Quentin Tarantino Gives a Tour of Video Archives, the Store Where He Worked Before Becoming a Filmmaker

When Quentin Taran­ti­no hit it big in the 1990s with Reser­voir Dogs, and then much big­ger with Pulp Fic­tion, he became known as the auteur who’d received his film edu­ca­tion by work­ing as a video-store clerk. But like much Hol­ly­wood hype, that sto­ry was­n’t quite true. “No, I was already a movie expert,” says the man him­self in a clip from the 1994 BBC doc­u­men­tary Quentin Taran­ti­no: Hol­ly­wood’s Boy Won­der. “That’s how I got hired at Video Archives.” Locat­ed in the South Bay — a com­par­a­tive­ly lit­tle-seen region of Los Ange­les Coun­ty lat­er paid lov­ing trib­ute with Jack­ie Brown — the store was, in the words of one of its own­ers, “one of the few places that Quentin could come as a reg­u­lar guy and get a job and become like a star.”

“Me and the oth­er guys would walk into the local movie the­ater and we’d be head­ing toward our seats and we’d hear, ‘There go the guys from Video Archives,’ ” says Taran­ti­no in Tom Ros­ton’s I Lost It at the Video Store. On one lev­el, the expe­ri­ence con­sti­tut­ed “a primer to what it would be like to be famous.” Hav­ing begun as a Video Archives cus­tomer, Taran­ti­no wound up work­ing there for five years, offer­ing volu­mi­nous and force­ful rec­om­men­da­tions by day and, after clos­ing, putting on staff-only film fes­ti­vals by night. “That time is cap­tured per­fect­ly in True Romance,” which Tony Scott direct­ed but Taran­ti­no wrote, and one of those co-work­ers, Roger Avary, would col­lab­o­rate with him on the screen­play for Pulp Fic­tion.

Video Archives was a bea­con to all the South Bay’s “film geeks.” Then as now, most such peo­ple “devote a lot of mon­ey and they devote a lot of their life to the fol­low­ing of film, but they don’t real­ly have that much to show for all this devo­tion,” oth­er than their strong­ly held cin­e­mat­ic opin­ions. “What you find out fair­ly quick­ly in Hol­ly­wood is, this is a com­mu­ni­ty where hard­ly any­body trusts their own opin­ion. Peo­ple want peo­ple to tell them what is good, what to like, what not to like.” Hence the abil­i­ty of the young Taran­ti­no,  brim­ming with opin­ions and unafraid to state them and pos­sessed of an unwa­ver­ing resolve to make movies of his own, to go from video-store clerk­ing prac­ti­cal­ly straight to the top of the indus­try. Though he did­n’t need film school — nor col­lege, or indeed high school — he could hard­ly have found a more suit­able alma mater.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Last Video Store: A Short Doc­u­men­tary on How the World’s Old­est Video Store Still Sur­vives Today

Quentin Taran­ti­no Picks the 12 Best Films of All Time; Watch Two of His Favorites Free Online

Quentin Tarantino’s Hand­writ­ten List of the 11 “Great­est Movies”

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

Quentin Taran­ti­no Reviews Movies: From Dunkirk and King of New York, to Soul Broth­ers of Kung Fu & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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