We were surprised by the visual quality of The Pixel Theory: Pandora’s Box. This low-budget production—and in Spain, when you say “low-budget,” it really means “ultra-low-budget.” More importantly, we were surprised by the narrative: a genuine dystopian Sci-Fi story about something that could become a real problem in the non-so-distant future. You can watch it here:
For all these reasons, we couldn’t wait to talk with the director of Pandora’s Box, Daniel H. Torrado, about his next movie, Virtual: a big brother of the short. The team behind Virtual has just released a Kickstarter campaign to make the production possible.
The Fiction Anthology (TFA): You directed your first short film in 2005. That’s over 10 years of experience in creating fiction cinematically. When did you first realize that this was your passion?
Daniel H. Torrado: The audiovisual is something that has attracted me since childhood. I think it all started when my parents bought a Handycam camera that they didn’t allow me to touch. I was very intrigued by that forbidden object full of buttons.Later, I started making short stop motion movies with plasticine, recording silly stories with friends. When I was in high school, I enrolled in film workshops and courses. Later, I attended a training program for the unemployed that taught me to use the ENG camera, editing programs, and so on. In 2005, I dove into my first film, very amateurishly, with a borrowed Canon XL1 camera, 100 euros raised at parties, and the help of many friends. Despite the low budget, the film was screened in several cinemas and universities, and it was issued in Telek. Since then, I have spent ten years working on all kinds of audiovisual projects. I have continued to educate myself in directing, camera, lighting, postproduction, etc.
TFA: You mention your passion for science fiction and video games. Did both passions start at same time?
Daniel H. Torrado: I think so. When I was a child, movies as Willow and Star Wars accompanied my family at every Christmas. Alien and Terminator 2 made deep impressions on me. I also spent lot of time in arcades. I was really hooked on the game Metal Slug. When I wasn’t playing it, I was watching other people play. I got so good that I could finish the game on a single coin. Pure pleasure. I remember the atmosphere of those arcades: the teenagers, the little punks of the neighbourhood… that feeling is something I want to capture in a film.
TFA: You have worked for a long time in camera crews and as a director of photography. How do you think that experience affects your work as a director? As a writer?
Daniel H. Torrado: Usually, when I write, I do it with total freedom, visualizing the scenes in my mind regardless of the technical constraints. It’s when I do the planning and the shooting that I think about the technical issues. Cinema is the largest collective art, so I think that a director should have technical knowledge and know how every department works. The director has to learn to control and anticipate potential problems. A single failure in the art department, in photography or sound and all the fantasy we try to create fades out.
TFA: You’ve been a director of photography and a camera operator in many of your projects as director. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a “jack of all trades” during filming?
Daniel H. Torrado: Generally the “jack of all trades” is more an necessity, due to the lack of resources, than a real choice. In Cinema, many arts and techniques converge, and you can’t be an expert in all of them. I like to have people specialized in their fields when possible. The good thing about working alone is that, you can move more quickly. If there are fewer factors in the equation, there is less risk for failure. But working alone is also very exhausting and requires a lot time and effort for getting good results. Personally, I prefer to work as part of a team.
TFA: The Science Fiction usually requires visual sophistication, something not very compatible with a low budget. What are your secrets for making low-budget science fiction films :)?
Daniel H. Torrado: It’s not a secret that we are living in the digital revolution. Today, you can do wonders with a midrange computer if you have the right skills. In the past, a bad story could compensated with a good dose of Visual Effects. But nowadays, the story is more important than all the spectacle that adorns it.
TFA: What is “The Pixel Theory”?
Daniel H. Torrado: Pixel Theory began as a movie in chapters, made with the participation of several directors. After it was done, we decided to take the chapter Pandora’s Box from the final film and distribute it as a promotional short of the project.
TFA: How did you come up with the idea for Pandora’s box? What were your narrative and aesthetic influences?
You can find more information about Daniel’s next project, the feature film Virtual, in the video from the Kickstarter campaign.
TFA: Pandora’s Box stands out visually not only in the “virtual world” scenes, but in the “real world” ones too. Those scenes are stylized and dirty at the same time. Will there be a similar visual contrast between the real and virtual worlds in your next film, Virtual?Daniel H. Torrado: Of course. The contrast between a fantastical “unreal world” and a rusty reality is very important for the story. It’s part of the critique in the film: as everything rots around us, we escape into digital worlds that don’t actually exist.
TFA: When did you have the idea for Virtual?
TFA: The concepts in Virtual are very ambitious, and the visuals look very nice. What will be the biggest challenges of producing it?
Daniel H. Torrado: As with any project, the ultimate challenge is funding. We have the technical team that participated in Pixel Theory, along with the support of production companies and rental houses. But there’s always the need for an investment to cover expenses such as food, gasoline, locations, social security, etc.
TFA: You mentioned complementary VR360 experience and e-books in the Kickstarter campaign. Will they be a complement of the original story or parallel stories?
Daniel H. Torrado: The 360 VR experiences will be parallel stories with other characters in the same universe. They complement the main story to give it more depth. But the e-book is a literary adaptation of the script, so even people who aren’t familiar with the universe can follow the story.
TFA: What do you think Science Fiction brings to our world?
Daniel H. Torrado: On one hand, it brings fantasy. It brings us the dream of creating new worlds. On the other hand, Sci-Fi warns us about problems that we can encounter in the future, if we aren’t careful in the present. In Virtual, we experience amazing worlds of fantasy. At the same time, I try to represent the world we can find ourselves in if we don’t take precautions: a rotten reality dominated by elites, where the people live badly, escaping from their problems through virtual reality.
TFA: Any messages for fans of Science Fiction?
Daniel H. Torrado: Don’t stop dreaming. Also, we need your support for making the first major Spanish Science Fiction film possible. There are great Spanish Science Fiction films, like Open your eyes (the Spanish movie remaked by Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky) and Acción Mutante, but none them addresses genre so directly.
TFA: Any messages for fellow independent creators of genre fiction?
Daniel H. Torrado: Don’t miss the years that you could spend waiting for someone to finance your big project.
Thank you Daniel for your time.
Let’s do that movie possible: Kickstarter