Mike Figgis' experimental Time Code, the first digital video production to be fully financed and released by a Hollywood studio, will have its world premiere at the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Film Festival on March 22 in Los Angeles.

A dark comedy thriller about Hollywood filmmaking, Time Code was backed by Sony Pictures Entertainment through its Screen Gems label and features improvised performances from Holly Hunter, Salma Hayek, Kyle MacLachlan, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Stellan Skarsgard and Saffron Burrows. Its final budget weighed in at less than one twentieth of the typical studio budget.

Figgis shot his film using hand-held digital video cameras in sequence and real time over the course of nine days. In fact, he shot the whole Los Angeles story as many as 18 separate times.

The plot, which revolves around an affair, a murder and an ensuing Hollywood mystery, is said to have literally unfolded before the cameras as each actor created their own character trajectory on the fly. Four cameras ran simultaneously during production, each of them following different characters.

"Time Code began on a train from the North of England to London" recalled Figgis. "One of those moments where your mind goes on a wild journey of its own. A 'What if'.'' Moment. What if you made a film using two cameras, a long, continuous take, make that four cameras and a 93 minute take, I remember feverishly writing in my notebook."

After the film is shown on March 22 as part of the Yahoo festival at the Director's Guild of America Theatre in Los Angeles, it will be released through Screen Gems on April 28. Audiences will be able to watch all four story threads at once, on a screen that will be divided into quadrants.

"I'm utterly and truly convinced," continues Figgis, "that I could not have written Time Code on a computer -- it would never have been flexible enough to deal with the speed of the ideas. It had to be a notebook and a fountain pen. There's Digital and then there's Digital."

Figgis, who used handheld Super 16mm cameras on Leaving Las Vegas, is among a new vanguard of filmmakers turning to super-cheap digital video technologies to regain complete creative control. The recent Sundance Film Festival featured two digital video films in competition, Marc Forster's Everything Put Together and also Miguel Arteta's Chuck & Buck, which was jointly acquired at the festival by Artisan Entertainment and Summit Entertainment at a cost of more than $1m.

Actor Ethan Hawke took just 16 days to shoot his full-length directorial debut, The Last Word On Paradise, using digital video cameras in and around New York's Chelsea Hotel. Hawke's film is one of ten digital video films, each costing around $100,00, being financed through a venture called InDigEnt that involves the Independent Film Channel.

The fledgling Online Film Festival is designed to showcase the most innovative ways that filmmakers, online film sites, major and independent studios, and digital technology companies are using the Web to present the moving image. Participants will include: Amazon.com, AtomFilms, AXE Digital Television, BeachBlanket.com, BigStar, CinemaNow, Creative Planet, eveo, iFilm, IMDb.com, Mandalay, New Line Cinema, Reel.com, ReelShort and SightSound.

Yahoo! Internet Life Magazine is a monthly online publication published by Ziff-Davis Inc that has a current subscription of 900,000 readers. The magazine was granted rights to the Yahoo! trademark four years ago.