Book Review: Rebel Without A Crew

I recently read Robert Rodriguez’s 1995 book “Rebel Without A Crew” which chronicles how as a 23-year old struggling student Rodriguez raised $7,000 and made a Hollywood film called “El Mariachi.” The story traces how Rodriguez financed the project (selling himself into a month-long pharmaceutical research project), wrote the script, lined up his gear and crew, shot and edited the video, and navigated the worlds of film distribution, Hollywood agents, and the independent film festival circuit.

Rodriguez brings us into his world of making videos as a kid, and how with very inexpensive gear and existing props he honed his storytelling and technical skills. Using simple video gear taught Rodriguez to plan his shots and shoot as little footage as possible — skills he employed in his first feature “El Mariachi.” “Learning how to make films this way for ten years trained me to see the movie edited in my head beforehand…. That kind of previsualization skill came in extremely useful on my later films. These are skills they could never teach you in film school…” he says. Rodriguez leveraged his earlier experiences making short videos to tackle a full-length action film, ignoring all film school advice that such things were not possible without large crews and big budgets.

This book is inspiring – even if you’re not a filmmaker. Rodriguez takes his idea and pushes into reality, overcoming obstacles with creativity, tenacity and hard work.

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