It's been over two decades since Robert Rodriguez first established himself as one of the defining directors of the '90s indie scene with "El Mariachi." But for his next trick, Rodriguez is headed to the small screen with the upcoming launch of El Rey, an English-language Latino-centric network he co-created and where he'll premiere his first TV venture, a series based on "From Dusk Till Dawn."
While the era of the $7,000 budget has long since been succeeded by major stars, digital backlots and 3D, Rodriguez said his process hasn't really changed even as his canvases have gotten bigger -- he still likes to write, direct, edit and shoot in a DIY spirit. "If you saw 'Machete Kills,' you wouldn't think that that's the shortest production process I've had since 'Mariachi,'" he said.
As for El Rey, scheduled to launch in late 2013/early 2014, Rodriguez said he's been interested in television for a while. (He said he came up with the "Machete" character while pitching an "A-Team"-style show, post-"El Mariachi.") "I like TV, I just didn't like the process," he said. "There was not a lot of control." Instead, he held out until an opportunity came around to pitch a network that addressed the growing -- and underserved -- English-speaking Hispanic audience.
As with "Spy Kids" and "Desperado," he intends the network to appeal to a mainstream audience while also providing a platform for stories and actors that will reflect a second- and third-generation Hispanic identity: "It makes a big difference to see themselves reflected on screen."
Rodriguez still credits "El Mariachi" as a high point in terms of forming his approach toward filmmaking. "It was only practice," he said. "I really didn't want anyone to see it -- I wanted to spend more time and more money on my first film." Its success taught him the importance of not overthinking his work: "There's something really pure about doing it without any expectation."
Rodriguez said critical or box-office failures have always offered something positive. His segment of "Four Rooms," for instance, provided the seeds for "Spy Kids," and also led him to want to demonstrate that anthology films can work by informing his approach to "Sin City."
Creating a network. "It's an exciting challenge because you know you'll get to do it in a way you've always wanted, in a way you always thought the system should work," Rodriguez said. He's eager to see if there's a way to create great material for television that's both outside the box and the typical studio process.
Rodriguez is finishing "Machete Kills" for a September release and "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" for October. He's also in the process of writing "From Dusk Till Dawn" to shoot later in the year; additionally, he managed to collaborate with fellow Influencer Tim League on Fantastic Market Mercado Fantastico, an international co-production market for genre films that will launch at Fantastic Fest this year.