Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player

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  1. Donald E. Strong "Desired FX" says
    136 of 142 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Robert Rodriguez amazes me., February 25, 2003
    Donald E. Strong “Desired FX” (Pittsburgh, PA USA) –

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    This review is from: Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player (Paperback)

    Not because he’s a great writer or director, but because with every single project he makes me feel like I can DO this. I can make good movies that people will enjoy watching. And you can, too.

    This is one of the most inspiring books on filmmaking I’ve ever read–it depicts, in detail, all the ups and downs that went into making and selling EL MARIACHI, the $7000 sensation that opened doors for Rodriguez.

    A lot of filmmakers argue that EL MARIACHI isn’t a great film, that the story’s kind of silly, that the version that most of us saw had $500,000 worth of post-production work added, and on and on.

    But they’re talking about it. It’s 2003 and people are still talking about the amazing feat Rodriguez pulled off with this film. For $7000 of his own money, plus a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears, he got himself noticed and made a career out of his hobby. “Do what you love, then find someone who will pay you to do it.”

    This is a how-to manual for the basement movie-maker, written by a man who is excited about using movies to tell his stories: in this book, in the commentary tracks for his movies, in his Ten-Minute Film School installments, I have never once felt like Robert Rodriguez was bored with either his work or his achievements. The guy has fun, and his personality gets its fingerprints all over his work–if you can’t enjoy yourself while watching a Rodriguez movie, you’re expecting too much and thinking too hard.

    This guy is not changing the face of American cinema: he wants all of US to change the face of American cinema, and this book is an open invitation to do just that.

    Devour Rodriguez. Consume this book and engorge yourself on his DVDs. Chow down on special features on how he did it that also show YOU how to do it. If, after a week-long diet of Robert Rodriguez, you DON’T want to make your own movie IMMEDIATELY, seek a different destiny: making movies is not for you.

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  2. the wizard of uz says
    273 of 305 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Journal of an Indie Filmaker, January 3, 2004
    the wizard of uz (Studio City, CA United States) –

    This review is from: Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player (Paperback)

    El Mariachi is a Comedy Of Errors. (Hey, what a catchy title for a play !) A poor man’s ” North by Northwest” wherein a mariachi looking for a job gets mistaken for a killer seeking revenge because they carry identical guitar cases.

    It’s a funny, fast paced and an extremely well plotted film, shot without a crew and only one camera. Rodriguez used a wheelchair for a dolly and a ladder for a crane. It works beautifully.

    He recounts his adventures, including raising money by submitting to medical experiments, in this –to some–inspiring book.

    I say ‘to some’ because if you want to get a rise out of an aspiring director who is working “through the system” i.e; editors, directors of photography, cameramen, 2nd A.D.’s, the guy brings the coffee, in short ANYONE in crew on a Hollywood set or in postproduction, all you have to do is casually mention ‘El Mariachi’ and they’ll start grousing about how it really cost a million bucks after it got picked up to bring it up to quality prior to release.

    Hmm. . .slightly untrue but a face saving urban myth. In a few years they’ll be saying it took 10 million.

    They’re not alone. Film schools and some other Indie filmakers also dislike him.



    Rodriguez is a throwback to the Golden Era of silent films and the early twenties, prior to the star/ agent system.

    (Gee, however did D. W. Griffith or Erich von Stroheim manage it without ever having attended a film school? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? )

    BTW, Rodriguez’ appendix ‘The Ten Minute Film Course ‘ is worth the price of the book alone. Cheap really, considering he tells you how to save 20k from a school that will , after all is said and done, qualify you after four years to be the guy that brings the coffee to the set–or if you’re extremely well connected and lucky, the 2nd A.D.

    Which explains the dislike from both film schools and wannabe directors who already plunked downn their dough and have little to show for it ten to twenty years after.

    But why would some Indie directors dislike one of their own?

    Simple again.


    You see we have now a new myth in town–similar to the myth in the 40’s that you were going to get ‘discovered’ sitting at Schwab’s cafeteria , namely the myth of the YOUNG FILMAKER.


    Good luck.

    The truth is that for every Robert Rodriguez there’s ten thousand intolerable idiots who couldn’t direct traffic, let alone a film, and whose idea of writing a ‘small movie’ is a self indulgent sentimental auto biographical P.O.S. about the meaning of life, which ususally means scenes with teenagers drinking espresso and talking about their angst, or a study of a failed relationship, or a cynically dark vision from hell, or the plight of the (fill in the blank).


