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Friday, April 27, 2007

Rebel Without a Crew

I just read Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew, which details him making his first film El Mariachi for $7000 (with no crew) and his subsequent rise to Hollywood stardom. It's a great book. Rodriguez really has his head screwed on. No nonsense, just a "here's what I did" approach, and he's not afraid to talk numbers, which most books don't. His common mantra is that Hollywood is wasteful and uncreative because it just throws money at problems instead of coming up with creative ways to solve them. Indeed.

I made my first short, Spoony B, for about $300. (I spent another $300 just prior, taking a few classes in how to develop film, use a camera, etc.) It's 7min, which conventional wisdom says should cost about $7000 (as much as Rodriguez's whole feature film debut). I developed the film in buckets so that I could save on lab costs, I transferred it to video by projecting it onto my kitchen wall and shooting it with a video camera, I didn't record any dialogue, I did all manner of other things "wrong"... and then I sold the thing for a little under $2000, almost 7x its cost. Other filmmakers have to turn down offers like that because they are too low. You might say I could have milked the film more and tried to "make a name" with it. Well, who cares? It's my first film, ever, as a director. I just shot it for practice, and more because I wanted some film I could develop to make sure I was developing the film correctly than for any other reason. And it's better than half the films I see by people who have gone to film school and spent thousands with a proper crew, etc. (I have no formal training other than a few one- or two-day workshops).

Filmmakers need to stop wasting money. I shot a second film which should be edited and ready for distribution in June. It also cost about $300. It would be less but I paid my editor/star $150 because he is the man. Even if I don't make a dime off of it, I've made two films for less than what most people spend on ONE MINUTE of screen time. And they don't suck, which is more than I can say for most minutes of screen time. I was watching Movieola while home for Easter... HOLY CRAP!! DIRECTORS WHO ARE NOT WRITERS!!! STOP WRITING YOUR OWN FILMS!!!!

Rodriguez, you da man!!! Everybody with ANY interest in making films, read this book!


Blogger Polly said...

This IS the greatest book on indy filmmaking ever! Totally inspiring. Have you read "Make Your Own Damn Movie" by Lloyd Kaufman of Troma fame? More good "Just go out and DO it" advice.

While I appreciated the "labor exchange economy" of Winnipeg that allowed us to make cheap films, I also certainly appreciated those shoots where funding had been obtained and I could get a wee stipend. I don't consider that wasted $ on a shoot!

7:11 AM

Blogger Jonathan Ball said...

paying yourself is never wasted money!!!

7:20 AM


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