The "Wizard" of Hollywood, Robert Rodriguez (#98)

Robert Rodriguez, nicknamed "The Wizard."
Robert Rodriguez, nicknamed “The Wizard.”

Robert Rodriguez (@Rodriguez) is a film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor, and musician. He is also the founder and chairman of El Rey Network, the new genre-busting English-language cable network.

While a student at the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, Rodriguez wrote the script for his first feature film while he was a paid subject in a clinical experiment at a drug research facility. That paycheck covered the cost of shooting his film.

The film, “El Mariachi,” went on to win the coveted Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, and became the lowest budget movie ever released by a major studio. Rodriguez wrote about these experiences in Rebel Without a Crew, a perennial guide for the independent filmmaker.

Rodriguez went on to write, produce, and direct a series of successful films including, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, the Spy Kids franchise, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Frank Miller’s Sin City, and Machete, among many others.

I hope you find listening to this episode as enjoyable as it was to record.

The "Wizard" of Hollywood, Robert Rodriguez (#98)

Want to hear another podcast with another award-winning movie maker? — Listen to my conversation with Brian Koppelman, co-writer/producer of Rounders, The Illusionist & Ocean’s Thirteen. In this episode, we explore how he got started, how he handles rejection, his big breaks, his creative process, and much more.

Ep. 10: Brian Koppelman, co-writer/producer of Rounders, Ocean's Thirteen, The Illusionist, etc.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what was the result? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


Selected Links from the Episode

Twitter: @ElReyNetwork | @Rodriguez | @DuskElRey | @LuchaElRey

Show Notes

  • How does Robert go about journaling? [05:04]
  • How does Robert keep moral high when working with a crew? [13:29]
  • Being creative on set [14:31]
  • “What clicked” that allowed Robert to be truly creative [15:57]
  • Embracing the creative process “in the moment” [19:28]
  • The amazing story of how El Mariachi was financed? [21:41]
  • What was the story behind El Mariachi getting released by Columbia? [24:45]
  • How to maintain the creative mindset once resources are no longer a creative driver [35:22]
  • How cartooning helped creative endeavors? [39:53]
  • The strange reason Robert changed the name of his production company to Troublemaker Studios [44:11]
  • What book does Robert most frequently gift to other people? [55:35]
  • The Directors Guild, Frank Miller, Sin City & the ‘Special Guest Director’ [57:41]
  • Why setting precedents are important [1:09:59]
  • How Robert spends his downtime [1:14:38]
  • Why was Robert so keen to make the movie Sin City? [1:19:54]
  • What does the first 60 minutes of Roberts’ day look like? [1:26:29]
  • Robert’s TV network, El Rey [1:32:52]
  • What is Robert geeking out on right now? [1:51:56]
  • Tips for early stage filmmakers [1:54:37]
  • What advice does Robert have for his 30-year-old self? [1:58:39]
  • Robert’s one request of you, the listener. [2:01:07]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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68 Replies to “The "Wizard" of Hollywood, Robert Rodriguez (#98)”

  1. Tim,

    I’m only 20 minutes in, but this is excellent. I love his journaling ideas, as I see memory as arguably the most valuable asset in your life. What’s the point of anything if you can’t remember it? Anyways, looking forward to the rest of this. Love this podcast!

    1. Had the exact same thought, Josh. Setting up a routine today to make sure I put more journaling notes into Evernote.

      Tim, keep it. Hands down, the best podcast out there!

  2. Thanks Tim to opening up access in such depth to such an array of exceptionally interesting people for all of us!

    1. The rebel without crew, we need more men like this. It really takes a lot to do such risk taking steps. Keep it up Mr.Wizard!

  3. Pure gold! Thank you Tim for asking great questions, doing good research and putting up together another awesome episode. These movie directors are golden! One man to keep close eye on who’s blowing up is Ashley Thorp who did

    Mr. Rodriguez thanks for coming on for the show”. Your insights and encouragement hit the spot in volume and gave me the needed push 🙂 Can’t wait to read your new book on creativity when it comes out and promote it. Thanks for putting out so much and kicking major butt in the movie biz!

