Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Robert Rodriguez On Why He Launched a TV Network To Reflect Diversity In Front of And Behind The Camera

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire February 26, 2014 at 5:25PM

El Rey, the cable network filmmaker Robert Rodriguez launched in December, feels a bit like the channel he's always wanted to watch.
6
Robert Rodriguez
El Rey Robert Rodriguez

El Rey, the cable network filmmaker Robert Rodriguez launched in December, feels a bit like the channel he's always wanted to watch. It debuted with a schedule packed with old grindhouse movies, including a lot of Quentin Tarantino favorites, and "Starsky & Hutch," which Rodriguez used to watch growing up -- curated programming, as the director described it, reflecting a particular sensibility.

But there's more to the idea behind the network than just film and pop culture geekery -- El Rey is a network aimed at English-speaking Hispanic audiences, and specifically aims to bring diversity to who's on screen and behind the camera. "It felt like a network like this has been needed for so long," Rodriguez said when addressing journalists today at a breakfast to promote the channel as it approaches the premiere of its first original drama, a series adaptation of the director's 1996 "From Dusk Till Dawn" with D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz in the roles played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino in the film.

The series, which debuts on March 11th, represents Rodriguez's first project for television -- he directed multiple episodes. He spoke to the press today about the idea behind the network. Here's an excerpt from what he said.

-------------------------------------------------------------

'Spy Kids'
'Spy Kids'

The movies I made, I wasn't even trying to make them diverse. It's just when you're a filmmaker of any ethnicity, you're going to write from your own experience. So all my scripts started with "Hispanic character..." then I'd be like, "Oh, gosh, now I have to find an actor to play this," and then I'd find there were no actors in Hollywood. It was puzzling.

When I was doing "Spy Kids," the Weinsteins asked me -- not that they were being jerks at all, they were just wondering -- "Why are you making the characters Hispanic? It doesn't make any sense, isn't this supposed to be for everybody?" "Well, it's based on my family."

They'd just never seen it. Hollywood is very much... no one wants to do it first, because what if they screw up? If someone else does it first and it's successful, then that's something we can imitate. It just makes business sense for people not to constantly be putting themselves out there.

[Weinstein] said that, and it really put me on the spot to come up with a reason. "Why not just give them American names? It's America, it will confuse people." I said "They are American -- they're based on my family, so they're Hispanic, but they're going to be speaking in English. It's going to be for everybody." But no one had done it before, so there was nothing to point to.

"You don't have to be British to watch James Bond."

"But why?" They couldn't understand why I was doing it that way, and I couldn't come up with a good answer. And I realized, wow, if I wasn't Hispanic, I would have folded, I would have changed the name. That's why there weren't more scripts like that. Somebody would have asked them at some point "Why are you doing it that way?"

Finally, I came up with the right answer. I said "You don't have to be British to watch James Bond. Making him British actually makes him more universal because it makes him very specific." And they were like, okay, that makes sense. And we did it, and "Spy Kids" was a big hit. And those who were Hispanic, it really meant a lot to them. People have come up to me for a lot of years since and said "You changed my kids' whole life. They see little kids who are Hispanic that are spies and they saw your name as the writer and director and you changed their idea of what their future could be." The ripple effects of that one movie were enormous.

[FactoryMade Ventures CEO and former William Morris agent] John Fogelman came to me and said "I just started a network called The Hub, and I think we can do it again. There's an opportunity at Comcast where they're giving away networks." They have to give them away! In order to merge with Universal, they have to give away 10 networks to independent owner and operators. The first four have to be minority. "You should come with us to put in an idea for a U.S. English-language Hispanic network." And my hand went up, right away.

'From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series'
'From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series'

It really spoke to me personally. I have five kids, and even though they grew up bilingual, they live and converse in English like most second and third generation Hispanics. I realized there wasn't anything on television that represented who they were in this country. And I thought it was important -- there was not a network like that, and we were growing as a population.

It's something that I've kind of been doing over 20 years -- "Spy Kids," "Desperado," "Machete" or "Dusk Till Dawn" or "Sin City," you don't think of them as Hispanic films, because everybody can enjoy them. But for those who are Hispanic -- they are. I wanted to do something like that -- a network that was for everybody, yet had an eye toward more diversity. 

And be able to reach in a bring more filmmakers and give them a voice, give them a chance. I had made "Rebel Without a Crew," this book I'd written about how to make "El Mariachi," and it showed people how to make a movie for no money, 20 years ago. And "Blair Witch Project," "Paranormal Activity" -- people followed that, and it was revolutionary as to how people could just make their own movie. I was always surprised, though, that there weren't more Hispanic filmmakers like myself. It's puzzled me, why?

'From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series'
'From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series'

As I started thinking about this network, it started to make sense. Anybody else who saw what I did, said "I'm going to try that, I'm going to get two of three of my friends together, make a $50,000, $100,000 movie!" They probably went to start writing and were like, oh, shit, this is a Hispanic character -- because it's based on themselves -- it's going to be labeled a Latin film. What three or four distributors can I take this to that are going to have a bidding war and want to buy my movie? Nobody -- nobody's putting out that stuff! It would be labeled as something. They would have folded like I almost folded on that "Spy Kids" thing.

So they need a place to go. That's why "From Dusk Till Dawn" is our first show -- it ends up in Mexico at one point, and half the cast being Hispanic, naturally, because of the story. But people get drawn in because it's like a "Walking Dead" show -- it's cool, it's got a lot of action, a lot of fun, there's Quentin Tarantino dialogue and characters. That's what I wanted to do, is make something that's mainstream, reaching a total audience and giving people who feel like they haven't been represented in the media, opening up the doors of the network so we can find new voices, find new filmmakers. We have a lot of feature directors, a lot of Hispanic directors, writers, but also they're just top talent in Hollywood -- I wrangled the best of the best together. Some of our directors are guys I'm giving a chance to that are really fantastic and doing a great job and that will be our future filmmakers.

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, Robert Rodriguez, El Rey Network






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More