Interview with Nicolás López from "Aftershock"

Photo Credit: Nicolás López
August 9th, 2013

Nicolás López is a wonderful director from the beautiful country of Chile.  His recent work in the film “Aftershock” has been terrifying audiences all over the world as it details life after an earthquake.  Nicolás was nice enough to sit down with Movie Room Reviews and tell us all about directing this film.

Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: Yeah I watched your film, man. It was really good.

Nicolás López: Oh thanks dude.

MRR: Yeah I wanna talk about the new film but are you in, are you still in Chile?

Nicolás López: Yeah. I live here.

MRR: Oh you live there full time?

Nicolás López: Yeah.

MRR: Oh man, how is it down there? I've never been there.

Nicolás López: Oh it's cool. I mean, now Eli is here. We're finishing The Green Inferno, his new movie, and we're doing everything here, all the post-production, everything.

MRR: Oh yeah?

Nicolás López: Basically we're trying to turn Chile into the new New Zealand. And do the same thing that Peter Jackson did there, you know? Like we're trying to do the same thing.

Nicolás López: So Aftershock was the first movie and now we have The Green Inferno. We are prepping another movie so we haven't stopped.

Nick: Is that because what, 'cause the scenery's so awesome down there or what?

Nicolás López: It's a mix of many things. The people really like to shoot here. When you're shooting a movie, no, when you shoot a movie in LA where everybody's like, "Oh whatever, we're shooting a movie." Here everybody gets real excited about it, and it's not because it's Chile it's how we do things in my production company that we have a way of doing things in a different way and we know how to make a movie for, I don't know... Aftershock was less than 2 million and it looks way bigger than that.

MRR: Right. It does.

Nicolás López: Yeah, so it doesn't have anything to do that the country is cheaper than any other country in the world, it has to do that we know how to do things in a different way and that we don't have to deal with many things that you will have to deal with in the US. Especially because in the US everything is really slow, so if you have a project it takes a lot of time to develop it and you have so many people in the middle and here we just went, we got the money, we shot the movie and then we sold it to the Weinstein, but it was a very fast process.

MRR: I figured you did it for the food.

Nicolás López: Of course, always.


Nicolás López: The girls.

MRR: Is it the food and the girls? Is it the best in the world for food and girls you think?

Nicolás López: Well basically the food and the girls, that's a good mix.


MRR: That's all you need.

Nicolás López: It's all you need, yeah. And it's funny because Lorenza Izzo, the girl that plays Kylie, they are two sisters, Andrea Osvart, the blond one and the other one the...

MRR: Yeah. I like Lorenza.

Nicolás López: Yeah, Lorenza is great. Lorenza is a Chilean. Like, she's from Chile.

MRR: Is she?

Nicolás López: Yeah, her English is perfect. So it was funny because suddenly she was playing somebody from the US, [laughter] but she was Chilean. So there is this sequence where she's trying to speak Spanish like saying, "Uno doctor, please, I need a doctor." And we were laughing. "It's so for real, why are you acting like you don't even know Spanish", you know? Faking an accent, faking a gringo accent. So, like how a gringo would speak Spanish so, but that was really funny.


MRR: I was actually gonna ask you that later too because it was funny because in the movie, you did that. You were in Chile, but all your actors were tourists, in the film, pretty much. Maybe besides one or two but...

Nicolás López: Yeah, pretty much.

MRR:  Could you tell us a little bit about the film, Aftershock?

Nicolás López: Well, the whole idea was to make a roller-coaster movie and the movie is kind of based on the real earthquake that happened in Chile in the year 2010. But I didn't want to make the official version of the earthquake that happened here. I didn't want to make the impossible, you know? So, in a way, this movie, it's a movie that wants to entertain the audience, and I think that the biggest difference that you have from other disaster movies is that we spent a lot of time with the characters. And I really like that because I think that in most of the movies that come from the US, they don't spend time with character development. And here, we spent like a good 35 minutes with them before the earthquake hits. So, that was, for me, the most interesting thing about doing this movie. And also, the movie starts like a comedy, let's say, and then suddenly turns into this thriller. I don't know, to this roller-coaster ride and it doesn't stop.

