Swede founder creates cardboard realities

Local filmmaker Roque Rodriguez was hard at work recently on another Pacific Rim themed swede shoot. (Via Swede Fest.)
Local filmmaker Roque Rodriguez was hard at work recently on another Pacific Rim themed swede shoot. (Via Swede Fest.)
Fresno Filmworks will proudly sponsor Swede Fest 12 on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Tower Theatre. This is the first of two profiles on local filmmakers who have made their mark on the homegrown, do-it-yourself film festival, which celebrates low-budget versions of your Hollywood favorites.

As one of the event’s co-founders, Roque Rodriguez is a Swede Fest veteran. In the past six years, he has played a role in multiple short films that have screened at all 12 of the festival’s events.

Rodriguez grew up in Firebaugh and now lives in Fresno. A graphic designer by trade, his love of all things film and movies led him to create Swede Fest in 2008 with his filmmaker friend (and Filmworks board member) Bryan Harley. The duo started making funny, creative short films under the name Dumb Drum, which began as a blog site and later included the popular Cross Streets video series.

Question: You guys at Dumb Drum have some hilarious swedes. What can you tell us about your creative process? Where do the ideas start?

Answer: We always start with things that we like, and from there we try to see what we can do to make them funny or at least put a new spin to them. If we see something that makes us giddy, we get excited to work with the source material. We find inspiration in films, video games, comic books, and other types of pop culture.

As for the process, we simply get together, throw around ideas until something forms, and we move ahead with it. We look for the challenges because it makes us strive harder, knowing that the payoff will be worth all the hard work.

Q: Your most recent Pacific Rim swede attracted a lot of attention. What was the idea behind that one?

A: Pacific Rim was a risk, mainly because it was a fresh intellectual property and didn’t have an installed base of people following the film, nor any very big stars in the film. But we knew we were big fans of director Guillermo del Toro, and we loved the concept of giant robots fighting giant monsters, so at the very least we’d have fun doing it.

It was a complicated trailer to swede, but we were more than up for the challenge. I feel you can really see the amount of love and fun we put into it come through in the final product.

Q: We remember seeing the Pacific Rim trailer swede on the front page of Reddit, among other places. Were you expecting such a great response — including the one from Guillermo del Toro himself?!

A: It was awesome to get that kind of response. With places like Reddit and YouTube being a cesspool of negative comments and feedback, we were really surprised by the amount of positivity that people of the Internet were bestowing upon it. Of course, the ultimate compliment came from the actual people involved in making the film. That just blew our fanboy minds into the stratosphere.

Q: Dumb Drum was also asked to make more swedes for Pacific Rim for the recent Blu-ray and DVD release, correct?

A: Yes, Legendary Entertainment contacted us and asked us to make some more sweded scenes to help promote the home video release. It was an awesome experience and we’re hoping to continue working with them on future projects.

Q: What are some tips or pointers for local filmmakers on what makes a great swede, and maybe more importantly, some advice on what NOT to do?

A: Cardboard is your best friend. You can make or build ANYTHING out of cardboard, so before you go out to buy something for your sweded film, ask yourself first: “Can I make this out of cardboard?”

As for other pointers, just have fun making it. The more you do, the more it will come through in your swede, and the more the audience will connect with it.

Q: Can you give us a little hint as to what Dumb Drum is working on next?

A: We work on the fly and off the cuff, so sometimes we don’t know what we’re doing until the day before. But I can tell you that we’re working on something right now that is definitely the most challenging swede we’ve ever encountered. We’re anxiously awaiting to see if we can pull it off.

Visit SwedeFest.com to watch past sweded movies and stay up to date on the latest Swede Fest 12 news.

Colby Tibbet studies journalism at Fresno City College. He is the Filmworks media relations and communication intern.