Not everyone gets to make their feature debut with legendary filmmaker Paul Schrader.
But Ben Rodriguez Jr. did, with the gritty crime drama Dog Eat Dog starring Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe.
Ben had been working at Lost Planet for about five years, starting first as an intern shortly after graduating film school at NYU before transitioning to cutting commercials under the guidance of feature editor Jay Rabinowitz. A features veteran himself, Jay has cut for the likes of Darren Aronofsky, Jim Jarmusch, Terrence Malick, and Barry Levinson, in his decades-long career that spans celebrated films and commercials. One such film was Paul Schrader’s Affliction starring Nick Nolte and Sissy Spacek. So when Schrader approached Jay to look for a young editor who might be keen to work on his new feature, Jay naturally pointed Paul in Ben’s direction.
So the legendary writer of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver sat down with Ben to discuss his feature, set to film in Cleveland, which incidentally was Ben’s hometown, over the next eight months. With the support and blessing of the whole Lost Planet team, Ben took an eight month leave to cut his very first feature.
With much successful collaboration between editor and director, the film premiered at Directors Fortnight at Cannes. Ben reflects on the film: “I’m still in shock that this experience even happened. To be working with such a brilliant and legendary figure in American cinema was surreal. I am forever thankful to Paul for giving me this chance and Jay for believing in me enough to pass my name along. And to Hank for being so supportive and encouraging.”
Dog Eat Dog premiered at Director’s Fortnight at Cannes.