Felipe Vargas was born in Colombia, grew up in South Florida, and is an undergraduate student at USC Film School. Ultimately, Felipe hopes to make content in his own realm of magical realism – dreamlike dramas with a sprinkle of science-fiction, fantasy, or horror. His ethereal stories, heavily influenced by Latin American writers, blend dreams and memories. He recently co-edited an award-winning documentary feature film on the poaching crisis in Africa, Breaking Their Silence, told through the perspective of women on the frontline. He is currently directing an experimental science-fiction short film and a horror-fantasy short film, as well as a four-part commercial campaign. Felipe’s work has been honored with awards at over thirty national and internation film festivals. He has recently interned at Annapurna Pictures, Pantelion Films, Showtime Networks, and Blumhouse Productions.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
When faced with the unpredictability and uncertainty of life, it’s nice to think there’s someone on your side, gently guiding and helping you. A quiet and powerful force molding our fate and connecting us all. Who knows, maybe there is. Although I doubt it’s a girl snapping and blowing at a tv screen. But at some point, would we lose some grasp on our free will and individuality? Very rarely do great sci-fi worlds create a world you’d want to live in (where’s the drama in that?) but I’d love to stop by that room at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then maybe be reborn as a giant baby.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
Joel in Eternal Sunshine. A little introverted, a little out there, with all sorts of mixed-up memories.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
It depends. Are these C3P0s or Terminator humanoid robots? Regardless, I think I’ll try to be their friends. Definitely will support their cinematic endeavors, although not sure how happy C3P0 or The Terminator would be sitting in a director’s chair and making movies.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
The first draft started in an Amish community, where if people disobeyed “The Guide” and her will, their heads would explode. Like literally explode... I’ve found it’s better to start really wacky and out of the box before scaling back. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a bad idea - I just pursue the ideas that I connect with and am passionate about. And if an idea really excites me, then I can’t stop thinking about it, and day by day you’ll pick up little supplemental ideas here and there until it’s a fleshed out vision.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I’m an avid DUST fan and sci-fi movie buff. Thinking up sci-fi or fantasy ideas is the complete opposite of isolating. It feels like coming up with ideas and daydreaming is a place of comfort - where the imagination is boundless and you can create. These ideas ultimately put us in touch with ourselves and can offer an objective perspective on the present day world around us.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
The pyramid of screen was meant to capture a wide array of eras and technologies from the 20th and 21st century - a potpourri of screens. We were able to acquire items from a 1920s radio, to a ‘90s television left by the side of the street (which took five people to carry), to a modern smartphone. Everything from radio to analog to digital. Would’ve loved to add holograms and future technologies to the screens too, if budget allowed… As a student, access to digital cameras and nonlinear editing has facilitated the process and increased access, especially for our low-budget projects.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
For this film, our main set was The Void. An other-worldy, vast, dark realm. An intersection between the sublime and technological. Very still and sterile. And on a tiny budget, we used darkness and visual effects to our advantage, in order to create this world which The Girl inhabits. The film’s biggest inspirations were 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, and Up. We also looked at a lot of Renaissance Art and their incorporation of spirituality. I think movies only go so far as inspiration, and often lead to pastiche. Originality comes from incorporating these artistic inspirations with one’s one life and experiences and ideas.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Wars Philip K Dick Practical Dystopia Pre Apocalypse