Robert Rodriguez & John Fogelman talk El Rey on Comcast
Comcast recently announced it would be launching four new minority-owned networks in the next couple of years. Among those networks is El Rey, proposed by famed Hispanic director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Machete) and John Fogelman, CEO of FactoryMade Ventures. He is more than happy to snag Rodriguez, a known visionary, to help make El Rey into a network that second and third-generation Hispanics can enjoy.
While Rodriguez remained hush-hush on specific plans for the network, he did confirm that it will most likely have everything from reality TV to documentaries to comedy. Fogelman is excited to have the director on board, hoping he can bring the Hispanic audience that has come to know and love him from the big screen to the screen in your living room.
AG: Thank you for taking some time to talk to me about El Rey.
RR: It’s our pleasure.
AG: For the readers, can you briefly explain what El Rey is all about?
RR: Yeah. Well John, tell them how everything came about, the opportunity, the focus, and why it’s the right time for this sort of network.
JF: Does that make sense? Is that okay for you?
AG: Yeah! Of course.
JF: Okay, so about a year ago, my partner and I and our group here at FactoryMade spent quite a bit of time looking at the Census, looking at just how the country’s changing. I don’t know if you saw the Time Magazine cover. It was wild. It was like we couldn’t have… It’s probably the perfect image to even start this story with. We were looking at the Hispanic market and how it’s growing, and you know, then we really got excited when we started looking at how it was being served, in terms of television. Our group had already kind of worked on reformatting pre-existing cable channels. We had Discovery Kids and turned it into The Hub, so we had worked on that quite a bit and we became intoxicated with the idea of doing it once again. So, what happened was, after reading the Census (that said) the Hispanic market became something that was clearly our focus. Then we went to, a lot of our friends who are in the advertising community from the Chief Officer of Proctor & Gamble to people at General Motors, and they all said that the first generation of Hispanics in the US were being served beautifully. They’ve got Univision, they have Telemundo, and now even Fox has announced they’re going to do FoxMundo, but it seemed like there was a huge gap for those people’s kids. So really, the second and third generation Hispanics. We kept on calling them American Latinos which then became really interesting, kind of even creating a deeper view, even looking at the US birth rate. The birth rate was even higher than the immigration rate. It became very clear to us that we wanted to create something just for that market. Robert and I have known each other for 20 years, and so our first thought was, if we were going to do it, there’s only one person to do it with, certainly in this country, and that’s Robert Rodriguez. No one has spoken to that group better than he has. Quite frankly, I think my partner and I really show that Robert’s genius is that he’s actually speaking to the whole world, and kind of letting them in on the secret that American Latinos are super cool. So you’re seeing a lot of different faces in Robert’s movies. We went to Robert and we were you know really excited to prepare for the meeting. We spent, I want to say two months, preparing to sit down with Robert. I put together a 200-page presentation, and by the second page, he lifted up his big, fat cowboy hat and he looked at us and said, “I’m in.” So that’s really how it got there, and now Robert and our group have spent the last year cobbling together, “What would it look like? What would a destination for the American Latinos be like?” And once it’s kind of made something existing already, we’re talking about actually making some for them, which is really exciting. And then I’m going to let Robert talk, because that’s who I know you really want to talk to (laughs). But what’s really exciting is to think that we can make something today in the 2012-era knowing that the American Latinos are over-indexing in social media, we can make something today that can be consumed in lots of different platforms. It doesn’t take long to figure out with Robert’s background, that he’s one of the most early adopters in all of Hollywood. He was the first guy to shoot in digital, first guy to bring back 3-D in the last 20-year period, he just, Robert has no fear in pushing the envelope in what it’s like to enjoy great storytelling. So, it was just such an honor for Chris and I, my partner, to look across the table and there was the genuine article, Robert Rodriguez, joining our little band. For the last year, we’ve been led by Robert, we’ve been calling him “El Jefe,” and he is designing this destination that he’s named El Rey. That’s kind of how we got started.
AG: Makes sense! Well, that sounds great.
