes a very impressive statistic, which of course is bullshit.

"I think it was pretty clear, there were certain rules where I told the actors to wear different clothes every day, so that there was no temptation to take something from Tuesday and cut it with something from Wednesday and so on. I knew that it was a choice of choosing one day's performance on four cameras and you couldn't swap any tape with any other tape, so it had to be genuinely the real thing. I think it was pretty evident to the ensemble when a take was really working well, when it was just okay or when it was actually down right bad, you know. Actually, the last take we did we released as the film."

I think it's more of choosing the viewing angle.

"No the viewing angle stays the same, because you've got four cameras going all the time, but it's the sound mix that becomes crucial in terms of information. "

With the angle it's choosing a different sort of film track, again with the sound you've got the multi-channeler so you can change, that's good. With these sorts of advances in digital technology you've said that you see a new era of Cinema.

"Without a doubt. "

Do you see yourself as being the Malcolm McClaren of this, or is that just a stupid question?

"No it's not a stupid question, because I think in order to encourage up and coming filmmakers, sometimes it's not that you choose to put yourself in that sort of Vanguard of something, you don't pick up the flag, you suddenly find yourself holding the flag, and I've no problem with that, and no problem with being a kind of spokesperson who would go round and encourage at Film Schools. I've been doing that for some time, just to go round and say "here's a way of doing it. It's not the only way of doing it", shooting on film. It adds another choice to the menu and it makes filmmaking an even richer experience, that's all."

How do you think Timecode has been received?

"It's been received fantastically and with great enthusiasm. I find it quite reassuring that, although I often slag off critics and things, there does seem to be a genuine enthusiasm for a new kind of filmmaking in the air, which is very encouraging. "

What's next?

"I'll carry on for a while with these ideas and I'm going to do another film in that style and see where it goes really. Just push the boundaries a bit more. "

Author : Steve Hill of Cinema.com