How Quentin Tarantino Shoots a Film at 3 Different Budget Levels: Reservoir Dogs ($1 Million), Pulp Fiction ($8 Million), and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ($95 Million)

Quentin Taran­ti­no has nev­er shied away from talk­ing, at length and at a rapid clip, about his process. “In anoth­er life,” Col­in Mar­shall writes in a pre­vi­ous post on the sub­ject, he might have become a “fore­most prac­ti­tion­er” of the video essay on cin­e­ma. His metic­u­lous analy­ses of not only his own films but also the hun­dreds he references–or out­right steals from–can be dizzy­ing, the rav­ings of an over­ac­tive cre­ative mind that seems impos­si­ble to rein in.

Taran­ti­no has also giv­en us sig­nif­i­cant insight into his screen­writ­ing process, say­ing “I was put on Earth to face the blank page” and claim­ing that he watch­es the entire film in his mind’s eye before putting pen to paper. He wrote Pulp Fic­tion “off and on,” Mark Seal notes at Van­i­ty Fair, “in a one-room apart­ment with no phone or fax” in Ams­ter­dam. Then he sought out vet­er­an Hol­ly­wood typ­ist Lin­da Chen, who agreed to type, and edit, the man­u­script for free.

“His hand­writ­ing is atro­cious,” says Chen. “He’s a func­tion­al illit­er­ate. I was aver­ag­ing about 9,000 gram­mat­i­cal errors per page. After I would cor­rect them, he would try to put back the errors, because he liked them.”

As a writer, Tarantino’s quirks don’t actu­al­ly seem out of place. As a direc­tor, his process would not seem to lend itself to the most dis­ci­plined pro­duc­tion. The final prod­uct of that error-rid­den script, how­ev­er, became what Roger Ebert called “the most influ­en­tial” movie of the 90s, “so well writ­ten in a scruffy, fanzine way that you want to rub noses in it—the noses of those zom­bie writ­ers who take ‘screen­writ­ing’ class­es that teach them the for­mu­las for ‘hit films.’” Of course, great writ­ing is an indis­pens­able part of mak­ing a great film, but so too is great film­mak­ing.…

How did Taran­ti­no go from fever­ish­ly hand-scrib­bled script to a “most influ­en­tial” film as a direc­tor? He has worked with­in strict lim­i­ta­tions, as on his direc­to­r­i­al debut, Reser­voir Dogs, with larg­er bud­gets and bet­ter sets, as on Pulp Fic­tion, and on his most recent film, the $95 mil­lion Once Upon a Time in Hol­ly­wood. But he has always main­tained a con­sis­tent visu­al style eas­i­ly rec­og­niz­able across all nine of his films.

In the video essay above from In Depth Cine, you can learn more of the sto­ry of how Taran­ti­no accom­plished his direc­to­r­i­al visions, and how that style fol­lowed him from film to film. The video gets into tech­ni­cal details like the choice of 35mm cam­eras and the light­ing place­ment. It also tells the sto­ry of how three films—Reser­voir DogsPulp Fic­tion, and Once Upon a Time in Hol­ly­wood—used their vast­ly dif­fer­ent bud­get lev­els, while all remain­ing true to each oth­er and to their writer and direc­tor’s inten­tions.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Analy­sis of Quentin Tarantino’s Films Nar­rat­ed (Most­ly) by Quentin Taran­ti­no

Quentin Tarantino’s Copy­cat Cin­e­ma: How the Post­mod­ern Film­mak­er Per­fect­ed the Art of the Steal

Quentin Taran­ti­no Explains How to Write & Direct Movies

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.