    If you’re in Wellington let me know how I can be of service to you in any way possible 🙂

  4. This was by far one of the very best interviews on Tim’s podcast yet. Rodriguez is incredibly creative and inspiring. Can’t wait to share this with my husband. Taking tons of notes.

  5. Awesome show Tim, always love the new insights from awesome, successful people that I may never have noticed before.

    As for your question of the day; the biggest risk I have taken so far was traveling to Seoul, South Korea alone and living there for my fall semester of my senior year at college. I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know anyone there, it was a huge leap into the unknown.

    It was one of the best decisions of my life. In Korea, I learned that if you treat someone as a good friend from the start, they will respond in kind. I learned that no matter where you grew up in the world, we are only as different as we perceive ourselves to be. Language isn’t a barrier– it’s an excuse, just trying to communicate will fetch much better results than originally thought. I realized that most people are good and most expectations are bad; there’s no better feeling than doing things you want to do with cool people you care about, (even if you only just met them!) Travel is certainly the great equalizer I think.

    Can’t wait to see who’s going to be the next person interviewed. ^^

  6. Unbelievable guest! I just mentioned Robert Rodriguez on my blog not long ago. His book Rebel Without A Crew inspired me to start journaling nearly 20 years ago… a habit that has changed my life since.

    Thanks Tim for having him as a guest, and thanks Robert for 20 years of movies, commentaries, and for inspiring me to write.

    1. I hadn’t yet listened to the podcast when I commented this morning on Mr Rodriguez inspiring me to journal. I figured it to be an obscure, rare and personal experience… but then you guys open with that very same discussion! I’m torn. Maybe my experience wasn’t so rare and personal after all (my life has been an illusion), but I’m also glad others may have been inspired as well. It’s strange having just written about this on my site a couple weeks ago. Like getting a song that you haven’t heard in years stuck in your head… then a day later, there it is on the radio. Thanks again to both you and Robert for another great podcast.

  7. I really look forward to listening to this interview today. Rebel Without A Crew was like the bible while working in low budget Hollywood. to borrow a wheelchair instead of renting a very expensive camera dolly? Brilliant!

  8. The biggest risk I have taken is selling my house and moving into an RV full time to go to school. Results are in progress, but so far it has been one of the most liberating experiences. I bike 9 miles to school everyday, my monthly bills are below 2000 $ and that’s without going truly minimal on that.

    I even bought a nice RV and have a payment! It’s definitely the way to go, even though it was a huge risk. I had to use The Four Hour Workweek for sure on that decision.

    Thanks Tim

  9. Listening right now to Rodriguez which is another great interview, partly because, Tim, you’re getting better and better all the time, you’re shaping the conversation as needed, but you’re also out of the way. And more and more, from one interview to the next, when you show up in the conversation, you sound fully engaged; you’re listening, you sound relaxed, you’re not just reading from a list of questions.

    Rodriguez brought one of my Whys out into stark relief: Needing to know that this is a world in which creativity is a means to thrive and a way of life, not an unfortunate attribute that you just make other sacrifices to exercise. This goes beyond the creativity for coming up with, say, a new app, which has a clear niche, but creativity that takes forms you can’t predict, and in uses you can’t define beforehand. Creativity as an existential stance in the face of what seems inexorably practical.

  10. BIGGEST RISK – Selling a junk Fiat for $400 in May, using all the money to buy a ticket from Boston to Paris, leaving a master’s degree half completed, and finding work as a carpenter in a small village in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Why? A woman of course. I had no plan B.

    I packed a box of winter clothes, and told my mom to ship them if I wasn’t home by September. I found an excellent job in my field of study in Geneva, though I didn’t have a work permit, so lived the life of an “illegal alien” for nearly a year until it came through. I stayed 4 years and finished my degree via independent study.

    It taught me to set a goal, burn your bridges and take chances. Since then, I’ve lived all over and rarely found a job before quitting my current one. I’ve just decided where I want to go and do it. I’m nearing retirement now, and have a great life, in part because I avoid debt and take 10 weeks of vacation each year. Unheard of for an American, right?

    You should have me on your show. I might have some useful insights for younger people.

