How Nacho Vigalondo Made 'Open Windows' On A Single Computer Screen

Sasha Grey in Open Windows

The director of Timecrimes had a big idea for his next film. What if the entire movie unfolds on a single computer screen? Open Windows stars Sasha Grey and Elijah Wood as an actress and her fan respectively, who are held hostage online by a hacker. With video feeds on both their ends, the hacker manipulates them by forcing him to watch what’s happening to her, while webcam shows us both characters in their own windows.

“The producers came to me and asked me about making a movie in which social media and the internet was really important to the process,” Vigalondo told the audience at the film’s premiere at SXSW. “They came to me to make a movie in which social media and the internet has a big presence. What I sold them was about making a movie in which the whole thing we were in front of a computer desktop. I started writing the script in 2008 and since technology is faster than moviemaking, I knew that anything we made would be dated by the time of the premiere. So I decided to forget about Facebook or Twitter and things that are changing all the time. So I created this sort of internet device that’s from an alternate universe in which anything’s possible. I tried to include a story as a kind of homage to things I really like, like Brian De Palma movies like Blow Out.”

To pull off this technique, the actors had to be extremely precise to make their actions coordinate with the webcam. “It’s a bit like voiceover actually in a weird way because in voiceover you don’t actually act with the other actors,” Wood said. “So it was funny, a great deal of this film was conceived prior to actually shooting it. Nacho had effectively made the movie in animatic form before we went to shoot it. So by the time we started shooting it, it was all just each individual actor looking at the webcam. It was a very isolating experience.”

While pulling off the film’s webcam footage was difficult, the film really got complicated in post-production. While there are several videos of Wood and Grey’s characters, along with other users who jump into the story, the “camera,” as it were, flows freely between open windows of video.

“The post production process was really complicated,” Vigalondo said. “In this case it’s not the same thing as a regular movie because we don’t have an actual cut through the whole movie. We are moving the virtual camera from one window to the other. You could say that is not cutting, that is moving camera, that is directing, that is my stuff. At the same time, everything is related to the effects and the graphic design and everything so instead of having the departments separated, everything was a big mess. All the people involved in post production had to find a way to work together and we became really good friends because it was really complicated.”

Since viewers are now used to multitasking on their computers with several open windows at a time, the movie Open Windows isn’t unusual at all. However, to assemble the film required shooting each window’s video individually. “The movie is only 100 minutes but the amount of video in front of the screen is kind of seven hours or so,” Vigalondo said.

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