Friends and family would joke that San Antonio-based filmmaker Aaron Lee Lopez was a “mutt” as a child. With blonde hair and light skin, Lopez physically defies traditional Hispanic features.
In 2004, the joke was on them when the Texas State alumnus’ childhood dream of starting a production company became a reality.
The kinesiology major said he founded Mutt Productions after his success working as a production assistant, editor, producer and stunt assistant on some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies and television series, such as “John Carter,” “Inception,” “The Hangover,” “Grindhouse” and “Parenthood,” among others.
The full-service production and post-production company recently expanded its San Antonio facilities to help grow and advance the local film industry in Texas.
In 2010, a chance encounter in a San Antonio parking lot led to a collaboration between Lopez and filmmaker Brandon Keropian Olmos, son of actor Edward James Olmos.
Lopez was visiting family in San Antonio from L.A. He had booked a local film-related job when he met and found out he would be working with Olmos.
Olmos had initially come to the Alamo City from L.A. in 2008 to produce an album for the former Sony Latin-signed duo Amor y Pasion.
“We met in the parking lot, but we kind of like started doing all these projects, and they were back-to-back. And then I was like, ‘We should just shoot a movie down here,” Lopez said. “Then that’s when I kind of got the idea. I wanted to see if we could pull it off with the people here and the talent.”
Mutt Productions has since gone on to edit and produce television commercials and shows, live concerts, Internet and music videos, animations, documentaries and short and feature-length films. The company’s most recent feature is called “The Return of Johnny V.”
The action/comedy, about a burnt out ex-cop named Johnny Valenzuela, whose insatiable taste for revenge brings him face-to-face with his arch nemesis The Mayor, premiered last December to two sold-out screenings at the Josephine Theatre in San Antonio.
Fans of Mutt Productions may remember many of the characters from “The Return of Johnny V.” from the company’s 2009 horror/drama “Curse of the Lechusa.”
Lopez said the story of Johnny V. began when he was a child, when he considered the character to be his alter ego. The forename Johnny came from his favorite movie “The Karate Kid” and the surname Valenzuela came from his mother’s maiden name.
Family is a consistent theme throughout all of Lopez’s work.
Lopez’s brother, actor and high wire performer for the Caesar’s Palace show “Absinthe,” Paul Matthew Lopez reprises his role as “Johnny V.”
A San Antonio casting call brought out local up-and-coming talent. Actor/model Dana De La Garza, a San Antonio native, reprises her role as “Angel,” a small-town woman who packs some mean heat. De La Garza has since starred in the NBC television movie “Game of Your Life.”
San Antonio-based actor and Texas State alumnus David Rodriguez also reprises his role as “Agent Lee,” a corrupt South Texas cop involved in narcotic trafficking.
Aaron Lee Lopez said he and the formerpresident started the Texas State Chapter of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.
After Aaron Lee Lopez graduated from Texas State in 2002, he and Rodriguez remained good friends and colleagues.
Olmos, “The Return of Johnny V.” sound editor and mixer, said the movie was in many ways a film experiment.
“We’re a small group of professionals transcending the San Antonio film consciousness,” he said. “At the same time, we’re hoping to uplift the San Antonio film community so we can make bigger and better movies and keep on working. That’s the whole idea.”