The Tim Ferris Show: The “Wizard” of Hollywood, Robert Rodriguez

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Listen Here, Podcast Score: 8/10 Microphones

On Creativity

  • Creativity is not job specific. Technical of any job is 10%, 90% is creativity. You can do any other job pretty well without experience if you have creativity down
    • You need to give yourself permission to let creativity flow, don’t let your ego in the way
    • Trust it will be there when you don’t know (trust first and then it will happen)
    • There is no line between work and play when you embrace creativity in everything what you do (even a business call can be made creative)
  • You only get the idea once you start, you can’t wait for inspiration to hit. “Sooner you shut up, the sooner it’ll come through”
  • If you spend 4 hours a day on anything, you’re gonna get pretty freakin good. Even if you have zero talent”
    • At some point it will happen everywhere, even in other areas of creativity
  • Avatar Crew Shirts: “Hope is not a strategy, failure is not an option, luck is not a factor”
  • Making the best of what looks like problems, nothing always goes according to plan
    • Limitations push you to be creative, Robert purposely creates limitations (not enough money, time, etc.) to create a spark/life to the movie
    • The Clocktower seen at end of Back to The Future was actually to make up for the fact the studio refused budget for a bigger/more spectacular ending
  • Low budget filming/Bootstrapping Movie Making
    • Previously won some festivals with 8 min shorts for a few hundred dollars
    • Funding by enrolling in late stage in hospital clinical trials for extra cash ($7k) to fund El Mariachi
      • He even was part of a Lipitor clinical trial
      • They pay for time and your living costs during the trial
      • Assumed the title would ensure nobody would buy it
    • Done in Spanish to get some practice on learning all the jobs and to build a demo real, but ultimately put out by Columbia pictures and won the Sundance Audience Award
      • Cold called ICM to speak with Robert Newman, sent him the shorts and El Mariachi trailer and he loved it
      • Game changer for Sundance once he explained that you can make a movie with $7k not a full studio, you just need a good idea and drive – it’s been flooded with entries ever since
    • El Mariachi was just a test to try a first film to learn what does/doesn’t work
    • Rebel Without A Crew: Book about making of El Mariachi
    • Then all of sudden he had to deliver on being a feature film director/writer
    • Started with remaking El Mariachi as Desperado with Antonio Banderas
    • “I don’t mind failing, I just don’t like failing in front of a lot of other people”
    • “Be naïve, stay naïve”
    • Jack Ma (Alibaba): “We have a couple of advantages when we started. We has no experience, no money and no plan. So every dollar we spent, we had to consider very very carefully”
    • Freedom of limitations: By putting yourself in a box (like 4 Rooms with Quentin Tarrantino) it is more exciting/creative
      • Limit time, money to still deliver and retain your creative freedom
      • Spend more money and then the money people get to tell you what to do
    • Surround yourself with masters in other creative areas (e.g. painters, sculptures)
      • Robert brings in creative just to be around actors between scenes, teach them to paint, etc.
    • “The things they fire you for when you’re young is the stuff they give you lifetime achievement awards when you’re old” – Francis Ford Coppola
    • Going against the grain / Good not to follow the heard
      • Where everyone else: It’s too much competition (Peter Thiel would agree… )
      • “You are going to stumble, but you’re gonna stumble upon something that nobody has come up with”
      • Failure is a good thing, it’s how you learn and go into unchartered territory
      • You need to break precedent early in life/career/job to give you options
      • Robert does all his posters, editing, directing, etc.
    • Books: Start With WhyLearn to sell by starting with why someone should listen to you
      • How Robert successful recruited big names for low budget movies and Frank Miller’s approval to make Sin City (graphic novel version)
      • You know when something means something to you when you find yourself buying, reading, watching, etc. it over and over again (this is how Robert new Sin City was what he wanted to work on)
      • Visual storytelling is visual storytelling, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Graphic Novel, a movie or something else


  • Tim: Handwritten notes can be scanned and sent to Evernote, and then are searchable online
  • Robert has been journaling since college, at first in a day planner (to do’s on the left, what you did on the right)
    • Noticed not much was getting done, so he kept adding to the left and started getting a lot more done on the right
  • All notes by computer, try write something down every day
    • Allows you to go back and really see what happened
    • Searchable by date
  • 1-2k pages per year, a few pages for day
  • You’ll forget everything if you don’t write it down (especially for parents)
    • With a journal, looking back it is even better the second time
    • But don’t get trapped in nostalgia all the time or you’ll never progress in your current life
  • Tim’s mom recorded everything she told him while visiting Japan, includes tons of info he doesn’t remember

Daily Habits:

  • Notes function on phone to track things to do because it’s just really fast
  • Try workout in the morning, 10/11ish
  • Breakfast: Plant Fusion Protein (25g of protein), beans, cauliflower rice/kale
  • Do some writing
  • Limit meetings to a couple of day blocks, rather than spread out during the week
  • If you just chip away a little on your projects, you gain momentum on all of them

On Parenting

  • Separate to do list for kids
  • Things to tell them, show them, or do
  • When we hang out, it’s a concise dense experience so I don’t forget what to share with them

El Rey Network (owned by Robert):

  • 40 million homes (Comcast, Direct TV, COX, Sling TV, etc.)
  • New networks usually don’t make new shows for years, just license old shows
    • But he created Directors Chair, Dusk Till Dawn series, etc. as you need exclusive content to attract viewers
    • The Director’s Chair: Robert interviews other major directors as a window into their processes/approaches
      • It shows the Directors also don’t know, have doubts, etc. – you just have to act and get out of your own you. You just have to start
    • Curated content: Kung Fu, genre films, the great ones
  • You can have business success and be miserable in personal, but I’m loving it and get to have both
  • I get to teach my kids lessons I wish I knew when I was their age

On Success:

  • My Dad: entrepreneur, 10 kids, sold cookware door-to-door – allowed him to work towards a goal rather than a salary regardless of effort
  • 5 brothers all have their own businesses, no one wanted to work for anyone else, it’s in the DNA
  • I’m inspired by stories of people finding another way to go
  • Cultivate your instincts, and know when it does and does not serve you
  • If you have this, you are never stressed, you don’t have to be
  • Everything can be seen in a positive/learning light if you choose to look at it that way
    • Take the good out of anything, look to learn from the bad things and it won’t stress you

Fan Questions:

  • What is 1 thing people don’t realize about filmmaking until they do it? – How much work it is
    • It separates the doers from don’t-ers – either inspired by it, or know it’s not for them
  • What do you have in common with main characters in your movies?
    • Pieces in me in all of them, kind of rule breakers, have loner attitude and have a greater cause
    • Sky Kids is like my family, same dynamic
  • What are you geeking out on right now?
  • What are filmmakers getting better/worse at?
    • Utilizing technology/communication via internet to get exposure for proofs of concepts to get noticed by studios
    • Losing knowledge of the old editing system and knowing just how much better it is
    • “The technology is not the art form” – kids today know that, not a slave to tradition
    • Not embracing a technology early enough is a mistake

Tim Q’s

  • What advice would you give to your 30 year old self:
    • Any advice I give to my kids
    • Be more self-aware
    • But being naïve and not knowing can be the best gift, it’s better not to know
    • We all know what we should do, we just don’t always do it

1 ask/request to listeners: Live as creatively as possible, into everything

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