MRR: Well, it's a good film, and you told me why you filmed it there, but was this one of your biggest fears growing up?

Nicolás López: Well, I mean, not really because you are used to earthquakes. You think it will happen with people that live in LA, but what happened that summer was that during the whole summer we had... Let's say, like teaser trailers of the earthquake. There were small tremors during the summer, like every five days there were small tremors. And you are used to tremors, but some of them were a little bit hard core and you were like, "Oh, something's gonna happen." And then the last night of summer at 3:34 AM, basically when everybody was... This happened in real life, it happened during the weekend, like Saturday. So, everybody was drunk, at a club, and suddenly there was a gigantic earthquake and everything went to hell.

Nicolás López: And it was really weird because some of the stories that you see in the movie happened for real and even though some of the things that happened in the movie are made for comedic effect, let's say the hand and all that, it was pretty hardcore. So it's not that you're afraid of it but when it happens, it's really scary. Like when it happens because it's something that you can't control. It's not like there is a guy with a mask that wants to kill you. It's basically like... It is like, if God pushed the reset button and suddenly you don't know what to do. Like the earth is changing so much, and you think that it's the end of the world.

MRR: Yeah. Well, in the movie the action is super intense and that's why obviously, but how did you go about shooting this because it looks so realistic. How do you go about shooting an earthquake scene like this?

Nicolás López: Well, that was one of my biggest concerns and instead of using a lot of CGI, we decided to shoot every sequence or most of the sequence with practical effects. So, let's say at the club, when you see everything falling down and crashing, that's all real. So, we had five cameras running at the same time and that was the whole mentality. We shot the whole movie with Canon 5Ds cameras those are HD-SR cameras, like very small cameras. And we had five cameras shooting the whole time. And there were some little effects to fix up but everything that you see in the movie, I don't know, like 89% is real. And I love that because it was like shooting a movie in the 70's, where everything that happens in front of the lens was happening for real.

MRR: Right. And also the graphics, you did some graphics because they were nominated for a Golden Trailer Award, right? I read that somewhere.

Nicolás López: Yes. [chuckle] Yeah, it's true.
MRR: So, you must have done some work with graphics, huh?

Nicolás López: Yeah. I mean, those were for the trailer, but I love them because they show the whole idea and concept of the movie in a very clear way. But with Eli, when we decided to make this movie, we were like, "Let's make a fun movie. Let's make a movie that doesn't stop and let's play a little bit with the patience of the audience at the beginning of the movie because we didn't want to have a movie that started with an earthquake.

MRR: Right.

Nicolás López: Or like, "Let's do this." You know?

MRR: Well, through the film, one thing I wanted to ask you, I don't want to give anything away to the audience or anything, they're gonna watch it.

Nicolás López: Yeah.

MRR: I wanted to know what made you decide to kill off what characters and how does that... Does that change during the progression of the film? Or are you like, "Oh, I don't want to kill him off anymore. I want to kill this guy instead."


Nicolás López: I mean the whole... Here's how it worked, when we wrote the script with Eli and my other co-writer, Guillermo Amoedo, we were like, "Let's try to do everything in a different way. So, let's change the order of how people are used to getting killed in these kind of movies." And also, what's funny is that most of the actors, like all the movies that I have done before are comedies. They are dark comedies, but they are comedies. Like the movies that I have done in Spanish. And I did a trilogy of romantic comedies called, Qué pena tu vida, Qué pena tu boda and Que pena tu familia and the translation to that is, "F*&* my life, f*&* my wedding and f*%& my family". And every character that appears in those movies, they have a part in Aftershock and most of them are really close friends. So in a way, it was really weird to suddenly be killing all your friends. [laughter] I don't know like one of the thugs, one of guys... The guy that rapes a girl, that's my brother, like my real brother.

MRR: Really?

Nicolás López: Yeah, really, and the guy that gets his hand cut off, he's the lead of all my romantic comedies and Pollo, the guy with a beard he's also like the co-star of all my movies. And I also, because I have done movies since I was 20 years old, I just turned 30, so basically I know everybody since high school, I'd say. So it was really funny to kill all my friends.


