In 2005 director Robert Rodriguez brought life to Frank Miller‘s Sin City in an unimaginable way. Literally adapting the style of that highly stylized series was a risky choice. Broad audiences hadn’t experienced a movie with such a heightened aesthetic to that degree yet, but it worked for both audiences and critics. A sequel was announced and then…it took longer to get made than it should have. But that long-awaited sequel finally comes out this summer in 3D with most of the original cast in place and a few welcomed additions.
Another Rodriguez project returning is From Dusk Till Dawn. The proud Texas filmmaker now has his own network, El Rey, which kicks off with a serialization of his 1996 vampire film. The pilot is basically the film’s first 10 minutes stretched out to 40 minutes with a few tweaks. Rodriguez directed the first episode and he will continue to have a strong hand in the series, as well as anything else that shows on El Rey.
Rodriguez discussed with us cinematic quality of today’s television, in addition to the recreating the world of Sin City for the upcoming sequel.
Do you shoot differently for television?
I’ve always heard that you have to shoot really fast for television, but I thought, “Wow. I don’t know how much faster we can shoot.” I already shoot really fast for my films, because I have to keep them on a tight budget for more freedom. Plus, we had been shooting at these places for years, so the crew already knew how to do it. Our shows end up looking just like our features, so it’s a huge quality difference. I think people will be shocked what look like feature films week in and week out. That’s just what we’ve always done here. That’s the Texas way.
It’s an interesting time where television shows, like True Detective, are more cinematic than most movies.
Do you think that challenges film to be better?
I think it’s a different experience. A movie tells a nice contained story. I like that with the show we can tell a more sprawling story. To keep this cinematic level of quality for 10 episodes is pretty awesome.
Besides From Dusk Till Dawn, what do you hope to achieve with the network?
I thought, “We gotta fill this thing with good stuff. Let’s put only curated content out — stuff that we’re really fans of.” We didn’t want to be a network that just throws stuff out there. We want to show stuff we have seen and love. It’s important for us to have Grindhouse Fridays, Kung-Fu, Sonny Chiba, and legendary filmmakers introducing their legendary films that started it all. There’s also classic television that’s cinematic, like, Jim Cameron’s Dark Angel. We want to put out original content too.
Would you ever want to develop unproduced film projects into a series? I know you’ve been trying to make Never Crackers for a long time.
Never Crackers! That’s my next film. That could happen with other projects, though.
Any chance you’ll give young first-time filmmakers the chance to direct any original content for the network?
Yeah. We’ll be doing contests that will reward filmmakers. Well, not only reward them with work at the network, but maybe theatrical releases as well.
You’ve always supported young filmmakers. Not a lot of successful directors go to the extent that you do, in that regard.
I’ve always done that since El Mariachi. I don’t want to keep it a secret. Some filmmakers like to keep their secrets, but I like to do extensive commentaries and content that I get paid an extra cent to do. I started off without the resources to make a film. When I found out you didn’t need the resources, I wanted to tell everyone about that. I just wanted to continue that trend. I mean, if you put it out there you may inspire someone who can produce even better things than you. You get to be a part of that, and that’s cool.
Is anything new to you now? Do you still run into challenges?
Yeah. It’s tough figuring out how to do a network, and that’s a completely different skill set from what I’ve been trained to do. If you fear going forward, then you know you’re going to run into a trap. You’ll come up with a creative solution.
What was the experience of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For like? Did you know all the ins and outs of creating that world or did the 3D make it a different technical experience?
Yes to the 3D factor. The first Sin City was such an experiment. We weren’t sure what audiences would accept, because it was just completely different. They liked it, so could push it forward and do more what I wanted of the first time.
I always thought A Dame to Kill For was the best book in the series, with the relationship between Eva Lord and Dwight being the highlight.
Josh Brolin and Eva Green just feel right for those roles.
He nails it. He just comes in and nails it. We had so much trouble finding an actor who’s a man’s man and that character, you know? We kept pushing for him. He was one of my first choices, but he wasn’t available. He became available and came down and couldn’t have been better. If we made it a few years ago…it was one of those examples of the timing just being right.
When you go from shooting green screen to worrying about when the sun will go down for a shot, do you miss the soundstage?
The grass is always greener on the other side [Laughs]. When you’re on a green screen constantly you can’t wait to get outside and deal with some natural elements. A great sunny day is perfect, but the control you have on a green screen is just awesome. If it’s hot Texas weather during the summer, though, green screen is the place to be. It kind of depends. We go back and forth. The show has hardly any green screen.
It was interesting to watch the behind-the-scenes for Sin City to discover that a lot of the actors were hardly ever working together. Is that a challenge or do you know the system so well at this point?
[Laughs] Yep. We know the system. The first time was different, because it was one of the first green screen movies. No actors had experienced that at all. It was really different for them. Everyone was great the first time, but they were really fantastic this time.
From Dusk Till Dawn premieres on El Rey on March 11th.