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Wisdom Wednesday: Robert Rodriguez’s Five Golden Rules of Filmmaking
by Robert Rodriguez


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  • Already in the moviemaking industry for more than two decades, Robert Rodriguez knows the business and he knows it well.


    His 1996 memoir-come-how-to, Rebel Without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player, is a bona-fide classic of independent moviemaking: a step-by-step explanation of how he made his first feature El Mariachi for pittance and eventually sold it to Columbia for many times its budget. Sure, things have changed a little since 1992, but the book is still an inventive (and heartwarming) tale of a little indie-that-could. A modern-day cowboy, Rodriguez has gained notoriety for his flare for Texan and Mexican backdrops. Hits like Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City and Machete are rife with his loyalty to his Southern roots and his taste for in-your-face violence and vengeful protagonists. And Rodriguez’s unique filmmaking style— abrupt cuts, fast-paced camera movements and intense zooms—are as signature to him as his hyper-vivid landscapes.

    Machete Kills, the bloody, rip-roaring Danny Trejo vehicle part deux, is hitting theaters this Friday. Here are the brief, but insightful lessons he’s learned over the years:

    1. Creative people are notoriously the slowest to adopt new technology. That’s how it’s always been. Creative people on one side, technical people on the other. Creative people aren’t technical, technical people aren’t creative and they always need each other. New technology comes up, creative people run away from it and it takes them so long to adopt it. But when they do, they never go back.

    2. You can get a much better perspective on the business by being outside of it. George Lucas told me the same thing. He said, “Just because you live outside of Hollywood, you’re going to come up with ideas and techniques they’ll never think of in Hollywood.”

    3. I tell people making DV movies at home, use it for practice. Don’t even try to get it distributed unless it’s fucking fantastic. If not, just keep cranking them out. Get better; get better at storytelling. It allows you to do what I did when I started out, which is make a ton of movies for nothing. And you get so much better at it after a while, you can write them and direct them and you know the structure. You just need to learn how to do it and you learn by doing.

    4. Film is horrible, so most definitely HD changes shooting style because it’s not horrible. Then you stop shooting film and you go, ‘Well, why aren’t they doing things this way?’

    5. I’m all about freedom in art. [the guilds] want to control it. I’m from Texas, so when someone tells you which way to ride your horse, you think ‘I’ll just go to a different ranch. You guys are riding it backwards anyway.’

    Don’t forget to visit us next week for more movie knowledge! Previous Wisdom Wednesdays have shared the expertise of Joe EszterhasSeth MacFarlaneMarc Forster,  Billy Bob ThorntonErrol MorrisBrian De PalmaJulie TaymorKevin SmithChris WeitzDanny BoyleSteve BuscemiJim JarmuschZack Snyder, Gus Van SantNeil JordanJohn WatersEli RothNeal McDonoughRandall Emmett and Wim Wenders.

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    1. Tom Curley says:

      1. Be the biggest know it all ever: This allows you to tell everyone around you how completely and devastatingly awesome you are. Remind your workers and fans of this always.

      2. Do things wrong and call it Style: Never mind that thousands of talented people have been working this all out for over a hundred years now. Your “new” idea is surely how it should have been done all this time.

      3. Always be original, even if you’re not: Remember, part of being awesome is telling people how awesome everything you think and do is. Remind people of other awesome things you’ve done, just in case they forgot. If someone challenges this, remind them you’re from Texas

      4. Fast Cheap and out of control: Never stop shooting. That way, all the shit you shoot will eventually cut together as a chaotic mess that you’ll call a movie. People will complain, but remember, they are not original and Awesome.

      5. Never accept criticism: Remember, you’re the most awesome gift the world has ever seen! Anyone who says different is a desparate, ignorant hater who just wants to ride off your fame for a while.

    2. MovieMaker Magazine says:

      Tom – heh. But really though, think how many artists that kind of attitude has fostered. You almost HAVE to think and act that way to get where someone like Robert Rodriguez has.

    3. Saigon Jane says:

      I love that Can I post it on my fb and website? My film friends would love it.

    4. Darbi Jacob says:

      I have a question for Robert Rodriquez. I’ve read all his advice. When you were growing up, what were your first experiences like working with filmmaking and building your craft? Who did you bounce ideas with? Anyone significant that fueled your enthusiasm and craft with?
      Thank you

      • Miles says:

        Read his book.
        He made movies with his many siblings using archaic equipment and a dual vcr setup to record.
        Read his book.
        Rebel without a crew.

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