Studios are risk-adverse. Good ideas cannot flourish. All the best work is being done in television.... So go the complaints of many a US filmmaker.
But not low-budget director Robert Rodriguez, whose "fun" and "wacky" action film "Machete Kills", featuring Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Antonio Banderas and Lady Gaga, comes in the wake of the box office success of "Machete".
Rodriguez, 45, whose films include "From Dusk Till Dawn" with George Clooney and the "Spy Kids" series, doesn't waste time wringing his hands about the state of the industry.
"With the rising costs of marketing it's harder for the studios to take the gambles and risks that they used to," he told AFP in an interview in Paris, where "Machete Kills" has just opened.
"Even the Weinsteins can't take the risks that they used to take, so it is difficult because you need to be able to take risks to find new ideas," he said -- the Weinsteins being independent-film backers Bob and Harvey, co-founders of Miramax studios and The Weinstein Company.
Rodriguez says that far from forcing him into a creative strait-jacket, low-budget movie making has left him free to experiment.
"Machete", with its comic-book violence and action sequences, was made for just $13 million (9.6 million euros), while "Machete Kills" -- in which actor Danny Trejo returns as Machete, an ex-federal agent in Mexico -- cost not much more, around $17 million.
"When I do something, I try to make it the kind of movie that will make some money. Then I can experiment all I want because if it's succesful it's a big success because it didn't cost very much," said Rodriguez.
"And if it doesn't do well at the box office, it's still a success because it didn't cost very much. It's a win-win situation…. Then you can make movies for ever," he said.
Rodriguez turns his hand to whatever he can in order to free up cash to hire the best actors, albeit just for a day or two.
"Most action films like that are about 100 days. This was 29 days so Charlie Sheen was there one day, Lady Gaga was there one day… Mel Gibson was there three days," he said.
"It was fast so it was challenging."
'It's ridiculous, like Bugs Bunny'
Nor is Rodriguez averse to picking up the phone to get the big names in his films.
After "Machete" was released, Rodriguez saw that Lady Gaga had told the press she was a fan of the film and wished her song "Americano" could have been in it.
"When I hear that someone loves my films I'll call them up and try and get them in the sequel," Rodriguez said.
"So I called her and asked her, 'If I wrote you a part would you be interested in acting?'"
In "Machete Kills", Sheen -- credited using his real name, Carlos Estevez -- plays a US president who recruits Trejo's character to track down a "madman revolutionary" and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer planning to spread war and anarchy around the globe.
Unashamedly "over-the-top", Rodriguez said comedy was an essential feature of his work.
"It's because I started as a cartoonist so it's how I am. I can't help it.
"If the tone was really serious I couldn't do half of what I do, it would be unwatchable," he said, adding that the violence in his films was a bit like Bugs Bunny.
"It's so ridiculous (like) Bugs Bunny... always putting his gun in the duck's mouth and blowing his beak off.
"That's what this is, Machete is shot so many times and he's fine five minutes later, he never dies so you get it right away. It's one of those kind of movies," he said.