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

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  4,261 ratings  ·  262 reviews
In Rebel Without a Crew, famed independent screenwriter and director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Sin City 2, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids) discloses all the unique strategies and original techniques he used to make his remarkable debut film, El Mariachi, on a shoestring budget. This is both one man's remarkable story and an essential guide for anyone who has a cell ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Plume (first published August 1st 1995)
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Start your review of Rebel Without a Crew, or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Finocchiaro
There are fans of Roberto Rodriguez and there are detractors. The latter will point to Spy Kids (even if their kids love watching them) and Once Upon a Time in the West as proof that he sold out years ago. Personally to them I would point out Sin City (both 1 and 2) as proof that his ability to create visual effects that look like they are straight out of his vivid imagination is hard to surpass. This book of course talks about the legendary filming of El Mariachi which made Roberto a man with a ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Leo Robertson
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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. ...more
Eidul Abdullah Shahrasti
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
the most important & useful thing you need to be a filmmaker is "experience in movies" ,as opposed to "movie experience"...
and what is a movie, anyway? a completely creative endeavor. Anything you can do to get away from the things that aren't important,the better chance you have of being truly creative...
There's a million different ways to achieve the same result, so find what works for you & DO IT !!!!!
Jeremy LaLonde
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I can't believe it took me this long to get around to reading - this was ridiculously inspiring, even for someone whose made several films. The advice is a bit dated, but aspiring filmmakers should have this on their must-read list. ...more
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film, biography
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
Jay Lamm
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: filmmaking, my-books
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
Chris Russell
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not sure why I didn't review this when I finished a couple months ago. As a fan of the Desperado movies it was fun to get this behind the scenes story. It was an easy read and a good story. Unlike many readers I'm not a film student so all that didn't carry as much fascination to me.
It's a classic Horatio Alger - rags to riches story - through hard work and unflagging focus on a goal he gets the big dream, happy ending. I liked the "read-my -journal" format and this speaks to the value of journ
Demetra Materis
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
I can't believe how lucky we are that Robert Rodriguez decided to keep a diary(apparently it's a regular habit of his), and that we have a book like this in our hands. This was a thoroughly fun and inspiring read. You can't help but get inspired after reading it. Robert's story is such a legendary one. While the first half of the book explores the making of the film, and the attempts of selling it and getting it distributed, the second half walks us through the success, and the fame that Ro
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bios, fives, nonfiction
El Mariachi came out in 1993. Desperado came out in 1995, From Dusk Till Dawn in 1996, The Faculty in 1998... I watched them all, and on VHS. As a teenager, I loved movies, and I loved books. And yet somehow I'm only now getting to Rodriguez's book that was published more than twenty-five years ago.

Reading this reminded me of how I pretty much inhaled movies from Neighborhood Video (just down the block) and Blockbuster (where I started working in 1996 or 1997). But reading this was humbling too,
Isabella González
Fun and fast-paced read. I've been meaning to read this book for at least ten years, for as long as I've been claiming that Robert Rodríguez is my tío or primo. Sometimes I forget which relation I claimed to which person. Pos, ni modo. ...more
Matt Kelland
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Literally the single best book for wannabe filmmakers.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
TLDR: Be a workaholic genius and you, too, can have success in Hollywood.
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 practis
Linnea Gelland
Dec 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
An interesting read, especially for aspiring filmmakers. It was inspiring to see the diary of a person so determined and focused on a set goal. I don't think it's necessary to read all of it though, as a lot of the thoughts become repetitive after a while. ...more
Carrie Evans
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Teri Temme
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"They can't make their movies more creative with money. Only more expensive." ...more
Phil Ganz
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good antidote for any excuses for not making the art that you want to.
Bridget LaMonica
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: film-books, memoir
This has been on my "to read" list since film school. Probably a good thing I didn't read it in film school since it's so anti-school.**

I'm really glad I finally got around to reading this. Robert Rodriguez's point of view as he navigates the indie film world and -- suddenly! -- Hollywood movers and shakers is a delight. He's so fresh in the business that he sees everything with new eyes, and doesn't hold back on commenting about things that simply make no sense. That's Hollywood for ya.

Rebel W
Amy Jo
Nov 27, 2019 rated it liked it
OK, so I currently do not trust anyone who has achieved success in a risky venture/career and then proceeds to give advice and standby the idea that anybody can do what they did with some hard work. That always comes off to me as being somewhat disingenuous because there were so many unrecorded factors and heaps of dumb luck that lead to them doing the right thing or being in the right place at the right time. With Rodriguez's book, I think it found a decent balance of telling people there is no ...more
Revanth Dasari
Jan 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
Probably the first non-fiction book that I actually enjoyed reading. It was super fun reading this one.

"No camera stand? Good. There's nothing worse than having a decent camera stand when shooting a low-budget movie. Because a decent camera stand will get you nowhere. A great camera stand will probably work wonders. I don't know, I've never used one. But I know what a decent camera stand will do for you: nothing. It will make you want to lock the camera down so what you end up with is a stiff-l
Benny R.
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As I read Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez I couldn't stop. When i first heard about this book I truly got excited to read it, the author had directed some classic movies such as "el mariachi" and "From dusk till dawn." What I liked about this book was it was very easy to follow along and learn from. It never felt like all the information in the book was being forced upon me, it felt like someone was in front of me sharing their knowledge and thought process in person. This book shares v ...more
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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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