  11. Answering your question of the day:

    Biggest Risk:

    Releasing my piano/singer-songwriter music in a 4 Seasons Series of CDs last year even though I didn’t nail the sound yet (it was a learning experience–¡como Robert y El Mariachi!)

    The Results:

    – It plunged me through my songwriting plateau & I instantly wrote my whole next project (which I’m in love with working on now),

    – I defined the Critical Few in the independent musician process & made hilarious mistakes I’ll never make again,

    – & I finally (finally, finally, finally) developed my voice (“finding your voice” is a thing in the singing world.)

    – It also magnetically attracted an uncannily-perfect group of people to form my project team–so now I’m able to help college interns in Pittsburgh with my entrepreneur/music projects.

    Everything just fell into place when I stopped wasting time doubting it and just started doing it. This interview with Robert is spot-on perfect for explaining the reality of this concept.

    Yeah, Tim, this interview was killer—my mental health is improved daily when I listen to your interviews in my cubicle at my corporate dayjob. Thank you so freaking much.


  12. + One of my favorite episodes ever! Amazing. +

    Sweet Quote from this episode.

    “I’m gonna do that for all my movies now. I want all of them to not have enough money not enough time so that we’re forced to be more creative because that’s going to give it something, a spark, that you can’t manufacture, and people will tap into it…”

  13. Tim

    You NEED to have Robert read “Rebel without a Crew” audiobook. Be so awesome!

    Also, when is the 4HWK movie coming out? Robert is the 80/20 rule in real life. LOVE the this interview.

  14. Hey Tim. Just started the book and I am ready to climb Everest twice. I wanted to know can you instruct me on how to find the calculator so that I can complete the Dreamliner exercise? Thanks

  15. I’ve listened to a few different podcasts thus far, and this one was the most life altering for me. I’ve never really heard of Robert before this, but he is full of many wise words that force you to want to take action and be creative.

    Once I started this interview I couldn’t stop. It’s not often I can say that. Thanks again Tim for all that you do. I was so excited and moved by this podcast that I couldn’t hold it in and told some of my friends because I thought I’d be doing them a disservice if I didn’t.


    Chris S

  16. Tim! This is by far one the most inspiring interviews I ever heard you do. Robert Rodriguez brings so much to the table and it’s so in line with what you do. I just graduated from film school last year so you guys are pure fuel!! Thanks so much.

  17. Another one to add to my favorites! As a recent graduate and sound designer trying to elbow his way into the industry, this podcast, along with a great experience last week, has really set me back into the hustle to make it happen. I’ve also been meaning to start journaling and this definitely pushed me to just do it… and I got a couple pages down in no time. Thanks Tim!

  18. Howdy,

    i continue to simply love your Podcast! Robert has to be one of the coolest people in the planet. Journaling as a must for parents really got me, remember finding 1 or 2 pages worth of journal-entries from my dad when he passed and how much i cherish those. And living a creative life has to be the most important choice to make. Thanks so much for all this goodness!

    Was wondering: which plant-based protein powder was Robert talking about?

    Best and love,


  19. really great to hear you interview Robert, I recently saw a great class from him on YouTube (if the link does not show look for “Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez talks about “El Rey,” his upcoming new cable channel” published by Moody College of Communication

    Covers some of the same ground but goes a bit more in depth about the creativity aspects and habits to cultivate. When watching this I remember thinking “would be great if Tim did an interview of this guy!” Wish granted!

    Had the same thought when reading Scott Adams, was really pleased to hear that you will have Scott on soon!

    I think Scott Adams really succeeded in designing his life and has some great non-obvious advice to share about success.

    His book “How to fail at almost anything and still win big” does not seem to be doing as well, which is a pity! I feel it really is a gem if you are open-minded enough to look at life from a different viewpoint.

    Would be great if you could touch on that book and look into his “systems vs. goals” philosophy and his ideas on the causality between passionsuccess

    He seems to be the first to admit that he was lucky, but he put himself in a position to be as lucky as possible!

    He also detailed an interesting approach to health and personal energy which seems really pragmatic!

    1. I saw this talk one a while back. I really cringed when in the end that girl asks Rodriguez for an internship. You get one question with Rodriguez and you use it on something you’ll definitely not get.

