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Rebel Without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  2,804 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
When Columbia Pictures picked up Rodriguez's low-budget independent film, El Mariachi, and offered him a million-dollar contract, the rules of the Hollywood game were irrevocably changed. Complete with a shooting script of the film, this book is both one man's remarkable story and an essential guide for anyone who has a celluloid story to tell--and the determination to see ...more
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published December 31st 1995 by Dutton Books (first published August 1st 1995)
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Mar 31, 2008 Alexia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring filmmakers and the people who love them
now that i'm a month from earning my bachelor's degree in film production here's how i would do it if i were to do it all over again:

1. take out a student loan, but use it to buy a camera instead of classes.

2. get the super maxed out netflix subscription that allows for 10 dvd's at a time. start from the silents and watch every important film anyone ever mentioned (and some bad ones for balance)

3. purchase 'rebel without a crew'. read it in two hours (it really is a fast read) and follow every w
Dec 11, 2012 Roland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film
This is probably the most inspiring film I've read on going out and just making a film. Rodriguez doesn't want to hear your excuses: if you have access to a camera, ANY kind of camera, there's no reason why you can't go out and make a film. My favorite insight in this book is early on regarding screenplays. Basically, he says that everyone has to write a bunch of crappy screenplays until they get good at it; likewise, everyone has to make a bunch of crappy films until they get good at it. His de ...more
Jul 17, 2009 Josh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books, filmmaking
I think I would give this book 2.5 stars really. Rodriguez definitely knows how to craft a story, whether it is in a film or this book laid out in diary form. It moves quickly, like the movie he describes making, but sometimes he goes a little too quickly, especially once he becomes enamored with Hollywood (he protests he isn't, but I think what he tells us about really shows that he is). One of the most frustrating parts is when Rodriguez tells us that Quentin Tarentino gives him some writing a ...more
Dylan Hesp
Sep 16, 2016 Dylan Hesp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. An amazing, creative, get it done story. Rodriguez is the man and an inspiration. It's impossible to read this and not feel creatively charged and challenged.
Jay Lamm
Dec 08, 2015 Jay Lamm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Rodriguez is a fine example for what can be accomplished with a bit of talent and work ethic. This book is actually his published journal from the time he spent making his first feature-length film, El Mariachi.

It's a fascinating account of how one guy can make something happen. It's the whole "if you want something done right you have to do it yourself" thing. For those who don't know, El Mariachi was shot for just seven thousand dollars. How was he able to keep it so cheap? He pretty mu
May 01, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, film
In 1991, Robert Rodriguez was just another film fanatic who wanted to make his own feature-length movie. Unlike the bulk of people in the same situation, he actually did something about it - volunteering himself for medical trials to raise the funds, being his own crew, sorting out his cast and location and actually making a film. Then his $7,000 movie, intended as a test-run to be sold to Spanish-language direct-to-video, was picked up by Columbia Pictures and Rodriguez became “a Hollywood Play ...more
May 06, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really, really interesting book. It's essentially the diary Rodriguez wrote while making his famous debut film "El Mariachi." He redefines creating by the seat of your pants. Rodriguez does everything from volunteering for a medical experiment to raise much-needed funds to casting people who don't even speak Spanish into his Spanish-language movie. He shoots for an insanely short number of days, hardly sleeping and improvising as he goes--he admits, for instance, that the theme song to the movie ...more
Demetra Materis
Nov 30, 2014 Demetra Materis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a film school graduate and independent Chicago film lover, this book really inspired me to keep going and forget Hollywood. I wish I would have read it BEFORE I went to film school but that's just too long and boring of a story.

Robert Rodriguez shares his journal entries as his first feature film "El Mariachi" kicks ass from LA to Toronto, putting him on the map of important filmmakers. He is real, honest and funny. I loved everything about this book and have much respect for the man. Highly
Kali Srikanth
How do you make a movie when you don’t have a Camera, don’t have known stars, don’t have crew to work for you, and more importantly don’t have enough money? The answer lies in the first 70 pages of this inspiring diary of Robert Rodriguez’s.

Robert is certainly a brilliant story-teller who knows his story well but his story comes down to only names once he made it to Columbia Pictures Whom he met in Hollywood, big shots he had free lunch with and the interviews he gave.

His ten minute crash cou
Jeff Sarris
Nov 18, 2015 Jeff Sarris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Going in I didn't realize this is essentially just his journal entries. It chronicles his conception of El Mariachi through his dramatic entrance into Hollywood and culminates with the film festival circuit.

