Our verdict is in concerning Buried director Rodrigo Cortes’ new flick Red Lights (review here) which made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and we have a transcript of the question and answer session which followed the screening ready and waiting for you right here.
Cortes: I am going to respond to all of your complaints so…..shoot!
Q: How did you start with this?
A: I studied these paranormal and hoaxes because they both described these kinds of things that collided in a way. Paranormal is the supernatural that can’t all be explained like magic. Hoaxes are human beings in action. So I had to explore the side of the scientist, and I did research for more than a year and a half, including the scientists and the rational skeptics who try to use scientific knowledge to prove certain things. The funny thing is that I found is that both sides behave in a very similar way. No matter what they claim to do, they only accept what they previous believed no matter what. In other words they believe what is more convenient for them.
Q: So with that you started creating characters around that?
A: Yeah you start with that; you try to create something physical and tangible because they are going to be inside a different world, a world they don’t know about and they have to believe they are witnessing something believable. So with the research of course you start to think about characters, so think about the investigators and you think they need a nemesis. I wanted to work to completely different films, cut in half. So there is this debunking, seeing how this sort of paranormal phenomenon cannot exist as a result of misperception or is it simply fake? But then something happens at the end and you have to start to doubt. As an audience member you have to become self aware of the “Red Lights”. And Sigourney, the strongest character in the first half of the film was an orphan in a way and Murphy kind of inherits that in a way in the second half of the film. This is when everything becomes darker and we have to enter his psychology in a way so we start thinking in a much darker way because of his obsession. But you’ve already seen the film, no need for me to describe it.
Q: Did you have a hero in mind?
A: No I didn’t, I mean, you never have a hero in mind because you know you can’t afford him (laughter). On the other hand I have Sigourney in mind. That was kinda risky because I made a dress that perfectly fit her, but I never knew her. Which means I didn’t know if she was going to say yes, but I probably knew I would be in real trouble if she said no..Thank god for my bad English because I probably offered her something that she did not understand (laughter). De Niro is like writing a letter to Santa Claus. I mean you write it because you want an electric train and you know you are going to get socks or something (laughter). But in this case, for some reason he said yes and we got the electric train. In the case of Cillian Murphy he is the only actor in the world that can be both romantic comedy and horror film just with a blink. That is why I picked him, at the beginning of the film he is a kind of a boy scout with a very innocent gate. Later on be becomes this very disturbing and obsessed guy and I think he made an amazing transformation.
Q: Where did you shoot the film?
A: Actually 80% of the film was shot in Barcelona and the other 20% was shot in Toronto, Canada. We had an entirely cultural crew. That is how we shot Buried it was shot entirely in Spain. This makes it easier to have creative control and in this case we had it.
Q: How long did it take to film?
A: It took about 10 weeks in total, 8 weeks in Spain and 2 weeks in Toronto. So we had to shoot real fast. The film cost about $15M, which is about 4 times less than it probably should have cost. So we had to shoot about 42 shots a day. Some days we shot over 60 and one day we even shot 105 shots. I am not sure how we did it and frankly I don’t want to repeat the experience (laughter).
Q: Why did you choose the birds?
A: There is a certain kind of phenomenon that I studied that had to do with that; studies about animals acting in a strange way. Like raining frogs, there is scientific explanations for these things but there are still other that believe this is some other phenomenon.
Q: Do you believe in the supernatural?
A: I am not interested in believing, I am more interested in understanding. I am not against people who believe in whatever…I feel there are a lot of thing that cannot be explained yet. Believing is not a real help to me in trying to understand reality, so I am open to everything and I try to understand. There was a poster in the lab kinda like something from X-Files with a UFO with the claim “I want to believe”, ours says in this instance “I want to understand”.
Q: At the end of the movie the Murphy character is saying “time washes away all things”. Were you leading on that Murphy’s character was old?
A: He would be about 30 I guess, 30-something. He is younger than he actually is. You see that because of the way he dresses, because of the coat he has. These small details like him drinking milk are showing that he is a kind of “child” that has to become a man in a way and he has to accept himself. When he is with this young lady, it’s not that weird…it’s 30 (laughter).
Moderator: We have time for one more question
Q: Where did you get your inspiration for the soundtrack?
A: We stole from a good one (laughter). I worked very closely with the composer. We needed something that could be made to feel familiar with a political thriller from the ‘70s. This gives that sense of conspiracy and a very strong sense of drama. To show these are real characters behaving a certain way. So we had to find a sound that was profound and grave with many low notes. It is hard to describe how you work with these things. We had to find something very organic using orchestral sounds and some modern sounds. So we made a sound that felt like the ‘70s and ‘80s and very contemporary at the same time. Thanks a lot for coming, goodnight. (Applause)
Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Toby Jones, Joely Richardson, Leonardo Sbaraglia, and Elizabeth Olsen all star. Cortes produced with Adrian Guerra, while Cindy Cowan exec produced through her Cindy Cowan Entertainment banner.
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