Robert Rodriguez Made His First Film For $7K, And Just Did It Again With ‘Red 11’

“When you strip everything away on purpose, creativity comes in abundance.”

By Laura RiceMarch 11, 2019 1:21 pm

San Antonio native and current Austin resident Robert Rodriguez made his first film, “El Mariachi,” in the early ’90s for under $10K.

“I got so much out of that first experience. It’s why I think I’m still around, even as a filmmaker – the things I learned by being your own crew,” Rodriguez says.

His later films, including “Desperado,” the “Spy Kids” movies and “Sin City,” had much bigger budgets. But Rodriguez produced his latest film, “Red 11,” for the same amount as his first film: just $7,000. The film will debut at the South by Southwest festival this week.

“I was really interested in doing it again for myself, to not just experience it, but also, this time, to document it,” Rodriguez says.

The film is party autobiographical, about a time when Rodriguez was young and signed up to be a subject in a medical research program in order to pay for his first film. He says he wanted “Red 11” to capture that time, but to also be a thriller. He had a documentary crew follow along during the filming of “Red 11.” Then, he turned their footage into a docuseries he’s hoping to stream along with the movie, most likely on his El Rey television network – a network he created to inspire would-be filmmakers.

“You will not believe the movie you’re seeing, even after you’ve seen how it’s done,” Rodriguez says. “It becomes something else.”

Photo courtesy of Troublemaker Studios

The official "Red 11" movie poster.

Looking back, Rodriguez says making his first movie on such a limited budget taught him not just lessons about filmmaking but also about life and creativity, in general.

“There really was something magical about that process I stumbled upon back in the day out of necessity. When you strip everything away on purpose, creativity comes in abundance.”

Also in this interview, Rodriguez talks about:

– The new “golden age” of Mexican cinema

– His passion for training a diverse, up-and-coming group of filmmakers

– A movie he’s working on that will be released in about 100 years

Listen to the audio in the player above to hear more.

Written by Laura Rice.