“I keep adding jobs,” laughed director Robert Rodriguez with the dubious giggle of an 8-year-old. “See they even forget what I do.”
He”s talking about the omission in the press release of his credit as editor of “Spy Kids,” his latest action packed adventure aimed at children. Rodriguez also wrote, directed, shot and produced the film. “I”m also the effects supervisor and the sound mixer,” Rodriguez said.
Without a hint of arrogance or Hollywood egotism, the shaggy haired Rodriguez is still the same curious, enthusiastic filmmaker he described in “Rebel Without a Crew,” an autobiographical journal about the making of his $7,000 Sundance-winning action film “El Mariachi.” The difference now is that he knows a whole lot more about making films and he”s unabashedly willing to take chances to learn more.
“Usually when you do an effects movie, the first person you hire is the effects supervisor. These are the guys who help figure out how you”re gonna do all these shots that are in the script and how you”re gonna do the effects,” Rodriguez said. “I didn”t hire that person. I wanted to be them. I wanted to figure out how to create all these shots so I could save more money, so I could use more creative techniques and so I could learn more effects.”
The end result: “We did over 500 effects for hardly anything,” Rodriguez smiled. “Spy Kids” uses a melting pot of computers, miniatures, props and green screens. “Once you know the principles, you can tell them how you are going to achieve the shot,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of the work is figuring out how you”re gonna do it because there is complicated, expensive ways to do it and there”s sometimes very simple and inexpensive ways. Creative ways.”
By making films this way, Rodriguez continues to stick to his roots his budgets are cheap and he still works outside of Hollywood (he lives in Austin, Texas). “We shot it [“Spy Kids”] in Austin. I edited it in my garage and we just work out of my garage. With T1 lines and Fed-Exing, you can just work at home,” Rodriguez said. “I could see the effects guys in Canada and they could see me. In my garage, I could draw on a shot and as we”re watching we”ll say, “Oh, fix this, fix that.” And we could play it in real time, so it”s like being there.”
Maintaining a certain independence from Hollywood seems to come easy for Rodriguez. “A lot of it”s just keeping the budgets down. If you work hard to keep your budget down, then they”ll give you complete freedom. That”s what a lot of other kids don”t understand,” Rodriguez said. Though his highest yet, “Spy Kids”” $36 million budget far undercuts many films made today.
“Keep the money down,” Rodriguez assured. “Or they”re gonna freak out. They”re all over the movie, trying to make sure that it”s something that they”ve seen before so they know it will do well. You can kind of make any kind of movie you want for less and then they give you more freedom because they know they”ll make their money back right away so they”ll let you just do what you want. That”s the key.”
Though far less violent than Rodriguez”s other films, “Spy Kids” carries his genuine quality, unlike other Hollywood films. “I think you can tell the difference with the movie. It feels like it”s a home made movie. It”s not like a big studio movie,” Rodriguez said. “It gives it a little more personal touch to it. It could easily be just like James Bond, stamped out, cookie-cutter type stuff. I really wanted it to be a little wild.”
And it sure was, as “Spy Kids” took the top spot at the box office this past weekend, almost recouping its entire budget. But Rodriguez isn”t stopping yet, with plans for a re-release as well as sequel.
“We”re probably going to rerelease the movie in the summer as a special edition with some extra action scenes,” Rodriguez said, excited to show off one of his favorite scenes cut from the film the cave of sleeping sharks. “We couldn”t finish it in time. There”s too many effects. It looks totally real,” Rodriguez said. “We”re working on the sequel. It”s really cool because they”re already spies now, so they get to tell the president what to do.”