Last Wednesday I attended a presentation by director Robert Rodriguez where he discussed some exciting details about his new El Rey television network. We normally shy away from writing posts about high-profile filmmakers, but Rodriguez shared some very inspiring thoughts that would benefit filmmakers at every level.
Briefly chronicling his career, Rodriguez explained how each opportunity he has embraced and how every film he has created had some bearing on his success as a filmmaker. Ultimately he reduced his career and life-experience to 5 points:
1. Think Outside The Box
Rodriguez explained how living in Austin, TX, outside of the studio driven world, has allowed him to maintain a fresh perspective when it comes to new ideas. He repeatedly emphasized that there is always more than one way to do something; you just have to use your imagination and think about the situation in a non-traditional way.
Thinking “outside the box” will set you apart from the pack and can often get you more attention as a filmmaker. It’s just a matter of not being afraid to take that first step.
2. Be First
“Being first” means daring to try something new before anyone else. Robert talked about when he first made the choice to shoot digital. Many filmmakers were skeptical but Rodriguez jumped in head first and proved them all wrong. This not only allowed him to push his films further but also helped push the technology forward as an acceptable medium within the industry.
Rodriguez also pointed out other successful examples such as: The stylization of Sin City which helped paved the way for other films like 300, and the use of 3D in Spy Kids 3 which reintroduced the possibility of 3D in movies. Incidentally, Spy Kids 3 happened to be the highest grossing of the Spy Kids series. He urged filmmakers not to be afraid to do something different, because in the end it usually pays off, or at least it did in his case.
3. Ask Yourself, “Why?”
A question that Robert said he always asks himself before starting a new project is, “Why this project? Why do I want to make this?” He stated that by asking yourself “Why” you should always try to find an answer that is not related to just making money.
He discussed that when you make movies purely for monetarily driven reasons they tend to not be as good. But if you have a good reason for making a movie then not only are you more excited about making the film but the people you work with and audience members are more willing to support you and your project.
4. Learn To Trust Your Inner-Voice
Later in the evening an audience member asked, “Why did you decide to develop the El Rey Network?” Robert replied that when he was asked if he wanted to bid for the network his hand rose without him even thinking about it because he listened to his inner-voice.
Rodriguez stated that over the years he had learned to develop and trust his inner-voice because typically it always leads him down the right path. He warned against over thinking a situation. Suggesting that it is easy to overwhelm yourself with information, creating an environment where you decline too many projects and never end up making anything.
He used the film Four Rooms as an example of accepting a project by just listening to his inner-voice. Even though the project was an economic flop, it opened the door to several great things such as landing the gig to direct From Dusk Till Dawn and conceiving the idea for Spy Kids.
5. Just Do It
More than just a famous slogan, it is also a motto Rodriguez lives by. Not waiting for inspiration to strike, Robert told students that it is better to just dive into some project rather than wait around for inspiration to hit you. Too often you’ll sit around waiting for the perfect idea and never do anything. He also said this is a great way to hone your creative skills.
Robert Rodriguez is arguably one of the best and most innovative directors in the industry right now and I suspect his points will hit home for many of us. I hope you are as inspired by his tips as I have been.
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