  20. Rebel without a Crew was very inspirational to me early in my filmmaking career. Now 23 years later, I continuously recommend that book to others getting started…

    My biggest risk to date was quitting a 6 figure job as a corporate video producer in April to pursue my own path as an independent producer/photographer/filmmaker. So far, it’s paying off. I work a bit harder and longer than I did before, but feel more fulfilled in the work I am doing, the freedom I have to set my schedule, and my overall quality of life. While it’s not the 4-hour work week style, the work I am doing I am passionate about, the people I work with are just as passionate, and, being in control, I can decide what clients I want to work for.

  21. What a treat! Robert and Tim in one podcast. Listened to it twice already! Thank you so much! Loved so many things about this podcast from living a creative life to ‘never mind i’ll do it myself productions’. Very inspiring to listen during an important but slightly mundane work day in my own business.

    Best episode this far I have to say and I immediately recommended it to my best friends.

    I have cooked both Puerco Pibil and Breakfast Tacos many times. I hope to get the texas style bbq constructed also so we can experiment with the recipe.

  22. Thank you for this podcast! It was great to hear a filmmaker’s perspective. As a working mom another person I would be fascinated to hear you interview is Jessica Alba about her company, Honest. Just throwing it out there!

  23. Hi Tim,

    Just wanted to say I’m a big fan of your podcast and blog. I think the greatest thing about what you do is giving your audience something new – new ideas, new websites, new semi famous entrepreneurs that aren’t covered by the mainstream.

    I was wondering if you ever thought about bringing to awareness someone that isn’t super successful, crazy talented but a normal every day worker bee? I may be rare in how I think, but I believe everyone deserves their 15 minutes or 30 minutes of fame and with you being very down to earth thought you’d be open to it. I’m thinking about members of your audience who are wanting to add massive value to their communities through being a business owner but may struggle relating to the many of the A Listers you bring on. It’s human nature to place more importance and attention to those at the top yet there are many who are a few notches below that are doing just fine and also have great advice to give. Just a thought.


  24. Listen to all the Tim Ferriss show podcasts and while all are good for their content, this episode was also amazingly entertaining. I’ve heard of Robert Rodriquez before but didn’t realize just how prolific he is and the breathe of the interview was awesome. I know the journaling was discussed with Robert but I’d like to know how much time he generally takes on a daily basis with the self recording.

  25. This is one of my favorite podcast episodes. As an artist myself, there were many things Robert said that I related to, especially about how artists think. I love how he has actors paint between scenes. When I’m working on a new piece of art, I get totally tripped up when I have to switch gears to something other than a creative process. And, I love his take on “failure,” I’ve had some epic failures in my life, but they led to who I am today and I feel pretty great about that.

  26. One of my favorite podcasts to date! I love how humble and rebellious he is but without airs or ego. “I’m there to learn, not to win.” is really a great quote to hang above your computer. I deal with huge discouragement when it comes to getting support from others and so I especially enjoyed the “Never mind, I’ll do it myself” productions. Ha ha!

  27. Great podcast. My book recommendation: I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven.

    It’s a super simple story, lyrical and carves the most important things in life back to their bare bones.

  28. Loved this episode. What a great reminder that you don’t have to follow the mold, which is what I’ve learned from Tim since I first read 4HWW.


    Honestly I have been risk averse my entire life, so nothing crazy to report. I did land a really good job as a programmer a couple years ago. I was freelancing from home at the time, making about 60% of what they were offering me. I ended up passing on the job. I just wasn’t ready to give up the independent life. Here I am, two years later, still freelancing and making less than what they offered. But I have my independence and my time to work on all of the projects and businesses that will hopefully pay off big someday.

  29. Tim – you used to have transcripts of your interviews (which was great) any reason why that stopped or am I just missing it? Great interview btw cheers

  30. Worth listening to for just this one simple (and oh-so-true) comment from Mister Rodriguez:

    “Creativity isn’t job specific. If you know how to be creative, you can literally jump from job to job with no training, and do them pretty well. The technical part of any job is 10%. 90% is creativity. If you know how to be creative, you’ve got the battle half beat.”

    Worth having printed up and turned into a giant-sized poster.

