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Oscar Torres Survived a Civil War and Became a Film Producer

By Amy Ross

It is hard to imagine Oscar Torres as anything but a successful writer and film producer, but the heart-wrenching story of children recruited as soldiers that inspired his first screenplay, Voces Inocentes (Innocent Voices) offers a glimpse into his past. The movie allowed Torres to cope with and process the trauma he lived as a child in the Salvadoran civil war. He said the film not only helped him work his way into the film industry, but have also allowed him to advocate for peace around the world.

“Innocent Voices is by far the most fulfilling not only because it is so personal and has the most feeling but also because of the feedback and trajectory. Ten years after it was made, I’m still travelling to speak at universities all over the world,” said the Los Angeles-based producer. For Torres, the movie that came out in 2004 was as much therapeutic as it was a career launching project.However, he didn’t always know he wanted to work in Hollywood. Before pursuing his film career, he studied Latin American studies at the University of California at Berkeley and worked as an English teacher at a small school. Virtually every night he would try to find someone willing to go to the movies with him. “I felt that I was teaching 30 people at a time and I wanted to teach millions as a time,” said Torres, who fled El Salvador during the conflict.

He started out delivering packages in 1994 at a movie agency where he later became an actor. There he started to get some commercial jobs and opportunities working behind the camera, doing lots of free work as a production assistant. “I learned a lot and met a lot of people,” he said. With nothing more than the scripts of five of his favorite movies in hand, in 2001 Torres set out to write his first script: the story of his life. Although he had never taken a film class in his life, he said he simply understood the language of cinema.

“I read the scripts one page at a time and learned how the flashbacks, transitions and cuts were done. That is how I did it,” said Torres. Cinema Paraíso, Forrest Gump and Before Night Falls were among those screenplays he studied. Since then, Torres has been the involved in productions like Máncora, which was in the official selection of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival (writer); Pulling Strings, directed by Pedro Pablo Ibarra (screenplay and producer); and more recently Bravetown, a project that is still in post-production and is starring María Bello, Laura Dern and Josh Duhamel (screenplay and producer).

As for choosing which films to pursue, Torres said he always makes his decisions out of genuine love for the projects, focusing on stories that are inspiring or fun to him. “I know that as long as I respect that I can achieve the quality that will let me connect with audiences and that allow me to be financially free as well,” said Torres. With four other major productions on the way, including his directing debut and a television series, his goal is to continue taking movies from all the way from their inception to the big screen. The key to success, said Torres, is to be your own biggest ally.

“There is a process that you can’t do out of money, but out of love and desperation. You do it as much as you want to breathe. I don’t think I could live without making movies and the sense of creating and sharing, the giving, the receiving: thats my life,” he said. Stay current with all things MSLCE, click here to join our mailing list!