Rebel Without A Crew

As I round out finishing my new How Many Days? website – I thought through my blog here I’d share over the next little while the profile and reasoning I selected each person on my list.  The first is:

Robert Rodriguez

“Don’t be told something is impossible. There’s always a way.”
– Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor and musician.  He shoots and produces many of his films in his native Texas and Mexico. He has directed such films as Desperado (1995), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), The Faculty (1998), Spy Kids (2001), Sin City (2005), Planet Terror (2007). He also produced the upcoming Predators (2010).

Rodriguez grew up shooting action and horror short films on video, and editing on two VCRs. Finally, in the fall of 1990, his entry in a local film contest earned him a spot in a university film program where he made the award-winning 16 mm short, “Bedhead”.  Even at this early stage, Rodriguez’s trademark style began to emerge: quick cuts, intense zooms, and fast camera movements deployed with a sense of humor that offsets the action.  Rodriguez not only has the usual credits of producing, directing and writing his films, he also frequently serves as editor, director of photography, camera operator, steadicam operator, composer, production designer, visual effects supervisor, and sound editor on his films. This has earned him the nickname of “the one-man film crew.” He abbreviates his numerous roles in his film credits; Once Upon A Time In Mexico, for instance, is “shot, chopped, and scored by Robert Rodriguez”, and Sin City is “shot and cut by Robert Rodriguez”.

Find out more about Robert or contact him for to help Gavin’s How Many Days? mission here:

A man needs little else but his art and his weapon.

He’s the rebel without a crew. His amazing story of a man, his camera, and a $7,000 budget have become the stuff of legends in independent filmmaking. There’s even the book: “Rebel Without A Crew”. Before I read the book I knew the story. I saw the films.

Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty… a very fun director to be following. Now, I know his story has inspired countess thousands of filmmakers to grab their gear and shoot their no-budget film. I had already shot two features by the time I really examined Robert’s story. “Leaving Town” and “Do Not Disturb”. The first was made for triple what his “El Mariachi” was. The second, with just two main actors, was shot in five days for $472. You should have seen my producer’s eyes roll when I proposed coming up with a project that, no matter what, we would spend less than five-hundred dollars on it. This is where you’ll begin to see my respect for Rodriguez and his ability to keep budgets under control and think outside the box as to how to accomplish a lot cinematically with very little.

I like to work alone a lot. Collaborations can sometimes go up in flames for me as I know exactly what I want and there are few people I find that share that same vision and style as me. After Leaving Town and Do Not Disturb, I was frustrated with the restrictions of having a larger crew to work with, the time to set-up each shot, so on and so forth. I longed for the days in high school with my Panasonic VHS camcorder and the freedom to quickly point-shoot-move on. Working the camera, using practical light, directing through the viewfinder. Quick, cheap, and dirty.

My third film hit a common problem. A shady and swindling original producer. Money promised, favours promised, endless promises. Nothing showed up two days before we were to shoot and had already flown our lead actress (the fabulous Tanya Bettencourt) in from Boston. “A Most Useless Place”, oddly titled from its Dr. Suess story, spoke to us as a production team right there – feeling in a useless place. There were two options in everyone’s mind: cancel the film or delay shooting it. In my mind, standing off from everyone, throwing a little temper tantrum (how I deal, so deal with it)- there was only one option:

Shoot the film at any cost. Be it budget slashing, reducing the number of locations, and my mental health. Whatever it takes.

We quickly raised less than 1/12th the intended budget and as I was investigating cheap ways to make the film, I recalled Robert’s story. My first thought when reading about his one man film crew was: Bullshit! Complete and total bullshit! How in the world could that be done? Well… me never being a guy to take the path of least resistance, the idea hit me: I would call bullshit on this Rodriguez character and try to make my film as a one man film crew just to prove that it couldn’t be done. If you’re gonna shoot a movie without the budget, you may as well eliminate the crew at the same time. The Producer eye roll switched to a near head explosion this time when I proposed my one and only acceptable solution to getting the film made. The result?

8-9 days later, all by myself on camera and lighting and directing, etc, etc – I shot “A Most Useless Place” in and around my home city of Windsor. I was wrong. It can be done. I did it. I took Robert’s method and ran with it- his drive and determination a baton I picked up and now carry with me through my film career.

Robert has also built his garage into a full-fledged production house. Every step of his filmmaking can be done from home. It’s what I had always dreamed of doing and when I saw on a DVD –featurette that he had already built his studio at home, I chuckled and thought about how I’ll have to outdo him. He’s used this cost-efficient set up to continue to write, direct, and produce some of the most interesting independent films and some studio pictures along the way.

I figure in meeting with Robert, besides the chance to pick his brain, will be the chance to formally apologize for doubting the ability to make a film by oneself. After all – nothing is impossible.

Are you in the film business or a fan of his work?  Were you inspired by Robert Rodriguez?  If so, what do you like about them?  Leave a comment below, post a scene from his films or interviews from youtube with him.  I dare you!

— Again, this is taken from: – my new How Many Days? official site.  Please poke around, check it out from time to time, catch my daily video blog, comment where it pleases you!



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