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Tuesday night at the SXSW Film festival, local fixture Robert Rodriguez took to the ACL Live stage at the Moody Theater to announce several new Quickdraw Productions initiatives — and play some rock and roll. Rodriguez is set to launch an animation company called Quickdraw Animation, with two feature-film projects already in the works, as well as a filmmaking contest with his technology partner AMD.
PHOTOS: The Scene at SXSW 2012
Part of the SXSW Interactive Festival, the event included performances by Chingon, which features Rodriguez on guitar, and Tito and Tarantula, both of which appeared on the soundtracks of Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn and Machete. The pertinent scenes from those movies played on a screen behind the bands as they performed the tunes.
Quickdraw Animation will be its own entity with its own financing and infrastructure devoted to making CG-animated feature films. The first two films are Heavy Metal and a family film, both of which have finished scripts and are moving into storyboard pre-production phases. As part of his continuing DIY methodology, Rodriguezsays that he has found a way to streamline the animation process that will greatly shrink the amount of time it takes to produce one. Exactly how, he won’t say (nor will he give away the family film’s title, which much like Spy Kids, he says, would give away the whole concept), but the writer-director has built an entire career around the DIY method. For the new animation company, he will keep a core group of 6-8animators in-house at his Austin-based Troublemaker Studios to mastermind all the story and visual elements before using sister companies to finish the animation.
The VISIONary Young Directors contest with AMD, which launches Wednesday, March 14, asks participants to upload 30-90-second trailers to YouTube and Facebook that Rodriguez and others will judge. Two-month windows devoted to different regions of the world will open throughout the summer and fall, with winners from each of the four sections chosen to meet with Rodriguez to flesh out their ideas and take home some digital filmmaking gear, including Sony Vegas software and an HP notebook.
One of the four will also be handed a grand prize of access to a complete array of AMD-and-HP-provided editing equipment (the same Rodriguez uses on his films), ongoing mentoring from the writer-director and quarterly meetings with Quickdraw and Troublemaker to get updates on the project. As AMD PR manager Jeff Lowe says, “The goal is to find the next Robert,” a filmmaker who famously made his first movie, El Mariachi, for about $7,250 and continues to do much of the work on his films himself (writing, directing, cinematography, editing, scoring). Winners will be announced at ACL Fest in October.
“It’s an interesting way to reinforce Robert’s brand, especially with El Rey coming out,” says Lowe, referring to the Comcast-Universal network Rodriguez is pulling together for a late 2013 launch.
Sitting in the central conference room of the Troublemaker offices on Monday, Rodriguez was enthusiastic about the possibilities of ElRey, despite being worn out by a late-night practice session with Chingon in preparation for the Tuesday night show. “We need content! Go make stuff and send it! We’ll be the first Cloud network,” he said with a laugh.
Rodriguez says that he pitched the newly merged company,which must host a number of minority-owned channels as part of its programming, on what he views as “Desperado TV,” focused on the critically and perpetually underserved demographic of Latino men. The AMD filmmaking contest is just one of the ways Rodriguez is looking for new talent, but he says he also has seen major interest from A-List Latino creative forces in Hollywood, such as Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro and Michelle Rodriguez.
“It’s like a switch goes off in their minds, like this is what we’ve been building up to do, is to really step into more of a leadership position in the community to empower and help others,” says Rodriguez. “There’s nobody really operating in that space. That’s where the real growth is, in the Hispanic community. It’s the largest, fastest-growing minority, but there’s nothing really targeting them. There are 500 networks and none of them are doing anything in that area. So that’s what I’m going for right there.”
Beyond its business possibilities, Rodriguez sees El Rey as yet another way to speak to and shape the identities of new generations of young immigrants from South and Central America. “That’s what’s most needed culturally, too,” he says. “You need to help not just reflect that identity but also shape that identity. Because if you ask any Latino, ‘Are you Latino?’ they might say, ‘Well, I don’t really speak Spanish, I’m not really American, I’m floating in between, and I’m not on TV, so I must not exist.’ It would change people’s view of themselves if they finally exist in this space.”
Additionally on the film front, Rodriguez says that Machete 2 starts shooting in April and Sin City 2, after several fits and starts, is likely to begin production over the summer. He’s thus far mum on casting, though he was willing to indicate that discussions with potential stars of both projects will be of the same caliber and eclecticism as the first films, which featured Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Josh Hartnett, Don Johnson and Steven Seagal.
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