El Mariachi

“So it looks like it’s Robert Rodriguez kicking us off with El Mariachi. I actually thought about starting with his short Bedhead, and I did just watch it, but at 8 minutes, writing it up was gonna take longer than the film’s run time. I will say that one thing that’s so interesting about Rodriguez’s career is the way he bounces back and forth between family fare and well, not so much family movies. But when it is a family flick, the emphasis really is on family. Just watch the credits at the end of Bedhead and count the Rodriguez-es. True, half will start with Robert, but he really gets everyone in on it. It’s a fun and impressive little film that’s definitely worth a watch on YouTube.

I’ll be honest. The first time I saw El Mariachi, it was a little bit of a disappointment. I’d already seen Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and with Sin City and some of his others I was quite the Rodriguez fan. So I was really psyched to see this little movie that started it all, that caught the attention of Hollywood and brought this little nobody from Texas into the big leagues. But then I watched it and I just didnt get it. The dialogue was bad, the acting worse, the effects silly. I couldnt understand how this jumpstarted a career.

Problem was, I didnt have the full story. Some time after that, I picked up Rodriguez’ book Rebel Without a Crew. I dont typically go for non-fiction, but I idolize this man. How could I not read his story? This book is the whole behind the scenes story of El Mariachi: raising the money, filming the movie, and the wild ride afterwards. IMDB had already told me that Rodriguez subjected himself to drug trials to finance the film. The book gave all the gory details. Right from there, you can’t help but admire the man’s dedication and work ethic.

But that’s not what impressed me. What truly truly impressed me was how low budget the film was, exactly what that means, and how me made the best of it. If you’re thinking of El Mariachi in that context, it’s mind boggling. The movie was shot for $7000. That’s right. Only 3 zeros. The actors were all friends of his, including pals he found while enrolled in the aforementioned drug trials. About $6500 was used on film. While that sounds like a lot, it really isn’t. For most of the shoot, he could only afford one take of everything. If someone messed up, he could not reshoot the whole scene, just backtrack slightly and continue from a different angle. The borrowed guns could only handle one shot at a time. There was one set of squibs (the thing that similuates someone getting shot), so only one person could get shot at a time, and they all looked fairly similar. Read thru the credits. Rodriguez wrote, directed, filmed, edited, did music, took care of special effects, produced, everything. So now, could you take those limited resources and put together a film that’s half as good? Yeah, I didnt think so. For a film that was just meant to be a learning experience, it turned into so much more that he bargained for. And I for one am glad for it.”

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