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The Latest Feats From Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, Hollywood’s Stealthiest Innovator

Robert Rodriguez was doing 3-D way before it was cool. Now he’s testing out a whole crop of moviemaking experiments, including “Aroma-Scope” for his latest Spy Kids installment, and a remake of animated fantasy “Heavy Metal.”

The Latest Feats From Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, Hollywood’s Stealthiest Innovator

Robert Rodriguez is like the filmmaker’s version of Cool Record Store Guy. Whatever it is other directors are into now, Rodriguez was into way before anyone else was into it. This whole blockbuster 3-D movie trend? Sure, Rodriguez did that with Spy Kids 3-D, eight years ago. Making a digital flick look like it cost multi-millions a la Zack Snyder and 300? He did that too with Grindhouse–and almost got analog evangelist Quentin Tarantino to convert.

At this years’ Comic Con, Rodriguez, who has his fourth Spy Kids’ flick coming out August 19th (in AromaScope!), just announced a slew of new plans that will push his filmmaking even further, not just with moviemaking, but creative insight, technological wizardry, and standard film production disruption that will keep him in his native Austin, in the theaters, and out of Hollywood hell.

He’s Revamping “Adult” Animation

Rodriguez, who intended to become a cartoonist before going into filmmaking, is returning to his sketchy roots with remakes of Heavy Metal (a 1981 anthology of animated fantasy stories adapted from the magazine of the same name) and Fire and Ice (a 1983 film from animator Ralph Bakshi and the late fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. “Heavy Metal always inspired me. I loved the idea of international artists coming together to show their best work,” says Rodriguez. “I think it’s cool that the fans can be a part of it as well.” Rodriguez, a longtime friend of the Frazetta family, is helping extend the painter’s brand and legacy into other media franchises. Another project will be a museum of original Frazetta paintings in a to-be-determined location in Austin, which the director hopes to open in time for March’s SXSW festival. Meanwhile, the Heavy Metal film, now in pre-production for an Austin shoot, will leave a slot open for an audience-inspired story, gleaned through ideas fans can submit to the Heavy Metal site.

He’s Pushing Film Platforms, Not Hollywood Gimmicks

Rodriguez and AMD, whose microprocessing graphics and server technology he’s used for years, announced a strategic partnership that has the technology firm refining its hardware to improve viewing clarity across platforms and address needs Rodriguez encounters during editing and post-production rendering. “There’s a real sense of ideals shared between Robert and AMD,” says Leslie Sobon, AMD’s VP of global product marketing. “We’re both rebels. We’re very much of a challenger brand in our industry. Robert’s also been very vocal about technology pushing art and facilitating lean productions. We believe in the democratization of art and using technology to achieve that.”

He’s Treating Filmmaking Like a Startup

The number one thing that stands in the way of filmmaker’s creative process is generating cash–without compromising vision. Instead of raising money for each movie, Rodriguez has equity investors funding his eight-month-old Quick Draw Productions: Bold Films’ founder Michel Litvak and OddLot Entertainment founder Gigi Pritzker. “We’ll just keep revolving the money until we have our own equity,” says Rodriquez. “It gives us more freedom, because what usually holds any filmmaker up is waiting for the money. By being our own studio, as soon as the script is ready, we just start shooting it. It lets us focus our energy on the story instead of wrangling money. And we’ll own the films.” And pwn Hollywood. 

[RR Image: Flickr user orayzio]

About the author

Susan Karlin is an award-winning journalist in Los Angeles, covering the nexus of science, technology, and arts, with a fondness for sci-fi and comics. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company, NPR, and IEEE Spectrum, and has written for Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Scientific American, Discover, NY and London Times, and BBC Radio.