Oz Rodriguez is a writer and director who started his career in comedy, having written and directed for Funny or Die and Saturday Night Live, where he’s been for multiple years. Oz just put out his very first feature, Vampires vs. The Bronx, now...
Oz Rodriguez is a writer and director who started his career in comedy, having written and directed for Funny or Die and Saturday Night Live, where he’s been for multiple years. Oz just put out his very first feature, Vampires vs. The Bronx, now streaming on Netflix. Vampires vs. the Bronx pits a group of young kids from the Bronx against a ruthless gang of vampires who try to take over their neighborhood. It’s super fun and scary while also delivering highly potent commentary on the devastating effects of gentrification.
Vampires vs. the Bronx really reminded me of the movies that I grew up on as a kid, and I know for a fact that this is about to become a gateway horror staple for this generation. I really loved his movie and really enjoyed talking to him -- please give it up for writer/director Oz Rodriguez.
Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Oz Rodriguez.
- Consider learning comedy. There are a lot of parallels and structural similarities between comedy and horror - both are basically based on a system of set-ups and payoffs, and the two genres can even work well together. Oz has a background in comedy, which was a definite leg up for him when it came time to write and direct his first horror movie. He also was able to effortlessly imbue comedy into the horror, which worked really, really well for Vampires vs the Bronx. Consider developing your comedic ability, either through comedic writing, directing, improv, or standup. Heightened comedic awareness may greatly elevate your ability to craft effective horror. It worked for Oz, and it also worked pretty well for Jordan Peele.
- Cold emails can change your life. At the beginning of his career, Oz sent a cold email, actually a cold DM on Twitter, to Adam McKay at Funny or Die. Adam liked Oz's material and gave him a job, which ultimately led to him getting on Saturday Night Live. A lot of would-be filmmakers get stuck in the trap of thinking they need to be invited, or they need to be ‘discovered’ or that they need representation in order to pitch themselves. This is not true, and this is how you can waste years of your life just waiting around. Nobody will care more about your career than you, so it’s critical that you get in the habit of pitching yourself to people you don't know through cold calls and cold emails. Yes, of course, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. If you’re nervous about how to do this, consider reading some sales books. Also, consider getting an IMDB pro account, which gives you contact information for tons of influential people. Of course, a lot of companies refuse to look at unsolicited materials, but hey, why not give it a try anyway. The worst they can do is say no, but imagine what could happen if they say yes. Many important people are constantly on the lookout for new voices; why shouldn't it be you? But they’ll never know who you are if you don’t start knocking on their doors, so get those cold emails out.
- Read Robert Rodriguez’s book and Steven Soderbergh's. It’s very important to read up on the biographies of filmmakers that you admire so that you can have a career formula to model as well as insight as to how the business itself actually works. It’s also very important to read books that make the actual process of breaking into filmmaking practical and approachable. In Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez and Getting Away With it by Steven Soderburgh, both filmmakers tell their origin stories in detail, and in both cases, you see how these were just regular guys who went on to become major Hollywood players. Yes, there was lots of toil, hard work, and luck in the process, but in both books, the guys sound like mere mortals, and their journeys into stardom are humanized to the point where you can’t help but think to yourself, 'maybe I can do this too.' Admittedly I haven’t read Soderbergh's book yet, but I just bought it on Amazon. I have read Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel without a Crew multiple times, and it’s a must-read.
Thanks for listening!!!
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