The pitch meeting wasn't going as planned.
John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa, founders of entertainment business incubator FactoryMade Ventures, wanted movie director Robert Rodriguez to help them create an English-language cable network for Latinos.
At an evening sit-down in mid-2011, in the dimly lighted bar in the Four Seasons Hotel in L.A., the two talent agency veterans tried to dazzle the "Spy Kids" and "El Mariachi" filmmaker with data on the size of the growing Latino market and the dearth of TV programming for Latinos who speak English.
Rodriguez, a San Antonio native of Mexican descent, listened silently for a long time, his eyes obscured underneath his signature cowboy hat.
Fogelman and Patwa had no sense of whether the director liked what he was hearing. Then he suddenly interrupted them — to say "yes."
"My hand literally went up," Rodriguez recalled. "I said, 'I have five kids and there is nothing they can look at and say, "That's me." They are invisible on television.'"
The meeting marked the beginning of El Rey Network, which debuts in December as a cable channel carried by Comcast Corp. with backing from Univision Communications Inc. By early next year, El Rey will reach more than 20 million homes.
It's the brainchild of two partners who at first may seem unlikely co-chief executives. Fogelman, 48, is contemplative, at times becoming emotional during an interview. Patwa, 32, is gregarious and energetic, quick to trot out industry jargon.
For Fogelman, El Rey is both vocation and avocation.
"We have so little time in this world that we need to focus on things that have some form of special relevance," said Fogelman, who spent nearly two decades as an agent at William Morris Agency and successor company William Morris Endeavor — representing clients including Michael Bay and J.J. Abrams — before leaving in March 2011 to start FactoryMade.
FactoryMade employs 10 people and is headquartered in sleek Santa Monica offices near those of Bay and Abrams — the latter of whom gave the company its name and designed its logo. The start-up began with a client roster that included Hasbro Inc. and Spanish telecommunication giant Telefonica.
For the future, FactoryMade envisions starting new media and entertainment businesses by harnessing existing intellectual property and creating some of its own.
At the moment, the company's focus is squarely on El Rey, which the network's stakeholders believe could be transformational for Latino audiences. Statistics show El Rey is targeting a rapidly growing market.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, the country's Hispanic population increased 43% over the previous decade to 50.5 million. And in 2010, Hispanics accounted for 23% of people under the age of 18.
But Patwa said that even though the group is increasingly English-speaking, only 3.8% of the lead roles on network scripted television are filled by Latinos.
"That's insane for a population base that will end up being a third of the country," said Patwa, who began working with Fogelman at William Morris Agency in 2008.
El Rey's content will be largely aimed at the 18-34 age demographic and produced by known Hollywood players. Rodriguez, for example, is writing and directing a television series for the network based on his "From Dusk Till Dawn" action-horror film.