Interview with Manny Rodriguez, Jr. | Chasing Butterflies | The Desperate Pursuit of Fame
“Butterfly Caught,” the multi-award-winning film by Manny Rodriguez, Jr. takes audiences into the darker side of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour by exposing the seduction of fame and destroyed ambitions. The feature film follows three young women’s desire to get that breakout role that could catapult them to stardom or ruin their lives instead.
As each young woman is forced to face her deepest fears and insecurities, they all discover the lengths to which they will go to fight against failure. The promise of Hollywood is tempting, but what will they do when that promise is broken? How will they cope when pushed to their breaking points?
When talking to aspiring actors/actresses, it becomes quickly clear how driven they are to make it big. That for me always beckons the question: “Are they really interested in the craft of acting or do they just want to be famous waiting to hear adoring fans scream their name and become the Monday morning water cooler subject.
Many aspiring actor/actresses I have met came from broken homes, are survivors of domestic violence or have frankly been ignored and neglected. Was this kind of lack of attention they experienced as children and young adults the catalyst for their desire for this kind of attention? Probably a good question for a certified psychologist, but I think it plays a major role. Life is a matter of checks and balances, so what you can’t get in one place you will seek to obtain in another. However, whenever people sense desperation, rest assured that there will be someone who will try to take advantage of it.
The film “Butterfly Caught” makes it inherently clear that some people’s desire for fame and “making it” goes so far as to abandon normal relationships and lives and step over that fine line between integrity and dishonesty. As such, this film could serve well as a wake-up call for the disillusioned and in the process may save a good relationship or two. It is also a timely film with a meaningful message in the era of #MeToo.
For its European premiere, the film is headed next to the NÓT Film Fest taking place from September 18 to September 23, 2018, in Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy.
“Butterfly Caught” can now be seen on most major streaming channels and is also available on DVD.
Following is a thought-provoking interview with Manny Rodriguez, Jr., the writer, director and one of the producers of this awareness-raising film.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Manny Rodriguez?
He’s a dreamer who demands a whole hell of a lot from himself. Happily married, father of three amazing kids. Has worked in the studio system for 17+ years.
- What was your path of consciously deciding to be a filmmaker?
I’ve made small films (and videos) since I could access a camera, and I watched VHS movies over and over – intentionally. I love storytelling and examining films. I went to college to study business…and that only lasted 12 months. I quickly jumped ship and changed schools and my major to Film. I couldn’t have made a better decision.
- Who influenced you when you started out as a filmmaker?
A couple of my professors were incredibly inspiring at CSUN, but witnessing blue-collar filmmakers completing ground-breaking feature films for little money (a la Robert Rodriguez) gave me the fire to realize that storytelling is achievable for anyone with enough passion to jump into the unknown.
Writing / Directing
- You are the writer of the award-winning film “Butterfly Caught” (BC), which is about 3 young actresses trying to navigate the world of Hollywood and their trials and tribulations doing so. What prompted you to write a script about this subject?
My sister, my girlfriend (now wife), and another friend of theirs all lived together and worked in a nightclub during their pursuit to become actresses. I observed them. They all craved for a profession that had no clear process. Being an actor isn’t like becoming a lawyer – (college, law school, Bar exam, internship) – then boom – you’re a lawyer. Quite the contrary. Being an aspiring actor is a life of limbo. Uncertainty. You can practice and hone your craft, sure – but there is always a gatekeeper that needs to open a door for you. And, sometimes talent isn’t even paramount. That’s a scary existence.
- So, the BC script is based on true events.
Yes, Lisa and I soon after moved to Costa Rica for 3 years to concentrate full-time on screenwriting. “Butterfly Caught” (my first screenplay written) was a snapshot of those experiences, but also my own vented frustration. I too was a struggling filmmaker who was waiting for someone to give me a shot.
- How long did it take you to write this script and did you try to sell it to an established producer before actually producing it yourself or was that always your intention?
