Texas-born Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is used to launching his talents into pioneering projects that have no guarantee of success. His first feature film, El Mariachi (1992), was made with a budget of $7,000 and went on to garner the Audience award at Sundance Film Festival and $2 million at the boxoffice. His subsequent films – including vampire epic From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), which introduced Salma Hayak, Spy Kids (2001) and its sequels and soon-to-be-released Sin City – have elevated Rodriguez into the mainstream of contemporary moviemakers. It is therefore newsworthy that Rodriguez is now diving into a total void as founder and chairman of brand new TV provider, El Rey Network, making its debut with a new series, based on From Dusk Till Dawn, debuting Tuesday, March 11 (9 pm ET/PT).
Rodriguez admits he couldn’t pass up the opportunity in 2011 when Comcast Corporation began soliciting proposals for minority owned networks. “When this opportunity came up to have a network, I jumped at it.,” says Rodriguez. “I had a full film career, but I was excited to explore this different frontier. Personally, I have five kids, English‑speaking Hispanic‑Americans, who don’t see themselves represented in television. I thought this was an opportunity to build something that hadn’t been done before – create a mainstream network that also catered to the growing English‑speaking Hispanic audience. That’s what I’ve been doing through my whole film career.”
This filmmaker from San Antonio also expresses a desire to create a place that would be a home for emerging artists – diverse filmmakers, artists, writers, actors – a place that they could come to create and share their sensibilities and have a direct pipeline into people’s homes.
Rodriguez has a third reason for launching El Rey, which is kind of selfish – in a good way. He reveals, “I always had a personal television network at home. I had a hard drive for years that had all my favorite shows and movies and trailers and short films. And I would program it on a VLC list, like a playlist. And I would just have it playing. It was very soothing just to see my favorite things playing. People would come by and say, ‘What’s that?’ And I’d tell them, ‘That’s my own personal television network.’ And it was a joke, but it was actually really kind of cool.”
This new television executive did not ponder much on what should be the debut show on El Rey. “I believe From Dusk Till Dawn will be a great way to introduce us to the audience and bring them to the network. It was one of my favorite movies but there was so much more that I wanted to explore. My original movie, based on Quentin Tarantino’s script, took place in this bar in Mexico. I delved a little deeper into Mesoamerican mythologies and Aztec and Mayan mythologies, where a vampire culture could have existed. It was fascinating stuff that I only hinted at it in the movie. So, I really wanted to go back and enrich that whole experience. If the film was the short story, this series is the novel.”
Moving forward in its programming following 13-episode From Dusk Till Dawn, El Rey is offering the premiere of Matador (dates TBA), created by writer/producer Bob Orci, who with his business partner, Alex Kurtzman are responsible for FOX TV’s Sleepy Hollow. Newcomer Gabriel Luna (NCIS: Los Angeles) has been cast in the lead role playing opposite Nicky Whelan (Chosen). Series production starts at the end of March.
Moving to sports programming, El Rey is teaming with successful reality television producer Mark Burnett to build a new sports franchise and a number of shows around Lucha Libre, reinventing Mexico’s popular wrestling sport for a U.S. audience. Rodriguez has also partnered with FactoryMade Ventures executives John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa to facilitate El Rey’s outreach to Latino audiences, establishing its status as an English-language general entertainment network with relevant reality and scripted programming that encompasses animated series, movies, documentaries, news, music, comedy and sports programming.
Rodriguez sums by declaring, “So, I guess I have my own personal television network, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.”