How do you describe "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series?"
Carlos Coto: A crime saga with a supernatural edge. Pulp meets horror meets western. We build all of our stories from a foundation of hardboiled crime and action, then add layers of horror and the supernatural. By far the funnest sandbox I've ever played in.
How has "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" evolved from From Dusk Till Dawn the movie?
Carlos Coto: It's the characters that have evolved - and will continue to evolve. They're the engine that drives the saga - not the universe or the mythology or the concept. That stuff's all great, but it ain't gonna move anyone to keep watching. Our intention was to always honor Quentin and Robert's characters - recognize what makes them tick and build on the journeys they began in the film - follow them honestly and organically - and in many cases, let them surprise us. They have already surprised, and I suspect they'll continue to do so.
How did you get involved in the making of this show?
Carlos Coto: My agent set up a general meeting with Robert to talk about shows for the El Rey Network. I started pitching him stuff, but he kept turning the conversation back to "Dusk". I quickly realized what he was after - and that I didn't mind. I was very into the idea of taking it on. So the next meeting - which was supposed to be another pitch session - I asked him if I could light a cigar, he said, "cool," and we started breaking "Dusk" ideas. It flowed from there. Flowed and flowed.
Describe your typical day as the showrunner on "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series."
Carlos Coto: When I'm in writing mode, wake up at 5 or 6 a.m., write until 9 or 10. Drive into the office. Run the writers' room from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. with a break after lunch (EP Diego Gutierrez likes to make gourmet coffee and he's good at it). I'll break off other times in the afternoon to answer emails or calls. Then I'll write after dinner until 11 p.m. During production, room time is concentrated from 10 a.m. until 2 or so, then the writer of each episode is on the set answering questions or relaying them back to the home office. During post-production, all of the above with editing sessions mixed in!
When you're not running a show you are ___________?
Carlos Coto: Learning about wine, tasting wine, cooking, or taking photos. Or taking photos of food and wine. Or eating, tasting wine, then taking photos. Or visiting a wine region somewhere in the world. And eating there. After taking photos of it. I think if I weren't a showrunner, I'd be a restaurateur - serving meals instead of episodes.
Describe your collaboration with the series creator, executive producer and El Rey front man Robert Rodriguez.
Carlos Coto: Never boring. Dynamic. Challenging in all the best ways. His instincts are unparalleled, especially on casting and directors. When it comes to story, he's the ultimate sounding board. If I'm going to charge down a new path, I'll scope it out with him first. I don't start blazing the trail until he gives me the flamethrower.
What is your process for writing an episode? How do you work with other writers?
Carlos Coto: It's a team sport. We spend the first few weeks of the season talking about the characters. Where they're at, what they're feeling. Who they're in conflict with. That generates their motivations, which generates story, which generates plot, which generates episodes. Sounds easy, right? Ha. It's a team thing because we're all on the same squad, in the same foxhole, while the Story Army of Doom lobs grenades at us. Some we throw back, some we use to our advantage.
As for process, we break our stories in the room, all together, then the writer of record goes off and writes an outline. Detailed. Sometimes 20 pages or so. Then it comes back into the room and we tear it apart again. Sometimes there's a new outline, sometimes they go to script. Once they're done with the script, that circles back into the room as well - and the tearing-apart commences again.
I go through the same process on all my episodes - with all the attendant agony and despair. But it sure feels good when it's all shot.
You have also directed this season. What was that experience like?
Carlos Coto: A whole new form of creative anxiety and pain... but also liberating. Working with Robert's team it was a (relatively) smooth experience, but still an incredible challenge. The best advice I got came from an old friend - "When you get out there, don't be anything other than a director. Don't be a writer. Don't be a producer. Just direct." The advice worked. I think.
What advice do you have for young aspiring showrunners about the business?
Carlos Coto: Don't just write what you know, write what you feel. I took this job because I lost a brother to suicide in 1998. This was my way of telling a story of one brother trying to save another. This is my way of fulfilling an impossible wish.
What is your favorite Miramax film?
Carlos Coto: Reservoir Dogs