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by Nigel M Smith
July 9, 2012 10:43 AM
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'Red Lights' Writer/Director Rodrigo Cortes On Following Up 'Buried' and Indie Vs. Studio Fare


But what initially inspired the story? It's quite original!

It started with these two words—paranormal hoaxes—that sounded fascinating to me. And it took me awhile to figure out exactly why, and then I understood it was fascinating because it was a kind of oxymoron. There were two opposite concepts colliding, clashing each other. You have the paranormal, which is the magic, what cannot be explained, which is a perfect, very compelling background for a story which allows you to use the elements of the genre; and you have the hoaxes, which is people lying, which is what they do best. And I wanted to do something very physical and tangible with the genetic code of a political thriller of the 70's. So this way, with these two concepts, I was allowed to explore the mechanisms of perceptions, of the human brain.

Am I wrong in reading that the film kind of took place in a different kind of present day? "Red Lights" certainly doesn't take place in our present reality -- we have no serious cultural fascination with the paranormal.

You are totally right, actually. In a way, the film feels likes it takes place in the 70's or 80's. You see laptops, you see phones, but I wanted to have this genetic code of certain political thrillers from the 70's. It would be much more cynical and different if it actually happened nowadays. That’s also a reason why it’s not set in any specific place.

You're managed to make pretty outlandish genre picture on indie budgets. Are you eager to work with a studio?

Yeah, I don’t believe in indie or studio as labels. As an audience member, what I want is to hear strong voices and clear personalities and to feel challenged; not to feel reaffirmed on my own decisions or whatever. So for instance, when I did "Buried," I never felt I was doing an experimental film meant to be shown in museums or something like that. I always thought I was doing "Indiana Jones" in a box or "North by Northwest" in a box. But when you have the control, you can afford to take certain decisions. The thing is that you still don’t have any guarantee of success. So when you do what you want to do and when you don't want what other people want you to do, you still have the same guarantees of success. Taking that into consideration, you should only do things you strongly believe in.

Again to me, it’s never about where you shoot. It’s about what and about how. I mean that. This is not a pro-Hollywood or anti-Hollywood position. I learned to love cinema via the studio movies and of course Scorsese films, Spielberg films, and Hitchcock. All of them did studio pictures with very strong voices. It’s about finding this margin of expressing and exploring the things that touch your sensitive points.

Do you see yourself returning to Spain anytime soon to make a film in Spanish?

Yeah, yeah I do. It depends on the story, on the characters. It’s about serving a certain story and vision of characters. It's not that I ran away from somewhere.

So what do you have planned next? I'm curious.

Well I tend to not talk about things that don't exist, because they don't exist. But again, I tried to find this idea that literally obsesses me. There are a couple of things that are floating in my head. Once one of them becomes an obsession, I'll be there like a steamroller.

What obsesses you?

I'm attracted very strongly to character-driven pieces. I need stories to be challenging in a certain way. I'm interested in very physical scenes -- in the sense that I react strongly to films that are not only meant to be seen, but also experienced. It's never about the genre. It's very subjective, because it has to touch certain sensitive points.

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