  31. Any chance you can get Robert to share his beans and Mexican cauliflower rice recipe?!?! I got distracted while listening because that sounded really good!

  32. This is one of my favorites. Love the journal idea, wish I had done this long ago but no time like the present. One of the best takeaways is his approach to conflict. There is no reason to expend your energy on what goes wrong, just accept it and adapt. Great questions Tim, the podcasts keep getting better.

  33. Such a privilege to hear this episode. And really reminded and opened me up to just how rich life should be through, simply, living creatively. In everything we do. I hadn’t heard of Roberto (sharing…embarrased!), but immediately one-clicked on Rebel without a Crew 🙂

  34. Any chance Mr. Rodriguez would share the format of his journal? He has clearly mastered journaling and how to make it more impactful with search capabilities, etc. Another great episode Tim!

  35. Hi! I was wondering if you’ll be creating transcripts of every new episode or just the favorite ones? Because I loved this podcast (and also Naval’s podcast!) and would love to send them to someone who doesn’t have access to listen to them. Thanks so much!

  36. So wonderful. Thanks for getting this done. Especially loved when you asked the unusual question and he turned it back, asking what others had answered so he had time time think.

  37. What an absolute master class on creativity, problem solving, the importance and benefit of having an entrepreneurial mindset, and how to overcome resistance. One of the most insightful and interesting interviews I have ever heard. RR is a creative stud.


  38. Almost finished with this and I can see it will be a podcast I listen to again. I’m a teacher and I like how this conversation layers well over trying different things out in the classroom…not being afraid to be creative! Thanks to both Robert and Tim for an inspiring conversation!

  39. Great and thoughtful interview. Maybe my favorite. So many ACTIONABLE life lessons in there. Dang. I LOVE Robert’s positivity!

    Does anyone have Robert’s rive-free mex rice recipe by chance? Can you send me a link? Thx.

  40. Amazing interview! Thanks for reposting the link the other day on FB. Good to see another proponent of taking on multiple endeavors, though this is the first time I heard the creativity based outlook. Big takeaway for me is it’s good to see Alex succeeding playing his own game, despite having to cross paths with people who continually force their agenda on you. Well done!

  41. “Four Rooms” is an AWESOME movie! Didn’t really dig the scene with Madonna, but it got us howling laughing at the scene with Antonio Banderas and we watched it twice… The last scene is great too. Now that I know how the film was directed, it kinda bummed me out to hear that Robert thinks of the movie as beeing not successful. Maybe financially, but artistically it’s amazing!

    Thanks Tim!

  42. Tim great podcast! Big fan of Robert and his view and perspective. Haven’t finished listening yet but already can’t wait to go through it again!

  43. Great guy, and great interview. Regarding his first 60 minutes, here is finally someone who shares my lunatic obsession with capturing and organizing lists of to-dos!

    If you keep track of 1,000+ to-dos, make sure you try out Toodledo (both mobile & web apps). It was made for crazy people like us.

    It’s simply the most powerful & versatile to-do management tool out there. The UX is basic (not pretty), but you know that function trumps form if you are that intense about your to-dos. I could not run my life without it!

  44. As almost always I could take something valuable for me out of this podcast episode. The part where Mr. Rodriguez said that creativity is key and everybody has it somehow, resonated with me and reminded me of Guenter Faltin. He said in his latest book, that creativity is the one resouce that is infinite for entrepreneurs and most of the time not used to it’s potential.

  45. Tim – this interview rocked. It’s just what I needed today. Thanks so much for being creative, consistent and unafraid. And thanks for opening the door to your super cool friends/connections that I would otherwise never get to hear from.

  46. I had no idea who Mr. Rodriguez was going into this episode.I almost skipped it. I’m so glad I didn’t. Robert is one of the most real and interesting guests you have had on this podcast. His ingenuity, and no fear attitude are very inspiring. Instead of dwelling on the things that are holding a project back, he just goes and gets it done. He is the personification of my favorite quote. “IS is a lack of resources, or resourcefulness?”

  47. He is just amazing! fell in love with him since I was known to watch movies, especially hollywood movies, literally no words, i want to marry him.

  48. He is know for his work. I just love the journey he has been through. It really takes a lot to do this kind of work.