Drug trials, guns and Hollywood fame

Rebel Without a Crew Book Summary

Before I start this very short book summary, I just want to preface something.

I don’t know what I am talking about.

I am a 19 year old film school dropout (potentially) who has never seen Citizen Kane. I am not a “professional reviewer” nor a professional writer. I simply love film. And that’s what this page is about. A shared love for all things movie and tv.  

I digress.

Rebel without a Crew flipped my perception on making a movie. It inspired me to make my own shit (this), work harder and most importantly, defer from film school. And for those who cannot be arsed to read it, this is for you.

 The book is split into 4 key parts.

  1. Pre shooting
  2. Production
  3. Making it in Hollywood
  4. The 10 minute film school

The first section – my favourite – dives into Roberts own love for film and how he financed El Mariachi. Similar, to most big name Hollywood Directors, he had been making short films since he was little and as expected, these came out garbage. Robert’s theory is that to make a successful feature you want to get all the garbage out of your system.  Essentially, just start making films. Whether they are good or bad, you will slowly learn what keeps and audience engaged. For Mr Rodriguez, once he got out all the garbage, he stumbled onto success with Bedhead and then El Mariachi.

What is so fascinating about Robert’s story is how he financed his first feature. Instead of spending 3 years gathering funds or doing it through film school, he instead chose to raise the $7,000 through a drug trial. Robert spent a month in a hospital swallowing pills, being stabbed with needles and most importantly, writing his script. This showed me that there are so many different paths to funding your films. While I will not be rushing out to any local drug trials, I will be trying different methods to fund my upcoming shorts.

Big pockets = more room for gear.

Perhaps what engaged me the most was Robert’s work ethic. During the shooting of El Mariachi, he was either filming or editing for sometimes 12 hours a day. He would often work so late that no restaurants were open and would be “forced” to eat at Fat Burger. On top of this, Robert was seeing his wife and sometimes working jobs. This truly felt like a big ol fuck you. I have spent the last year drawing up hundreds of excuses as to why I have no time to read or write. After reading this short book, I knew I had to cut the crap and realistically, get to work.

While Robert gives plenty of useful information on creating short films, I felt the post production phase was the least interesting aspect of his book. It basically dives into how quickly his success began accumulating after finishing El Mariachi. Every studio in Hollywood wanted a piece of the film and were offering huge picture deals and amounts of money. Not to mention his huge success at Festivals and the amount of celebrities’ he amount. But there is one one key reason it didn’t grab me. A reason that Robert consistently establishes throughout. You have to do it yourself and learn it yourself.  You cannot learn creativity in film school or read about it in a book. You cannot be taught a director’s vision. You only develop it by going out there and shooting it yourself. So is this book completely useless then? Well no, and this is why…

Robert’s debut film

The 10 minute film school.

If you are interested in film whatsoever you have probably heard about this many times. It is basically Robert’s tips for breaking into the industry without any money or connections. The 10 minute film school can be split into 6 parts:

  1. Fuck the money, its about creativity (paraphrasing)

As almost every director in Hollywood will preach, a lot can be done with little money. Robert even argues that it is actually beneficial. This is because it shows studios and executives how much you are able to accomplish with a little budget. Plus, less stress, etc etc etc.

2. It is not about ‘movie experience’ but instead ‘experience in movies

‘Movie experience’ is any lower job on a film set, production assistant, runner, intern, the list goes on. This, according to Robert, is detrimental as it teaches you the ineffective ways of high budget film making. Also, it only teaches you how other people make films. However, ‘experience in movies’ is doing it yourself with little to no money on a shitty video camera. This ensures that you are creating your own unique creative vision.

3. Get the bad movies out of your system!

Feel like I kind of covered this.

4. Be your own director of photography

This one is simple. Robert’s idea is that if are your own D.O.P you learn as you go. Instead of wasting time asking a hundred questions or blaming the cinematographer when the shot looks garbage, it is all on you. You will problem solve and the rest will fall into place.

5. Write your own original material

By writing your own material, you once again, have no one to blame or give credit to. In addition, it comes from a personal place of truthfulness that is imperative for a good script.

6. Work hard, MAKE YOUR MOVIE

Sam Raimi, Kevin Smith, Edgar Wright, Richard Linklater, Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Rodriguez. What do all these names have in common? They made their first features or shorts with no budget and no resources. They simply had a specific creative vision in mind and used that resourcefulness to make it happen. And why were they all successful? Because they told such honest and original stories. This is the core message of Robert’s book. And it is also the reason all these directors made it so far in Hollwood.

“Work hard and be scary” – Robert Rodriguez 1995.