Mike began making films on Super 8 during his early 20’s. After a volatile rejection by the National Film School Mike made his first 16mm film REDHEUGH, which was incorporated into a performance piece at the ICA in London. After two further installations using film he made his first film for television. THE HOUSE featured Stephen Rea and Nigel Hawthorne and was the breakthrough into feature filmmaking that led to STORMY MONDAY. The UK’s lukewarm critical response was thankfully not matched in the US where rave reviews opened studio doors and INTERNAL AFFAIRS (Richard Gere) was both a box office and critical success. Progress proved to be tricky and the next films, LIEBESTRAUM, MR JONES and THE BROWNING VERSION all failed miserably at the box office and left Figgis in bad relations with the studios.
LEAVING LAS VEGAS turned his fortunes around and this low budget (16mm) tragi-romance was a huge hit. Numerous awards were bestowed, the film had 4 Oscar nominations (Nicolas Cage won best actor) and the film had world wide financial success. During the next period Figgis began exploring more marginal subjects in Europe (LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE, MISS JULIE) whilst attempting to play the studio game (ONE NIGHT STAND, COLD CREEK MANOR). There were also forays into TV with the SOPRANOS and CANTERBURY’S LAW as well as documentaries – RED WHITE AND BLUES was part of the Scorcese produced history of the blues, and both JUST DANCING AROUND and FLAMENCO WOMEN explored the world of dance. HOLLWOOD CONVERSATIONS was a 20 part series of interviews with the movers and shakers of Hollywood, which also came out in book form.
Figgis now turned his attention to the new innovations in the camera technology, particularly video and TIMECODE 2000 was a totally groundbreaking concept. For the first time in the history of cinema it was possible to make a ‘real-time’ film, meaning a film with no edits. To further compound the challenge Figgis decided to shoot the film on four separate cameras and to project the film as a quadrant. Originally intended to be a ‘performance’ piece in London, Figgis was persuaded by Studio maverick, John Calley to do the film through the auspices of SONY pictures, tying in the technological with the studio itself. This proved to be a wise move and the film became a news item. It can be argued that TIMECODE changed many perceptions in the film world, it inspired the hit tv series ‘24’ and made the idea of a split screen entirely acceptable.
Taking the experiment further Figgis took a large group of actors and camera persons to the island of LIDO in VENICE to make HOTEL, an experimental film which offered many more visual ideas. The film however, was not a commercial success but Figgis, inspired by the various possibilities of the new digital technology carried on making films with smaller and smaller crews and utilizing improvisation techniques. COMA was a feature film made in 6 days as part of a MASTER CLASS commissioned by the EUROPEAN FILM ACADAMY. LOVE LIVE LONG was also a feature shot in 8 days improvised love story with two actors, shot in Istanbul and Bratislava. These changes in technology led Figgis towards a new belief in the possibility of a filmmaker as an artist in control of his work. He writes, shoots, directs, edits and composes for his films and is described variously as a ‘Control Freak’ and or ‘a Renaissance Man’
He also designed a groundbreaking piece of equipment to facilitate the new ideas…THE FIG-RIG is a support system for smaller cameras, designed to facilitate stability it is sold in every camera store in the world.