Fluorescent characters in the acid rain. Interview with Esteban de la Torre, Budapest-based designer about the Blade Runner 2. wearables
Since major part of Blade Runner 2. was shot in Budapest and Korda Stúdió (Etyek), part of the cast and crew was also recruited in town. If you already watched the sequel, you surely noticed the outstanding Hungarian touch added to the cinematic universe of the much awaited second episode. From the compulsory ‘gibberish’ on a language that noone speaks („elgáncsollak te piszkoséletű”) to the design technologies at the costume department, much contributions have been made by fellows we know. The interview was recorded with Esteban de la Torre (EJTECH), the Hungarian-Mexican creative technologist living and working in downtown Budapest.
Szilvi Német (KiBu): How did you get in touch with the production and what was your part in it?
Esteban de la Tore (EJTECH): I got an e-mail last April, if we have the time and capability to work in a big production. They did not tell us what movie it was. After signing the non-disclosure documents, we had the whole meeting with Renée April, the costume head who kept on saying that she really wanted to have this Blade Runner-type of look and halfway through the meeting I was like alright with Blade Runner, but you should have your own feeling and identity for your film… Then she fired back by saying „no, no, it’s Blade Runner 2”. That’s how I got it. They needed somebody who could do soft circuitry and work with textiles, technology and design comfortably and that’s how they’ve found us). Somebody from the production recommended our collective, but it was me basically working on the movie.
My part was in the costume department creating all the electronics that were wearable. Because the film is in the future in a really foggy, dark place, I was supposed to make all the lighting. We spoke a lot, all the concept and the aesthetic were super fixed and marked. Like just the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) logo went through so many levels of clearance from the art department, even from Ridley Scott and everybody checked how it was supposed to work with the whole movie by the time it trickled down to me.
Szilvi: How much could you creatively contribute to all the design concepts? Or you received the blueprints and only had to execute and deliver…
Esteban: I was working there for about 5 months. The first month was only for concept creating, we would sit down and had meetings about the feeling and where the film was taking place, which was in this foggy, acid rain like future. My job was to make sure that the glimsy characters, you know, who had their own lighting, can walk around the scene. They should be lit in order to navigate through the fog, like deep sea creatures…
Szilvi: Can you list the different archetypes you were supposed to work with?
Esteban: All the characters I had to do were like secondary characters, none of the main characters used lighting. They said that we are still on planet earth and it would make them seen as if they were on an outsider planet or simply it was too unhuman for the main characters to have lighting on… The street scenes, Bibi’s bar, where they were all the prostitutes and skin jobs, plus the police station, that’s where my work is most visible.
There were like 6 different branches of clothing or costumes I had to make. One was of those most upper top layer like a raincoat type of thing. Everything was against minus temperatures and acid rain.
Szilvi: How did you solve the problem of lighting? What technology did you apply?
Esteban: I had three different logos to work with and had to choose how to make this LAPD thing lighting in a way that does not look like Christmas. This is why they were super strict about not to use any LEDs, cause they said no. 1. it’s very Christmas-y, and second that it shouldn’t even resemble a university fashion tech project… So I should have found an other way to work with lights.
Szilvi: So, it’s not LED finally, but electro-luminescence. How did it work?
Esteban: It works like there are different layers and the middle is fluorescent. There is a circuit that goes inside and its turned on and off superfast. Too fast for your eye, but you can actually hear it. All the shooting were happening in the middle of summer and it was fucking hot, but everybody was wearing these furs for minus couple of degrees. Everybody was sweating, but it was also raining. Somebody even got a light electro shock. One of the actresses, she got hot so, she ripped off the costume fixed with short circuitry, and when we put it back on, it just zzzzz.
Szilvi: Have you been also on set some of the time?
Esteban: Director of photography, Roger Deakins is famous for not really doing post-production, he really wants to grab everything on film. Basically everything that you have seen in the movie was fucking there, all the lighting and everything. The only thing they put in post was only the gigantic skyscrapers in the back. Everything else is really looked like that, the rain and so on.
When I asked for how long should I plan with batteries for the costumes, they said it should be at least for 27 hours per day… 3 hours extra in a day. If you run out of battery for any reasons and you have to take off the costume, it’s not only couple of dollars that got into garbage… Lightings on costumes are very visible on camera so you have to make sure that they always work the same, they are not dimmer.
There was one time, towards the end of one of the shoots that two policemen started to walk away and the lighting on one of them started to vibrate. So and i had to run there and change the battery that took like 25 seconds, but it felt like one of the longest moments in my life. Standing there in front of the camera and everybody, the whole production team, the whole warehouse with the DoP, the director, Ryan Gosling… it was cool.
Szilvi: How much they wanted to reinforce continuity with the original movie?
Esteban: Totally, totally. They were superstrict how the aesthetics should be kept, also colourwise. I proposed shitload of things and I think around 8% went through to the end. But even with this 8% I am superproud.
Esteban and the EJTECH team was part of the KiBu Talent Program.