Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is the embodiment of what can be accomplished by embracing the DIY aesthetic. Armed with a $7,000 budget, he made the full-length movie “El Mariachi” (1992), serving as writer, producer, director, cinematographer, editor and special effects rigger. The film scored a distribution deal with Columbia Pictures, and he parlayed it into a high-profile Hollywood career, accumulating a long list of credits that includes “From Dusk to Dawn” and the “Sin City” and “Spy Kids” franchises, while continuing to wear multiple creative hats, including sound re-recording mixer and visual effects supervisor.
Now, Rodriguez is doing his part to bring that type of opportunity to the masses with The People’s Network, a new digital platform launched last week by his English-language cable entertainment channel El Rey Network. Designed as an outlet for people to showcase their talents through artwork, ideas and short films, it kicks off with The Epic Summer Movie Contest, sponsored by Corona Extra, which calls on fans to design the ultimate movie poster, illustrating how they embrace summer.
“For years, young creatives and filmmakers have been approaching Robert, asking for a way into ‘the system,’” said Kurt Volk, VP and creative director of El Rey Network, in an email to VideoInk. “These are people who don’t know anyone in Hollywood, who have no connections, but who have fresh, creative ideas and just need a way to get their foot in the door. The People’s Network was Robert’s way of connecting these people with more established creators and providing a platform for their work to be seen.”
Rodriguez (pictured, left) and his Austin, Texas-based creative collective will determine the winning artist, and he or she will be featured in promos that will run on El Rey Network and its social channels, and receive a trip for two to Cancun, Mexico. Submissions are being accepted through www.elreynetwork.com through August 9. The winner will be announced in late summer.
It’s not Rodriguez’s first brand-sponsored talent contest. Last year, he teamed with Mountain Dew on Green Label Studios: Open Call, an online filmmaking contest to find new talent for Green-Label.com, a youth culture-focused digital media hub from Mountain Dew and Complex Media. The grand prize winner Nathan Bell was awarded a $250,000 production grant.
With The People’s Network, Rodriguez now has an ongoing platform for talent discovery and promotion.
“You never know what will bubble up,” Volk said. “We’d love to eventually take content that resonates with audiences digitally and give them a platform on our linear network.”
With today’s wealth of affordable video technology and online distribution platforms like YouTube, it’s easy for anybody to make and distribute a movie. Opinions vary as to whether it’s resulting in a creative renaissance or an avalanche of visual dreck. Volk believes it’s the former.
“It’s absolutely a creative renaissance,” Volk said. “I wouldn’t say that the advent of the typewriter created a glut of bad fiction. It takes time and effort to make a work of art, whether it be a feature film, an animated short or a novel.