When I started writing BC, I always knew I wanted to shoot it myself. I wrote it around achievable locations and available resources. It took me only a few months to write it, but it was shelved for 7+ years until the talented actress Jess Jacobs (who plays Joe in the film) and mutual friend Walker Clark (an acting coach in NY) cold-called me and asked to resurrect the script. I did just that, and we soon after found a producer who wanted to make the film. Unfortunately, after numerous re-writes, the producer lost his job with the production company, so BC was immediately dead. Stories like that are quite common. However, as a team, we decided – since we got that far – why not do it ourselves? So we did. We jumped into the deep end of creating something out of nothing.
- What other films, if any, have you produced and/or directed before or was “Butterfly Caught” your debut as a director/producer?
BC is my feature film debut as a director and producer. Only short films before that.
- Have you written any other scripts, and if so, what is the subject of these and will you be directing and producing these, too?
I now have written numerous scripts, numerous genres. We are now working on a comedy that exposes the oppression of women in film. It revolves around (4) strong female filmmakers who struggle to find industry jobs, so they find a crazy way to break into the business. The script is done. It’s great. Another completed feature comedy of ours is politically driven. Dealing with the American-Mexican border and ‘undocumented immigrants’ trying to find a way into the country. Very relevant right now, and hilarious.
- What can you tell us about the producing process of “Butterfly Caught,” i.e. how did you find your crew and how did you finance the production?
I keep repeating this point in the conversation,…but, producing BC was the best crash-course in management I could have ever had. We made this for little money (ultra-low budget), so we were forced to get creative. We crossed paths with our producing partner (Will Wallace) who had many feature films on his resume and experience, so he was vital in finding crew for us.
- How has your professional experience in making “Butterfly Caught” contributed to your personal growth?
Every hurdle in life seems difficult, sometimes unachievable. I think our brains calculate the amount of effort it takes to achieve something, then gets completely overwhelmed by the number of tasks (and people) needed to help achieve that feat – then manufactures excuses on why it won’t become a reality. BC tested us, for sure. Making a feature film is daunting. However, now that we’ve proven we can execute – it fuels the future. I can’t wait to do this again. And do it better.
- Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
Our youngest daughter (Remi) was diagnosed with a rare chromosome disorder and we’re connected with an organization called UNIQUE based out of the UK. It connects families with each other to provide a supportive environment. Remi is a huge reminder that we are blessed during our time on earth. She has grounded us and brought us closer, as a family. Her name is Remi Dee Rodriguez – so naturally, we call her our “Remedy.” Couldn’t be any more fitting.
- How do you embrace the intimate experience with the existence that we call life?
I have a morbidly-yet-healthy outlook on life. Sounds completely ridiculous, but every day, with every important decision – I try to ask myself a question: “Is this something you’ll be proud of when you look back on your life?” It works for me. It’s asking yourself – what you’ll regret ‘not doing’ from your deathbed, really. BC was a good example of this. People may (or may not) like this film, but no one can take away the accomplishment and satisfaction of fulfilling my goal to make a feature film. No one remembers any of the countless days grinding to pay the mortgage, but I’ll remember every single minute (of every day) of bringing this film to life.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
I’d make movies for free if I could. I thrive on a film set – trouble-shooting and generating ideas. It brings me extreme joy. That joy is even more magnified when I stand in the back of a dark movie theatre – watching a film I put my energy into – and witness it entertaining people. Bringing others joy through escapism…
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement in general and specifically in the world of acting and filmmaking?
Pablo Picasso had a great quote – “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” As we age and experience failure after failure, we tend to create our own personal roadblocks and were driven further away from our passion, our dreams. Society tells us we have to “fit in”, make a certain amount of money, stop being such a dreamer. We eventually gravitate toward the easier path because rejection stings way too much – it’s embarrassing – and avoiding that pain seems better than falling on your face. BC is a film about the realities blocking in your path,…the failure. But,…its theme is really about hope and persistence. Most of the people who have succeeded ahead of you have succeeded because they simply didn’t quit. I hope aspiring people watch “Butterfly Caught” and are inspired by its message.