A Surprise Moment At SXSW From Robert Rodriguez

Meeting Someone Is Film Is One Thing, Meeting An Icon Is Another

I will admit, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I was approached to do press for SXSW. I’ve written for sports, done movie reviews, and have interviews under my belt, but SXSW was something that I needed to experience firsthand to comprehend fully. It wasn’t like any other film festival I have ever attended. There were films constantly playing, different panels with people I only saw on television and film were right in front of me, but among the most surprising thing was how close and open fans and filmmakers were with people living the filmmaking dream. Then came a surprise from one of my favorite directors, Robert Rodriguez.

Day one at SXSW ended on a sour note when my Successful Screenwriter press partner and I failed to make the Dungeons and Dragons premiere. Though it stung, I showed up for day two ready to get to work. My partner brought to my attention the premiere of the unfinished film “Hypnotic” was premiering at the same theater. We sprinted to the theater, and this time, we just squeaked into the crowded theater. Upon sitting down, we and the audience were treated to Robert Rodriguez, an elite talent who directed some of the most memorable and riveting films of the past 30 years, in attendance to talk to fans and discuss his new thriller. Since the film is unfinished, I can’t discuss the film, but know it was an amazing film and its premiere will be a must-see.

Following the movie, Rodriguez opened the floor to fans to discuss their favorite of his films and to ask him questions. Full disclosure, I’m a major Rodriguez fan, and my favorite since childhood was “From Dusk Till Dawn”(I know I was young, but I have amazing parents), and I was thinking if I should go up. Thinking of Wayne Gretzky’s wise words, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”, I sprinted downstairs. I had to take the chance. Though determined, I was definitely nervous. Excited and smiling, but at the same time, shaking so badly that I looked like a Dr. Katz cartoon (thankful for wearing multiple layers to hide it), but my desire to be there outweighed my nerves. I told him my favorite film with a joke, and asked him something simple: “What advice do you have for someone writing their first feature?”

Rodriguez kept it simple: “Just write it. Keep writing, and if you see people give up, your competition just left the room. Write something and make it.” He then ran to the back, gave me a signed “From Dusk Till Dawn” poster, let me touch the same jackhammer stake that George Clooney used in the film, and, as did everyone else who asked questions, gave us a free tour of his studio, Troublemaker Studios.

The very next day, my family and I were in the same studio that produced “Sin City”, “Hypnotic”, and the full standing set from “Alita: Battle Angel”. The scale of everything was beyond anything I have seen as a filmmaker so far. Troublemaker showed all of the props that they make on location, the number of films and the memorabilia that they keep, and there was a certain electricity there that I’ve never seen in a studio. Though blown away by the scope of the studio, the most breathtaking aspect of everything was just how enthusiastic the filmmakers and propmasters we met were. This moment offered the most encouraging part of SXSW.

The filmmakers involved in the studio were all film fans. Robert Rodriguez and his staff are some of the hardest working people in the industry, built up equity with studios, but are all at the core fans of films. They also understand that film fans and filmmakers need to see the people they idolize. They operate under deadlines, they work with what they have in terms of both time and money, and they make the most of the world around them. They are also not typical Hollywood filmmakers. Hollywood is typically romanticized as the alpha and omega of filmmaking, but Troublemaker Studios is in Austin. With a filmmaking style as unique and unmistakeable as Rodriguez, he offered a great piece of advice to filmmakers: “If you want to think outside the box, you must be outside the box.”

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