Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Night-owl director roosts at home

By Margaret A. McGurk,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Robert Rodriguez has discovered the secret for running a one-man movie-making factory in his back yard while staying in touch with his young children.

        “I work at night! I get so much done. The phone doesn't ring. There are no interruptions. It's very efficient,” he says.

        Obviously. Working from his Austin, Texas, home studio/office outfitted with stacks of digital equipment, he put together Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams at what by Hollywood standards qualifies as breakneck speed: He edited his original footage into a complete movie, including music and more than 1,000 special effects created by his hand-picked crew, in 10 months.

        He sleeps during the day while his children — Rocket, Racer and Rebel — are at school. He wakes up to spend the afternoon and evening with them, then heads back to work when they go to bed.

        “I've always been a night person anyway,” he confesses.

        He has always been a Hollywood outsider, too. His first feature, El Mariachi, was shot in Mexico for about $7,000 (although that did not include the cost of a finished print). The movie, a film-festival hit, and his follow-up book Rebel Without A Crew made him an icon to would-be moviemakers everywhere.

        He made Desperado (a bigger-budget version of El Mariachi), From Dusk Till Dawn and The Faculty before he decided to make a movie his kids could watch.

        He shot most of Spy Kids 2 himself on digital cameras, the latest on new high-definition equipment that closely mimics the look of film.

        “I love it!,” he said. “It's so much faster (than film) because you don't have to set up lights for every shot, and you can see what you're doing as you go along.”

        The instant output of the digital cameras also has an unexpected benefit for working with actors, he said. “They can be much more relaxed because they can see what they're doing right away. If somebody comes up to me and says, "Are you sure we got that shot? Did I get it right?', I can say, "See for yourself.' They're reassured; everyone is more confident.”

        Mr. Rodriguez's omnivorous appetite for creative challenges is the reason his wife complains about the “stacks and stacks” of books around his bed.

        “I'm doing so many different things — photography, production design, special effects, music composing — I have to learn how to do them all. ... What's interesting is the more I learn, the more I realize the creative process is actually the same no matter what discipline you are in. The tools are different, but if you know how to be creative in one medium, you already know how to do it in the others, too.”


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