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Mike Figgis - Biography

Mike Figgis, is an academy award nominated film director, writer, and composer. Mike Figgis was born in Carlisle, England, 1948. Mike Figgis is a director who crosses boundaries, refusing to restrict his work to a singular space. He does not fit into Hollywood and rather is continually playing with film, extending and reconfiguring the linguistic structure of film. His films include, Love Live Long (2008), The 4 Dreams of Miss X (2007), Co/Ma (2004), Cold Creek Manor (2003), Ten Minutes Older: The Cello (2002) (segment "About Time 2"), The Battle of Orgreave (2001), Hotel (2001), Timecode (2000), Miss Julie (1999), The Loss of Sexual Innocence (1999), One Night Stand (1997), Flamenco Women (1997), Leaving Las Vegas (1995), The Browning Version (1994), Mr. Jones (1993), Liebestraum (1991), Internal Affairs (1990) and Stormy Monday (1988).

Although English born, Mike Figgis grew up in Nairobi, Kenya until he was eight. He then spent the rest of his childhood in Newcastle, England. Figgis studied music in London where he played keyboard in the Gas Board, which also included a young Brian Ferry, lead singer of the critically acclaimed pop group Roxy Music. He also was a member, as a musician, of The People Show, an experimental theater company. This early experimentation in music guided his later scoring of his own films. Film making runs in Mike's family his Irish cousins are the filmmakers Jonathan Figgis and Jason Figgis who run the film production company October Eleven Pictures in Ireland. The company has won numerous awards in the industry. Also his son Arlen Figgis is a film editor and his other son Louis Figgis is a producer.

In 1980 Mike Figgis formed his own theater company, The Mike Figgis Group. This was the beginning of his shift from music to writing and directing. In 1983 Mike Figgis directed a theater play, produced in Theatre Gerard-Philipe (Saint-Denis, Paris, France). This play was critically acclaimed at Festival de Grenada and in the Theater der Welt (Munich, Germany).

In 1988 Figgis made his first feature-length film, Stormy Monday starring Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffith. He then went on to direct the thriller, Internal Affairs (1990) staring Richard Gere. Five years and one film later, Figgis vented his frustration with Hollywood in the critically acclaimed, Leaving Las Vegas, telling the story of an alcoholic screenwriter (Nicholas Cage) and a Las Vegas prostitute (Elizabeth Shue). Earning four Academy Award nominations, this film affirmed Figgis’ artistic genius in both the box office and the critics corner.

Although Leaving Las Vegas was shot in 16 mm, leaving a nostalgic imprint on the film’s projection, since shooting the more recent: Timecode (2000), Figgis transitioned into digital film, in order to explore new regions of filmic time and language. Timecode takes advantage of all the opportunities technologies offers filmmakers. Using cutting edge technology Mike Figgis creates his film shots through using four cameras simultaneously within one take. This allows the presentation of simultaneous perspectives taking away the role of a singular view through dividing the screen in to four sections. Mike Figgis's interest in digital film is complimented by a disdain for the machinations of traditional film equipment. Although outdated, Figgis nevertheless finds the iron-fisted influence of a filmic era with moving cameras and pistons, as an impetus for his transition into the seamless flux of digital film-making. In 2008 Mike directed Love Live Long an experimental film focused around the Gumball 3000 rally. The film starred Daniel Lapaine and Sophie Winkleman.

And, while the equipment Figgis uses has evolved with the times, his most recent projects harp back to his experience in theatre. Staging elements of improvisation, dance and performance, as content for the production of an instantaneous feature length film, Figgis’ evolution is more sophisticated than a simple reconsideration of the apparatus used for capturing a dynamic world. His evolution further corresponds to film-making itself, and developing production value as part of a meta-process, that intertwines formal composition, before and behind the lens.

Cold Creek Manor (2003) is an American psychological thriller film. The screenplay was written by Richard Jefferies and is about a family who is terrorized by the former owner of their recently purchased rural estate. The film features Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid. The film won mainstream critical acclaim while at the same time receiving criticism for seeming too main stream for a Mike Figgis film. Mike Figgis is a key film maker amongst his peers and his work stands out amongst a sea of contemporary filmmakers.

That’s why Hollywood is in decline. The problem in America is that young independent film-makers who win the audience award at Sundance have already got their eye on the big bucks. We also have to ask ourselves: are we any longer that interested in the American story? Whether it’s “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”, or a couple of dissatisfied college kids who maybe want to kill everybody else, or some yuppies living in New York, we’ve been overexposed to American ideas.

Figgis, Mike and Daniel Trilling (Interviewer). "Perspectives Mike Figgis: searches for cinematic zest outside the Hollywood and art-house circuits." in: New Statesman. July 16, 2009. (English).

Mike Figgis is a professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducts an Intensive Summer Seminar.