Rodriguez was at Mip TV in Cannes to attend a Deadline-hosted panel session all about the nascent technology and lift the lid on the challenges of producing content for the format.
He gave the audience the first look at the trailer for The Limit, which stars Michelle Rodriguez as a genetically enhanced weapon of mass destruction hellbent on destroying the covert agency that created her. The blow ‘em up is produced by Robert Rodriguez’s Double R Productions, which he set up with his son Racer, and will premiere on STX Entertainment’s VR channel STXsurreal, run by Rick Rey and Andy Vick. The app launches on VR headsets in mid 2018.
Rodriguez tells Deadline that he had been working on a film project with STX when they approached him to discuss VR, a format that had already interested his son Racer. “I’ve been making films for 25 years and one of my favourite films and most lasting films was The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl that Racer came up with when he was seven. He was getting more into graphic novels and asked him if he was interested in getting into film and he said ‘no I want to get into VR storytelling’, which is what I guess the kids are into, so I said ‘let’s set up a company and start making VR projects. Usually when I’m not well versed in something, the best thing to do is to attack it and go into it.”
He added that he has always been interested in being an early adopter. “That was my whole career, I was shooting digital before anyone made digital and shot the first 3D movie Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, before there were enough digital screens to show it.”
“People don’t really know what’s possible because not enough people have messed with it. Maybe if we go in and figure out a way to do all these things that you’re not supposed to do, we’ll come up with something that no one else has done,” he added.
The Limit, which he calls a “full-blown Rodriguez action flick”, was written in a week and shot in four to five days. However, Rodriguez admitted that the editing process was one of the most challenging elements. “It was hard to cut. I had my editing machine there and then I thought I needed a VR headset to edit but my Avid doesn’t work with VR so I had to edit it stretched out and by memory then would send it to Racer, who watched it in VR and send back notes. You know you’re at the forefront when you don’t even have the technology to edit it but it was really exciting.”
He added that it feels like a franchise and is considering where to take Michelle Rodriguez’s character next. He also said he would consider taking some of his previous franchises into the VR world. “We’d love to do more in VR, we’ve got all kinds of ideas. Now we know what the beast is and can go and create more content, it was a lot of fun,” he added.
Rick Rey and Andy Vick, who are co-presidents of VR and Immersive Entertainment under the STX Surreal label, said that their aim is to become the “HBO of VR” and plan to launch between six to eight VR projects in the first year. Rey said that the company wanted to work across a number of genres. He added that the process has to be quicker than in the traditional film world otherwise it won’t succeed.
“VR can’t have the same life cycle as traditional film development process because you’re waiting 18 months and by then the technology has changed and you have to rethink everything. We don’t come from the traditional studio system so it’s never going to move fast enough for us but we’re always going to be the ones pushing. We’re going to win if we have filmmakers like Robert and Racer,” he said. We need to take this into the mainstream.”