At first glance I thought I would be disappointed due to this format, but I loved this book.

I'm a sucker for against all odds underdog back stories. A good example of another back story I love is that of Andy Weir (of The Martian fame). I tend to connect with these real life stories so much
Film director Mat Whitecross has chosen to discuss Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Film-Maker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player , on FiveBooks ( as one of the top five on his subject – Film Directing, saying that:

“…I remember growing up and really wanting to be a film-maker but it seemed like an impossible dream. When this book came out it was so inspiring because Rodriguez said, just grab hold of a camera and go off and shoot and practise
Carrie Evans
Jan 23, 2016 Carrie Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film-books
Yes, get a camera, grab every resource you have at your disposal, and make a movie. I can get behind this mentality. So many books by filmmakers dance around how they actually did things. Sure, Robert gets lucky quite a few times, but if you have ever gotten your hands dirty and made a movie, occasionally that does happen. I really liked this book.
Wesley Johnson
Apr 05, 2015 Wesley Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is essentially a journal kept by Robert Rodriguez during pre-production & production of his first film, El Mariachi. Sounds boring, right? Well, maybe from any other director, but Rodriguez spins this into an incredibly exciting yarn. It helps that he did crazy things to earn the film's budget, e.g. subjecting himself to medical testing experiments.

Late last year, I was a co-producer on my first feature film, Volumes of Blood. This gave me a small taste of the craziness Rodriguez
Steve Isaak
Jul 31, 2014 Steve Isaak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I've read on filmmaking - it shows, in practical and often humorous terms, how practically anyone with a lot of energy, planning and focus can make a worthwhile entertaining film in a relatively short period of time (when compared to time- and finance-bloated Hollywood blockbusters whose entertainment returns are less than one would hope).

Yes, making a film can be a lot of work, but it's probably less work (and more worthwhile) than Grumbling Gusses think - and, mo
Jan 23, 2015 Soho_black rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, used-to-own
Robert Rodriguez is very much a film maker on the up and has been for a number of years. In 2005, following the release of his film "Sin City"; he was ranked as one of Hollywood's 50 most powerful people by Premiere magazine.

In fact, Robert Rodriguez has done so much, having written and directed a number of very successful films, including his "Mariachi" trilogy and the "Spy Kids" trilogy and directed "From Dusk Til Dawn"; it seems strange to think he has only really been on the scene for less t
Alexandre Vale
Oct 18, 2014 Alexandre Vale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Franco, directo, muito divertido, sem falsos romantismos e idealismos ingénuos.
Os diários de Robert Rodriguez, escritos durante toda a produção e consequente distribuição do icónico "El Mariachi", são bastante cativantes e, acima de tudo, o resultado final é bastante inspirador.
O melhor de tudo é mesmo o tesouro de texto que encontramos no final do livro, o "Ten Minute Film School". Em dez minutos, Rodriguez, de forma enérgica, diz tudo o que precisas para fazer um filme.
Dá vontade de pegar n
Sep 20, 2013 Masterofoneinchpunch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cinema
Rebel Without A Crew is an extraordinary and inspirational book by Robert Rodriguez about his legendary frugal filming of El Mariachi and the whirlwind aftermath of the famous post-production. Most filmmakers will not obtain the quick success of El Marichi, but Robert shows that being prepared with a script, having experience with shooting and editing movies (as opposed to only having Film School knowledge) and lots and lots of hard work you can go far in an industry dominated by heavy weights.

Carlos Marin
Nov 15, 2011 Carlos Marin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Robert Rodriquez's "Rebel Without a Crew" will not win any literary awards, it is still a fun read. The book is an account of the director's personal journey to get his low budget movie, "El Mariachi" produce and sold. The novel is a collection of journal entries (from Mr. Rodriquez) on the process of: finding funds, getting actors, acquiring locations, filming the feature, and submitting the final product to film festivals and potential video and Spanish TV buyers. Written from the direct ...more
Bridget Petrella
Robert Rodriguez so desperately wanted to make movies that he actually subjected himself to medical experiments so he could finance them. He really did: "Naturally, the research hospital fit the bill. I knew that if I checked in for a month long drug study I could clear about $3,000, with room and board paid for, and have plenty of time to kick back and write my script."

