Yesterday in Day 1 of Nerdist’s exclusive production diary of the scripted series Matador, I mentioned that there is nothing like being on a Robert Rodriguez set. It’s a true statement. The atmosphere is creative and relaxed, everyone works very hard and very fast, and the cast and crew seems to actually enjoy one another’s company. What goes into facilitating a production experience like this? We talked to the people on and off-camera to find out.
As I’ve already mentioned, guitars are everywhere on set. In between takes people are strumming or or tuning, constantly creating. At one point director Robert Rodriguez excuses himself from our conversation because production had a question for him about the blood and the meat. As in, real meat that was being used as a prop. It was pretty cool.
For the cast and crew who have worked on big franchise films or large network TV shows where there are a lot of rules, are the players of Matador embracing the creative atmosphere?
According to series co-creator Roberto Orci, he loves it, and a lot of that spirit that creative spirit flowing on set is thanks to Rodriguez. Said Orci, “The discovery and the surprise and the joy of doing something with El Rey is that the lunatics are finally running the asylum and so that’s why you’ll see a lot of guitars – by the way, this is the first day I’ve brought mine, I just heard there were so many guitars around I didn’t want to show up without my gun, without my axe! And Robert just creates that environment around him. It’s just a very warm, friendly play. It’s play, no one wants to feel like they’re working and on Matador and with El Rey it’s just been play.”
Star Gabriel Luna agreed, sharing his first experiences with Rodriguez, both on and off-set. “The first day or actually the second day of the shoot, I brought my guitar and I saw him, like a moth to a flame just go to it.” Luna continued explaining his first experience with the director long before being cast in Matador. “I’ve seen him [Rodriguez] play music and I’ve talked to him briefly and I never really let on that I was in the industry and just because I’m sure he hears that all the time, you know? And I always felt that if it was meant to be, it would come about. But now being here with him and seeing the type of person he was and I learned a lot about him through his book, of course, which I re-read once I got this part and he just really has this great gift of foresight. He knows what he wants to see and he never stops working.”
Rodriguez, who is known for his make-it-work attitude and creating huge products on tiny budgets, agrees that the atmosphere on his sets are, indeed, not the norm in Hollywood where Matador is shooting. “In my studio in Austin we have a painting room so if this was the stage… it kind of keeps the creativity up so that you’re not just vegging out our reading emails in between and then, ‘Oh! Now I have to go be creative.’ You know, you try and keep yourself creative, in that creative space, that makes things easier to jump right back into it and then you walk onto the set and you can solve creative problems easier because you’ve already been solving problems creatively even in your off time. It really helps, you’re really warmed up.”
Matador, created by Roberto Orci, Dan Dworkin, Jay Beattie and Andrew Orci and starring Gabriel Luna, Alfred Molina, Nicky Whelan and Neil Hopkins, premieres on the El Rey Network on July 15, with the first episode being directed by network founder Robert Rodriguez.