Recently I was fortunate enough to read a book by movie director, Robert Rodriguez called Rebel Without A Crew. It was his journal through the process of making El Mariachi, which was his ticket to bigger and better movies in Hollywood.
The book takes the reader from the process of Rodriguez raising the money to make his first full length movie- he served as a human guinea pig for medical experiments- to his idea of using El Mariachi as a test film to sell to the Mexican television market, so he could use the profits to make sequels.
Rodriguez made the movie for less than eight thousand dollars and aimed to sell it for approximately thirty thousand dollars to a Spanish film distributor. Rodriguez figured his first movie would have mistakes because of his inexperience and that he would use it as a tool for learning. While trying to sell his movie, American movie companies saw his film and put together packages worth over a million dollars. He couldn't believe that anyone wanted to buy his movie for this high and was even more surprised by how many celebrities saw it and asked to be in his future movies. Rodriguez even wanted to reshoot El Mariachi using more well known actors and better special effects, so people wouldn't look down at his first movie.
Reading this book, it appeared that Rodriguez walked into the dream of any filmmaker. I hoped to read about his trials and efforts to getting attention to those in power in Hollywood and the fans, but other than the medical testing and some hard work in post production, it sounded like it came easy to him. The majority of the money to make the movie went into the film it was shot on and not the actors, special effects, or locations.
In all honestly, a little jealousy even sprang up in me. Rodriguez used his first movie to lead into others such as Grind House: Planet Terror, From Dusk Til Dawn, and one of my favorites Sin City. Within a year of shooting what he felt was a movie barely better than a home made video, he was courted by all of Hollywood, and traveling world wide to promote his movie at festivals.
The book Rebel Without A Crew is a good read that not only should be read by Robert Rodriguez fans and those whom want to be filmmakers, but by anyone interested in the behind the scenes aspects of the film industry. The book is a quick read and contains the screenplay for El Mariachi with notes about why he wrote particular scenes into the movie.