Rodrigo García Filmmaker heads to YouTube

By Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times

The Colombian filmmaker [and NALIP Estela Award winner] Rodrigo García has a colorful background – even if you didn’t include the fact that he’s the son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Making the transition from cinematographer to director, the Colombian-born García landed on many Hollywooders’ maps when he created the American version of “In Treatment” a number of years ago. A critical darling, the show played on HBO for several seasons. García got some buzz with his drama “Mother and Child” a few years later, and returns this fall with the gender-bending “Albert Nobbs,” which stars Glenn Close and his “In Treatment” breakout Mia Wasikowska. He also wrote the screenplay for “Gravity,” the well-liked and sometimes troubled Alfonso Cuaron project.

But García is next heading somewhere very different: YouTube.

The filmmaker and Jon Avnet, the veteran Hollywood producer who directed “Fried Green Tomatoes,” are creating a channel focused on female-oriented drama for the Google division. The channel is part of the company’s push for high-end original content.

At a reception for “Nobbs,” García told 24 Frames about the channel, which at least at the outset will yield one series spearheaded by Garcia and one by Avnet. Both aim to premiere in the first half of 2012.

His series, García said, centers on the relationship between a 29-year-old woman and the teenage daughter she had when she was herself a teen. Garcia is casting it now and could land some big names. The hope, he said, is that prestige actors will want to try their hand at the new platform – especially as an old one like studio film is more resistant than ever to dramas.

Garcia noted grimly that an online series doesn’t exactly pay the A-listers the salaries they’re accustomed to, but then said he hoped the quality of the material could override that. “They do [accept a lot less] for theater.”

Garcia joins a diverse list of top creators trying their hand at the new YouTube initiative; “Fast Five” director Justin Lin and “CSI” honcho Anthony Zuiker are among the others.

For the filmmakers, the goal is to use the series as a faster and lower-risk way to get some work on a screen, while also gaining themselves some independence. “I guess it’s freedom or budget,” Garcia said generally of the trade-offs in the entertainment world. “You can’t really have both.”

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