Robert Rodriguez
Rebel Without a Crew
Book Review by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony

What an enjoyable easy read. Certainly a must read for the young soon-to-be filmmaker. I'm not so young, and I've already made my handful of productions on a shoestring. So honestly, I didn't feel such a need to read this. And there is one other thing too; I'd already spoken with Robert Rodriguez personally. (Although, I interviewed him much later in his career see SpyKidsII Interview with Robert Rodriguez and Antonio Banderas .)

That said, my friend Marshall who is one of the biggest lovers of film that I know, told me I simply had to read "Rebel Without a Crew." He could see I wasn't going to go out and buy a copy -- so he bought one for me. Hence, I had to read it (simply because he bought it). Anyway, I read it while on a two week book tour. What a joy it turned out to be -- completely unpretentious, informal, full of the excitement that we who love to create love to be full of while creating. Further, Robert goes into surprising detail on just how he shot his first feature film (on 16mm) in 1991 which slingshot his career to Hollywood. It's so cool that Rodriguez took the time to share his story in such a comprehensive way.

Just a grain of salt here: Rodriguez grew up in a unique time in history -- when consumer video products were on the rise, with features that simulated professional equipment at tape costs a kid could afford with dad's camera and VCR. I don't mean to take away from the central theme of "Rebel Without a Crew," which is, "Anyone can make a cheap film and bust into Hollywood." I'm just saying, there was a unique window in the development of technology, namely video, that made an inspiration success story like Robert's not only more likely in the early 1990's, but in fact, undoubtedly inevitable. By now, Hollywood execs aren't impressed with the professional look of video it's everywhere. Heck you can even buy an HD camera for one grand. Again, I'm not saying Rodriguez had nothing else going for him besides his clever use of video to make his 16mm straight to video thus eliminating a huge chunk of film processing costs. He is absolutely a talented filmmaker. And I guess, that's the point I want to make. It's not enough to make a cheap film you have to be a good filmmaker. Especially now that the cat is out of the bag on cheap filmmaking. Lots of folks have a demo real.

While Rodriguez gets quite excited by smart ways to make films cheaply, the reader ought not forget there's something else more important. While not so clearly or often stated in the book, it's intrinsic in his writings (which are excerpts from his journal while filming) that -- success is possible with great passion and a dedicated willingness to work really hard. Just thought I'd emphasize that point.

Lastly, Robert squeezes in a 10-page appendix titled The Ten Minute Film School. It's a capsule summary of the tips that are scattered through the text of the book itself. Following that, is the actual original screenplay for the film that made him a hot item in Hollywood circa '93. The script is accented with bolded font inserts where Robert comments on the changes made and/or improvised during shooting -- per necessity.

In the end, in addition to all the specifics from film, video editing, lighting on the cheap and what success in the industry actually looks like, the book is inspirational.

Here's a few quotes from the book:

"I didn't have a crew because I made this movie to learn, so I wanted to do everything myself and make all the mistakes myself. (You'd be surprised how easygoing you are after you make a mistake and there is no one around to see it. You accept your error and move on. Had a crew member made the mistake you'd yelling at him the rest of the shoot.) Without a crew there is no one to feed and there is no one contributing their ideas, their two cents, allowing you to be a very decisive director. That speeds up the production, which works great because creatively your mind races anyway. It's the waiting that can kill creativity."

Regarding sudden success in Hollywood: "This whole experience is so bizarre I've just got to let it play out. I can't even imagine what my next move should be. I used to be able to trust my instincts. I must have left them in Texas because they're nowhere to be found."

He ends the book with: "Thank you for your time, and I hope someday I can meet you in person. Until then . . . good luck and God bless."

Read more Book Reviews by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony.

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 29-Feb-2012 13:38:44 PST