Director Robert Rodriguez Teaches The Basics of Filmmaking in Under 10 Minutes

Orson Welles once claimed that Gregg Toland, cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er for Cit­i­zen Kane, taught him every­thing he need­ed to know about shoot­ing movies in a half hour. Direc­tor Robert Rodriguez — who start­ed off as the poster boy for ‘90s indie cin­e­ma and is cur­rent­ly mak­ing a healthy liv­ing turn­ing out movies like Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – claims that he can reduce that time by a third. In 10 Minute Film School, which you can watch above, Rodriguez quick­ly hits on some of the key points of movie mak­ing while espous­ing the same rebel DIY spir­it that made him a suc­cess. Remem­ber, this is a guy who made a fea­ture film, El Mari­achi, for $7000.

Rodriguez’s basic phi­los­o­phy doesn’t dwell on learn­ing the fine points of Aris­totelian act struc­ture or the tech­ni­cal nuances of the Red cam­era. He just wants you to start shoot­ing stuff. “Don’t dream about being a film­mak­er,” he pro­claims in the video, which looks like it was shot some time dur­ing the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion. “You are a film­mak­er. Now let’s get down to busi­ness.”

He tells aspir­ing film­mak­ers to become tech­ni­cal — learn the tools of the trade. If you don’t, you might become over­ly reliant on the techies who may or may not be inter­est­ed in real­iz­ing your vision. He also doesn’t put too much stock in screen­writ­ing books like Save the Cat. “Any­one know how to write?” he asks the audi­ence. “No? Good. Every­one else writes the same way. Start writ­ing your way. That makes you unique.”

He also advis­es against sto­ry­boards. “Make a blank screen for your­self and sit there and watch your movie. Imag­ine your movie, shot for shot, cut for cut…Write down the shots you see and then go get those shots.”

The video shows its age when Rodriguez starts to talk about equip­ment. No aspir­ing film­mak­er aside from a cel­lu­loid fetishist is going to shoot a first fea­ture on 16mm when cheap­er, eas­i­er dig­i­tal cam­eras are avail­able. Yet the core of his mes­sage is still valid. “You don’t want any­thing too fan­cy,” he states over and over. Fan­cy equip­ment makes for life­less, dull films, lack­ing in that reck­less, adven­tur­ous spir­it of the new­bie moviemak­er.

Essen­tial­ly, Rodriguez wants to keep the “inde­pen­dent” in inde­pen­dent film­mak­ing. Just as he tells his charges to get tech­ni­cal, Rodriguez also tells them to keep their bud­gets low. The more mon­ey a stu­dio sinks into a pro­duc­tion, the more they can dic­tate how that mon­ey is spent. Rodriguez had a gui­tar case, a tur­tle and a small Tex­an town at his dis­pos­al when he was start­ing out, and, with that, he strung togeth­er the sto­ry of El Mari­achi. In the 20 plus years since, Rodriguez has main­tained cre­ative con­trol over just about all of his movies.

One final note. “Don’t both­er going to film school,” he says. As some­one with an over­priced MFA in film, I have to say that he’s prob­a­bly right.

via Film­mak­er IQ

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Film­mak­ers: Sac­ri­fice Your­self for Cin­e­ma

Film­mak­ing Advice from Quentin Taran­ti­no and Sam Rai­mi (NSFW)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new pic­ture of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly. 

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