Alvaro Rodriguez is the pen behind a border-set exploitation film, a frenetic kids’ movie and a vampire western, among others.
Rodriguez co-wrote the screenplay for this year’s hit movie, Machete, as well as 2009’s Shorts, and 1999’s From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter. An avid movie buff, he is also presenting classic Mexican movies at film festivals this fall in the Rio Grande Valley, where he grew up and now lives.
Rodriguez, a University of Texas at Austin graduate, worked as a newspaper reporter before embarking on his screenwriting career. He is a cousin of Robert Rodriguez, who directed El Mariachi, Grindhouse, and Spy Kids.
Q: How has the success of Machete and other Rodriguez films helped other Hispanics? Will this encourage Hollywood to look at more Hispanic screenwriters?
A: Machete was a moderate success — it certainly created a buzz and looks to spawn a sequel or two, so that’s a positive thing. I’m hopeful that it will encourage more Latino-driven movies to be made, and frankly, they’re out there and they’re coming soon. I don’t attribute that to Machete itself, but to the time being right for more Latino-themed stories and Latino storytellers getting recognition and making films. I think you also have to acknowledge the success of the Spy Kids series of films that Robert wrote and directed as something that opened doors and made entry seem possible.
Q: What can be done to encourage more Hispanic screenwriters?
A: The most encouraging thing for young Hispanic writers and screenwriters out there right now is knowing that a market exists for their work and it is the mainstream. Look at the films we’ve had this year — everything from Lionsgate’s No Eres Tu, Soy Yo to Chris Weisz’s A Better Life, not to mention the success of shows like Modern Family. There is a market for these stories out there, and there are new voices coming to the table all the time. It’s important, too, to tell a good story. “Write what you know” isn’t physical advice but emotional — tell a story with a deeper sense of your own personality and voice.
Q: What Hispanic authors/books have inspired/influenced you?
A: I appreciate stories that are tapestries, labyrinths and sometimes seemingly simple tales that hide a deeper truth, everything from Jorge Luis Borges to Dagoberto Gilb, from Juan Rulfo to Oscar Casares. I recently read a book of bilingual short stories written by David Bowles and Angelica Maldonado, The Seed (Absey and Co, 2011), which was very rich and personal. I’m editing a book of border-set “noir” stories to be published by Valley Artistic Outreach in 2012. Also, I’m presenting a classic Mexican film from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema in September at the Cinesol Film Festival and at the Museum of South Texas History in October — another rich vein of fascinating material from which to gain inspiration and insight. Hispanic writers can gain so much by looking south of the border to the art and literature of Mexico and beyond. The issues and ideas those writers and filmmakers are exploring have so many correlations to what we experience and what inspires us today.