In my journeys as an author, I have had the privilege of talking with many people all over the world. One of the relationships I've maintained has been with Argentinian filmmaker and author, NicolÃ¡s LasaÃ¯gues. NicolÃ¡s has written and directed short films that have been in film festivals and international competitions, published a compilation of short stories, and has numerous projects in the works, including a detective fantasy/horror novel and a web series. As he is one of the rare storytellers who works in both written and visual media, I wanted to find out more about his unique perspective on the art of story.
Interview with NicolÃ¡s LasaÃ¯gues
Renderosity Magazine: What do you enjoy most about writing and storytelling? Why do you write?
NicolÃ¡s: I enjoy the possibility of creating a small part of some universe. The characters must play by some rules and conditions, but at the same time it's my privilege to watch them grow...or die in some cases (in my stories the latter tends to be most common).
I write because I enjoy it, because the are no limits in words; they mean absolute freedom for me. I also write because I love to read. I always have a book with me.
Do you have a particular process for creating a story?
NicolÃ¡s: With short stories, I usually make them for a single moment and then I create the necessary world around that. I give only the required description and then let the reader's own life experience complete the rest (I enjoy playing with preconceptions).
With longer stories, I plan a lot more, otherwise I get lost in my own creations. For example, I plan the plot twist and the end ahead of time.
With very long stories, such as a novel, I still haven't found a single good process for writing. My biggest demon is my desire of end with the best story I can achieve, forcing me to try and improve something that isn't finished yet, something that hasn't even reached its final form. Currently, I'm trying a mixture of two methods. The first is "snowball method," in which you write your complete story in a few pages and then you go back and fill it with details, sub plots, et cetera, until it grows into a complete story. The other method is one of my own creation that I call "divide and conquer," in which I attack the story by dividing it in chapters. I will let you know if any of it works.
Your book, "Recorriendo el Laberinto", is a short story collection. Tell us more about it.
NicolÃ¡s: The book has 21 stories, most of them horror and suspense, but there are also a few comedies, and one or two dramas. Every story is two or three pages long, so it's an easy read (but it's all in Spanish!).
The book was born because I won a competition and it contains what I consider to be my best work at that moment. It's my "presentation letter" to the writing community. Unfortunately the book's publishing house has since closed (not because of my book!!) so I really don't know where anyone can buy the book. But if any person is interested, they can contact me and we can find a way (I have some copies in my possession).
Otherwise, anyone can download a digital copy of the book (pdf, mobi or epub) from my website completely FREE (Am I amazing or what? Haha).
What is your favorite story you have written thus far, and why?
NicolÃ¡s: I have two that I really like.
One is called "Elefantes" (Elephants) and is in my book. It's really a good story, with a man that moves to a new home full of ghosts and, by chance, finds a way to hurt them.
The other story is called "La Puerta" (The Door) and it's my most "Lovecraft-esque" story, with monsters that come from the basement and all.
You are a filmmaker as well as a writer. Do you have a different process for writing stories for film?
NicolÃ¡s: The language is completely different. Some things work better on paper and others are better for the screen.
For example, the tension you can achieve describing a knocking behind a mirror on the wall could look silly in film. The pacing, I think, is the biggest difference between the two languages.
In a book, you have hundreds of pages to describe anything. In a film, you only have roughly two hours. But I don't think there's a rule to which works best for one or the other. This is where the talent of the writer (or filmmaker) resides.
You have a wonderful short film, "Translocador OrgÃ¡nico," that you entered into an international contest. Tell us a bit about the film, and how the idea started.
NicolÃ¡s: This was the least planned short film I have ever made. I used a trip to my parent's house to find the different locations in the city (since the idea was teleportation) and I filmed myself jumping in four or five places.
The idea was to make a final scene completely in green screen, showing a last jump into the middle of a sea of clouds and then falling from a hidden cliff on my first step.
When I was at home editing the short film, it felt... well, boring. So I started adding some VFX to make each jump more interesting. After doing that, the final joke was null, but I couldn't go back to film anything else, as my parents live 500km away! So I remembered a tutorial about writing by Seth Worley and then the new end came easily.
This is one of the advantages of very short stories: you can change things very easily. In this case, I was very lucky to find a good way to close the story. But I don't think I will push my odds so far ever again.
It's my first comedy, and it has had a very good response. I have even been congratulated for the production over my other films (only if they knew the truth!)
Another film of yours, "No RobarÃ¡s" (You shall not steal) is quite engaging. Can you tell us more about the making of the film?
NicolÃ¡s: "No RobarÃ¡s" had the privilege of being selected by some festivals and film series. In the BARS (The Spanish acronym translates into "Blood Red Buenos Aires") international film festival in particular, the film was showed in a movie theater, which was quite a treat.
With this film, I wanted to test myself in two things: removing every color, letting me play with only the contrast of black and white, and telling the story without any dialog.
I also wanted to use less post-production, so I used more practical effects. The only big scene with effects didn't make the final cut. So there's only one VFX, the rest of the effects where on camera.
What software and equipment do you use in filmmaking?
NicolÃ¡s: I have a Canon t2i with 3 lenses (18-Â55mm, 70Â-210mm and 35-Â70mm). I've also made some of my own gear, since those things are very expensive here in Argentina. So far, I've made a dolly and a stabilizer for the DSLR.
Regarding the programs, I usually use "Blender" for the 3D, "After Effects" for the composing, and "Adobe Premiere" for the editing.
But I'm always looking for new software to learn.
Do you have any other projects in mind for the near future?
NicolÃ¡s: I'm currently working on a small web Âseries. It's a love story with dark humor, and the idea is to make ten or twelve five minute-long episodes.
I always have one or two scripts waiting to be shot. I just have to find the time (being a father of two little children under three can make that difficult), the right location, the availability of some friends (especially Pamela DelÃa who is a professor of theater and my main actress in "No RobarÃ¡s"), right weather conditions and basically the help of the gods.
I also finished the script for a short film called "Escape," and I'm searching for the location where I can adapt the story to be shot.
After that, I will probably go with my most ambitious project: a sci-Âfi story called "Caza
Recompensas" (Bounty Hunter) that is going to be shot all in green screen and using a miniature model spaceship. I will probably lose what is left of my mental sanity in the process.
What advice would you like to offer any other filmmakers and writers?
NicolÃ¡s: If you want to write, write...whether it's short stories, novels, or whatever your heart tells you.
If you're a filmmaker, shoot a story (if you feel you aren't good with the story part, adapt someone's work. I'll bet you can find an author who will let you use their work for free. ÂI do it for non-commercial productions).
Ultimately, you're going to learn by doing. Yes, you can read lot of books and follow a lot of tutorials (both really help), but the truth, your truth, is going to reveal itself with your work.
And this is the easy part, believe me. The hard part is showing your work to someone else and learning from their point of view. Sometimes you're too close to your work, so you lose the big picture.
Be aware of those people who tell you that you need a good camera, a good mic, or a certain software to make a good product. Yes, those things help, no doubt of that. But the most important piece in your production is you. Make the best you can with the things you have.
No matter the results, doing is going to be better than not trying, and you will always learn something by doing.
Michael Haase is a writer and novelist, with his first novel, "The Madness of Mr. Butler," being published this fall after winning the Inkshares/Nerdist Space Opera contest in March. When he's not writing, Michael is busy being a happy father, husband, Emergency Room Nurse, musician, poet, and generally sloppy artist. Michael dreams of keeping his life basically just as it is, but with much more time for writing and taking his family on trips around the world.