RR: For me, basically what the network’s going to be is, if you’ve seen my movies, you’ll get what the network will feel like. In English, with some Spanish, a really iconic character, great character, great story, extremely entertaining. That’s what it’s got to be first. All people want to, certainly need to, be able to want to get this network and watch it because it’s just cool. If you’re Latin, it’s an extra-special thing that you get to see yourself on television, tell stories that don’t get told by regular networks. The place for us all to go, it’s a place to share our experiences with other people, and other people will want to come aboard, it’s because it’s going to be a cool, entertaining place to have the kind of programming you don’t see anywhere else. El Rey is really going to be something we can have a lot of pride in, and a place for a lot of Hispanic storytellers to be able to bring their stories and put them on television.
AG: So John spoke about how it’s this new generation of Latinos and primarily English speaking, so this is going to be an English network, like you said, with some Spanish. I feel like there are some shows out there that want to reach that audience, but there’s always something missing. There’s almost this, I don’t want to say superficiality, about it, but that’s the best word I can think of. What do you think that missing link is, and how do you plan on filling that void?
RR: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, yeah. I think it’s just sometimes when storytelling becomes shows, they’re really exciting and get people talking. I’m known for creating these characters and stories, very iconic characters that people side with, whether it’s Machete or Desperado or Sin City or Spy Kids even, creating these very iconic Latin characters that people want to see when it comes to cool factor. I’m able to get these big actors to be in my movies for very little, because they just want to be part of something different, something exciting, and that’s kind of how I’ve operated all these years. El Rey will be similar. You know, it’s hard to say how we do it, that’s just always the goal and that’s kind of what we usually accomplish. That’s what we want to accomplish with El Rey.
AG: I read that El Rey is going to be filled with reality TV, scripted and animated movies, documentaries, news, comedy, sports, so it sounds like you have all of the bases covered. How do you think you’ll manage such a wide array of genres, and what’s going to be that Latino-specific link between all of them?
RR: Yeah, I mean, we’re kind of just putting everything together, and just to give people an idea of what kind of network it is, we’re giving kind of general categories. We don’t want to have to give away our specific ideas yet, but you just said all the kind of genres that just about everybody has. What’s going to make ours different is how we approach them, how we take each one and spin it on its head and make it something that people are going to want to consume and send to their friends, and clip and YouTube and send out to each other because it’s going to be so different, so daring and so exciting.
AG: Speaking of social media, do you have any plans for a sort of El Rey social media campaign leading up to the release in 2014?
RR: Yeah! John, want to let them know…
JF: Yeah, I was going to say, we’re spending a lot of time, we have some friends at Facebook, so we’re spending a lot of time figuring out how… You know, it’s one thing to look at social media as kind of a nice publicity machine, but we actually think it also can lend itself to being a platform to consume entertainment. So, we’re hoping, we don’t know exactly how to do it yet, we’re experimenting right now, on “How would we provide the El Rey experience also on so many social platforms?” So, I think that we don’t want to look back and feel as if we could have created this channel the way we’re creating it as if it was 1980. We want to know that we always took advantage of the understanding of what are all the worlds that people are using to entertain themselves? And social media is a very big part of everyone’s lives today. So, we want to capture some of that, and we want to kind of instill in the DNA of El Rey, some of the gist of these new forms of entertainment. And there’s no one better to kind of really have the courage to kind of push that envelope than Robert. So it’s really such an amazing opportunity for us to have him as a leader on this thing. I think that it’s important that Robert doesn’t, in a way, too many of his plans, but you can expect that he’s really, as he’s really engineering the world of El Rey, one should not be surprised that it will not look like, you know, let’s say, it will not look and it will not feel like a first generation Hispanic channel.
AG: Robert, if you could answer one last question for me, I know you don’t want to give away your plans, but can you tell us anyone that you’re planning on working with? Any specific Latino public figures or fellow directors and writers you can let us know about?
RR: Oh, I mean, you can probably figure out the usual suspects by looking at my movies (laughs). But I think, I have some like that, but also some people that I’ve worked with at Newcastle, I think I’ve worked with just about everybody there. I’ve been talking to them and they’re all very excited about contributing to the network.
AG: Well thank you both for taking the time to speak with me, I really appreciate it.
JF: Our pleasure. Thank you!