MRR: And speaking of... I get a little weird when blood is on set. I know it sounds funny but are you just completely used to it? There was no shortage of blood in this movie.

Nicolás López: Yeah, I mean the whole experience with this movie was really weird because we shot the whole movie, almost, I don't know, 70% or a little bit more of this movie was shot during night so we were so tired. It was just insane especially when every effect was done for real. But basically everybody survived but every time that I said, "Action," I was like, "Please, I don't wanna kill anybody. I don't wanna kill anybody."


Nicolás López: And I didn't...

MRR: As the director, how hard was it to keep all those people in that frame of mind to be basically that they had to be terrified the entire time?

Nicolás López: Well, the whole thing was that because there are sequences when you see a street that has been... And the street is completely destroyed, we actually destroyed like we added an extra layer of building destroyed. And so what they were watching, they were watching that for real. So they were interacting for real with everything that was happening in the movie. And that was way easier than having them interacting with a green screen, let's say.

MRR: Right.

Nicolás López: I did a movie years ago that is like a sci-fi romantic comedy superhero movie that I did in Spain and I shot this movie in '06. And the movie had a lot of VFX. It was done in Sin City style like most of the movie was shot against a green screen. And the big thing that I learned from that experience was that it's so hard for the actors. And now with this movie, it was completely different, because they were seeing everything that was happening. And also it was the same thing that happened when we went with Eli to the Peruvian jungle to shoot The Green Inferno, the movie that we shot after Aftershock. And it was the same experience and also it's funny because it's the same cast, like Lorenza is in the movie. Ariel is in the movie, the guys that plays Pollo. So what we're repeating here in a way is what Almodovar did in the early '80s, mid '90s when in every movie he had Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz. Our idea is to make movies from here for the world and create our own international stars. So these two movies are the beginning of what we like to call Chilewood.

MRR: Chilewood? That's great.


MRR: What's The Green Inferno film gonna be all about?

Nicolás López: The Green Inferno is Eli's next movie as a director and we co-wrote that movie with Guillermo Amoedo, the guy that also co-wrote Aftershock and it's a movie about cannibals, we're gonna premier the movie at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, in a month from now. So I can't tell you a lot about that but basically Eli is here in Chile and we're finishing the post-production of the movie.

MRR: Cool.

Nicolás López: And it's gonna be a great comeback for him as a director. I think that is his best movie. I love the movie and it's really cool and dark and people are gonna... It looks so different to anything that you have seen before in terms of horror movies or at least in the last 20 years. So I think the people are gonna be really impressed with that movie.

MRR: Great, I can't wait to see that.

Nicolás López: Yeah, its a very good movie.

MRR: Well Aftershock, came out on DVD on August 6th.

Nicolás López: Yeah.

MRR: Right and what's that offering on the DVD besides the movie? There's special features, right?

Nicolás López: Yeah, we have a very funny commentary track that, when Eli was in LA and I was in Chile. So that was really fun to record and it's more like a podcast than a director's commentary [laughter] where we ended up talking about girls...


Nicolás López: And how we got drunk shooting in Chile, instead of talking about the movie. We're very unprofessional. And but it's a really fun commentary and it explains how to do things in a different way, it talks about the practical effects and everything. Then there is also a small featurette about how we shot the movie with the 5Ds. I think people might be really impressed when they see like, the size of the cameras that we used, and at the same time... And it also has a really cool extra that is a casting session that we did for the movie that is basically a hidden camera. I would say it's like a hidden camera, yeah a hidden camera, where people were doing casting for the movie and suddenly they were in the middle of an earthquake for real. And they didn't know it. And that's very funny and very creepy, [laughter] and we had a very good time making people scream.


Nicolás López: So, we had that in one, especially the movie in Blu-ray looks awesome, and it's incredible now how good things look in HD, especially with this movie that was shot completely in HD, like we never did an actual print of the movie. Like a 35 millimeter print, like everything went from digital to digital. So, the movie looks very pure.

MRR: Wow, well I think it was a great movie. I really enjoyed it, and I can't wait for our audience to see it. It came out on DVD, August 6th, and thank you so much for taking the time, and I can't wait to see all your next films.

Nicolás López: Okay. Thanks to you too.