It was on the wide margins of his grade school Spanish-English dictionary where film director-writer Robert Rodriguez discovered his passion. Instead of listening to his teacher in class, he would sketch cartoon figures that would come to life with the turn of a page. And it was that same fast pace and animated approach to telling a story that would later allow the young film maker to revolutionize the film industry.
“When I was sitting in school drawing my flip cartoons I thought I would probably never get a real job,” says Rodriguez “I never thought I would be in Hollywood.”
It didn’t take long for the San Antonio native to stand out among the best directors in the field. His student film, “El Mariachi,” which he made with only $7,000 dollars that he raised by subjecting himself to a medical experiments, was praised by critics, ultimately pulling him into the spotlight as an up-and-coming director, writer and editor.
Rodriguez says he wanted to disguise his low-budget film as a blockbuster and to do so, he had to be creative in the way he filmed and edited the movie. Instead of renting or purchasing equipment that would help with the smooth cinematic moves, he borrowed a wheelchair from a nearby hospital, placed the camera on top, and went on to shoot. These techniques were later used and served as inspiration in later films like “Desperado” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.”
“I quickly realized you really didn’t need money to make a movie. You just need to offer a point of view that people weren’t used to seeing,” Rodriguez explains. “As a filmmaker you make what you know and you end up having a lot of yourself in the movie.”
For Rodriguez, that meant incorporating his life experience of growing up in San Antonio, Texas with 10 brothers and sisters and giving Latin stars an opportunity in the big screen – actors like Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo, Antonio Banderas and Rosario Dawson. A mission that he says will continue as he heads the independent TV network, “El Rey.”
“For all the reason you can’t break into Hollywood, that’s why El Rey exists. We will be able to create our own stars, tell our own stories and allow other Latin film makers to come and cultivate that voice. “
The network scheduled to launch in 2014 and Rodriguez says it will feature animated series, documentaries, news and music that he says will be tailored for second and third generation Latinos.
“If you get a job doing your passion, you will never work a day in your life,” he says. “People think I am so busy all the time, but I never work. I’m always playing.”