    But well written with a good plot? Forget about it! A comedy? Unimaginable.

    After Mariachi’s success, R. R. was given money (and a crew!) for his subsequent projects. He amazed the establishment by shooting as many as 70 camera set ups on a single day!

    Well, why not? Without stars demanding changes to the script (Please read ‘Adventures in The Screen Trade ‘ by William Goldman ) and other idiocies, it can and has been done.

    Furthermore R.R. believes that the reason overblown and overbudgeted Hollywood productions are usually so stale is because of all the waiting actors have to do as the crew lights and sets up the next shot ( Oh, about 3 hours each on a good day ) which robs actors of energy and films of their vitality.

    Along with Goldman’s books ( He folllowed up with ‘Which Lie Did I Tell? ‘ ) and Robert Evans ‘The Kid Stays in The Picture’ R.R’s book is among the wisest and wittiest renderings on Hollyweird.

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  3. Mercy Bell says
    41 of 42 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Best, maybe only book you need on filmmaking; Most fun too!, December 9, 2004
    Mercy Bell

    This review is from: Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player (Paperback)

    When I started this book I didn’t have the motivation to get up and make a movie. I wanted to, but it was all a big intimidating blur. The minute I finished it, 3 days after I started (and I’m not a fast reader) I decided to make a movie, and several months later had actually made a short film, as crewless as Mr. Rodriguez had been, and had an absolute blast doing it. Then it hit me, c’mon, how hard could it be from here to make a full feature? That’s exactly what he’d been saying all along. This is the only book you need.

    Aw, what do I know, right? Well let me revise myself a little bit. This is the only book you need to read to be PREPARED to actually get up and make a movie, whether it’s two or 120 minutes. If you still need tech and history books, all good, all good, but if you want some kind of a degree or certificate that says “Official Filmmaker”, forget it, this is the only,well, ANYTHING, you need. If even! Rodriguez would probably say you don’t even need to read the book, just go out and make movies. That’s what he did.

    This book is as simple as it sounds. A production diary, edited here and there, highly informational introduction and appendices, and the most lively, vibrant, good natured, humorous, validating, and incredibly UN-intimidating (as said by my brother, he seems incredibly laid back) narrator you could ever wish for. Sometimes you honestly forget you’re reading a book about movies and are just listening to a friend recount a few crazy harebrained adventures. The book flies by and I enjoyed every minute of it. I happily list it as one of the best and most entertaining books I’ve ever read, next to even my very favorite classics in literature!

    But Rodriguez’ adoration of, common sense, and maverick independence regarding film is what takes the cake. He realized that there’s a labyrinthian system of bureaucracy, upper crust of snobs, and far too many negative folks controlling the main highway of the business, from the schools to the studios, and he, a film student at the time, decided that the actual flesh and bone mechanics of film are available to anyone and that there was another way to go. He didn’t like the idea of being taught how to make movies the way someone else wanted you to make them, he wanted to be himself, and he thought that if you have talent that’s all you need, it can’t be taught to you. So he got up and made some short films for festivals, then decided “shorts are easy, couldn’t be that hard to make a feature”. So he went to Mexico and made his indie hit, El Mariachi, all by his lonesome. The actual diary takes place during the making of El Mariachi (and the post production and “getting discovered” frenzy), and is a day to day account of imagination, creativity, ingenuity, a makeshift and anything goes sensibility, and old fashioned elbow grease, told by a fabulous storyteller. Everything afterwards is equally thrilling for anyone interested in filmmaking as it offers a VERY revealing glimpse into the studio system, and ends up being humorous as Rodriguez, an overnight golden boy in Hollywood, was able to deflect it and still float along doing his own thing. (Some great pictures too!)

    Other than relaying some of the philosophies and wisdom he’s picked up along the way, he doesn’t tell you what to do. By recounting his own adventures, he aims to inspire the reader to go off and do their own thing. And it works. It’s magically inspiring.

    For anyone out there wanting to make movies for the sake and artistic joy and satisfaction of making movies, which is one of Rodriguez’ tenets, this is the book for you. It won’t tell you how to become famous or successful or how to work a field mixer, but he tells you to get up, there’s another door that is open with no line and no barriers except for the one in your mind, and there are millions of possibilities and routes to take on the other side.

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