At one point during our Zoom conversation about film, family, and the Ben Affleck-starring Hypnotic, director Robert Rodriguez and I briefly debate the definition of “boot-strapping.”
Robert broke out as an indie film director in the early 1990s, when his debut feature film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival amongst other awards; El Mariachi was famously made for just $7,225 — a budget Rodriguez in part earned the money for by participating in a drug-testing study.
Today, Robert has built his own studio in Austin, Texas, where he gets to make the movies he wants on his terms. And working there with him are many of his children, including co-writer and producer Racer Max Rodriguez and composer Rebel Rodriguez, who began working on Robert’s films at a very early age, and joined their father to discuss life as a member of the Rodriguez family business: making movies.
Racer and Rebel don’t hesitate to say how much they enjoy it. “We realized we wouldn’t want to do this on our own or without family,” Racer says. “Because for us there’s the pressure of, ‘Oh, well, you do it because it’s your dad, and he’s a filmmaker, and he got you into it so you’re scared to step outside of it.’ And it’s like, ‘No, we don’t.’ He would be the first to kick us out of the door if we had the desire to go do it. But, to us, this is just family time, and there’s no one else I’d rather work with than family.
To some, working on their father’s films might not be seen as bootstrapping — certainly, neither Racer or Rebel had to sign up for medical experiments to make their first feature film. But Robert says that for one thing, the drug trial was “my own choice. I could have just borrowed from my grandparents like most people did. But I wanted it to be my own risk.”
And for another, being a part of the Rodriguez filmmaking machine has been an exciting part of his sons’ lives, but not always an easy one — such as the shoot for 2005’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, based on a story by Racer (who was eight years old at the time of the film’s release), and also featuring Racer and Rebel as younger versions of the film’s titular Sharkboy.