"Rebel Without a Crew" is Rodriguez's daily diary about the making of his first full-length movie, "El Mariachi", and his bruta
S. Cole
The reason I discovered/picked this up in the beginning was because I read that the Soska Sisters (Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary) started their filmmaking career after being inspired by Rodriguez's book. After reading it, I can understand how they were inspired. This is a great, easy read for people that are high on creativity but lacking in confidence. However, if your sole purpose for picking it up is a ticket to filmmaking success, you are probably not going to get what you want out o ...more
Aug 07, 2008 Professor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: film fans, underdog fans

I've been a casual fan of Robert Rodriguez for a while-basically I think he makes damn fun action films with some inventive ideas in each, even if they're not "the best movie evar" kinds of deals. So when I saw this at the Traveler Cafe I snapped it up. About a year or maybe more later I've finally read it, in quite rapid-fire (I think it took less than a week). It's immensely readable, just Rodriguez's diary from the time he conceived of the idea of shooting a "practice" action film on film, tr
Hassan AlHejaili
Mar 26, 2015 Hassan AlHejaili rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heeyyy!! If you don't ever want to make a film, you still should read this book. I never really looked at Robert Rodríguez as a great filmmaker neither any of his films is in my top 100 list. However, this book is fun to read, rebellious, and it has a true feeling of the love of film making.
Basically, the book says if you want to make a Hollywood film without a big Hollywood budget, you can do it. I did it, and this is my experience...
Eric Pierson
Aug 20, 2015 Eric Pierson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Work hard & be scary." What Robert Rodriquez did with hardly a budget, nearly all by himself, is remarkable. What it led to,....CRAZY! I like this guy. Great attitude, killer results, completely motivating. This book RULES! The high-energy & fast-paced diary-excerpt style of writing lends itself to a very fast read. Bravo, Mr. Rodriquez. Let's make something together real soon, mmk?
David Ross
Sep 14, 2015 David Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very easy to read and incredibly inspiring, Robert Rodriguez details the entire process around his first film, El Mariachi and the incredible wave of attention thrust on him without warning. It's an outsiders view of 90s Hollywood and although the technology and accessibility of independent film has unrecognisably moved on since the book was completed, the networking and politics are much the same. You get to see the commitment and drive required to master your craft and become a skilled filmmak ...more
Jun 14, 2015 Vladimir rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing like a hardworking underdog. Especially in a movie business, where workaholics with attention to details are rare. The other special thing about this book is that it tells you that order to shoot good movie you don't need a substantial amount of money, heck all you need is you and a camera.
Alexander Skakunov
Простая, честная и интересная книга. Немного удручает, что технологии с 1991 года устарели, но основной посыл ясный и чёткий — к чёрту всё, бери и снимай.
Кстати, есть видео-курс по съёмке —
Maria Gillis
Jan 15, 2008 Maria Gillis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an aspiring film maker, this book helped me to stretch my imagination about what's really possible for a movie with a small budget, and gave a lot of insight as to what to expect when trying to get a movie bought. Rodrigues' humor and the story of his humble beginnings as a lab rat adds a nice twist to it and made the book quite enjoyable to read. The book started to get a bit dry after El Mariachi started to take off as it didn't offer much other than a long list of awards, but otherwise, no ...more
This is currently speaking volumes to me right now, especially with how troublesome a particular project has been. Robert said at one point if you want something done right you need to do it yourself. Based on the last several dates, he is so right. haha. Anyway, it's a good read and really inspiring. If you are a filmmaker and haven't read this yet, definitely do so.
Jeremiah Bell
Feb 09, 2014 Jeremiah Bell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastic- A real page turner! I began reading it two days ago, and have barely been able to put it down since. Rodriguez' account of his trials, tribulations, and incredible adventure as he rises from a 12-year-old amateur filmmaker to a 23-year-old writer/producer/director/cameraman thrust into the Hollywood limelight make for very engrossing reading. The book contains Rodriguez' almost daily journal entries that he wrote while filming "El Mariachi," as well as during a month-long ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though the industry has changed a lot since Rodriguez got his start in filmmaking, this is an inspiring account. Highly recommend for any bootstrapping filmmaker.
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Robert Anthony Rodriguez is an American director, writer, producer, cinematographer, editor and musician perhaps best known for making profitable, crowd-pleasing independent and studio films with fairly low budgets and fast schedules by Hollywood standards. He shoots and produces many of his films in Texas and Mexico.
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“When given an opportunity, deliver excellence and never quit.” 52 likes
“Ever director has at least 10 bad films in them.” 14 likes
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