For those who may not know, movie making can be a very tedious process. Some of your favorite movies had languished in development for years and underwent numerous revisions before finally meeting your eyeballs at the theater. Why the heck does it take so long? Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and sometimes many many people have to work together to get it made. Don't believe me? Next time you're at the movies, stick around and watch the end credits. Every one of those people had some input in the movie you had just watched. And what does it all mean? Every aspect of making the film cost mucho dinero. And while a film is often the direct vision of the director, pretty much everything has to be approved by committee to get money for it to happen.
Yet every now and then. Someone bucks the system. Unique voices in cinema make the medium diverse and enjoyable, but true mavericks in filmmaking are few and far between. One such nonconformist is Texas's own cinematic cowboy: Robert Rodriguez.
20 years ago, Rodriguez was an outsider with no inside connection to the industry. Yet, he still established his own mark like the searing brand on cowhide. Now, how exactly did he do this? Did he knock on every door in Hollywood and pitch his screenplays, hoping someone (or anyone) would take a chance on him? Did he earn his stripes by starting as a production assistant and fetching coffee for years? Did he take minor commercial jobs and work his way up to directing features? The answer, of course, is a resounding heck no. Rodriguez just up and made his own movie, EL MARIACHI, on his terms.
But wait. I know you're thinking, "You just said movies cost a ton of money to make!" That's still true. But instead of going to a studio to raise millions of dollars for his project, Robert funded his own movie... and made it for $7000. That's right. For the price of a dozen modern-day iPads, he made his own movie. That, amigos, is budget control at its very best. Rodriguez was creative, frugal and dynamic in his vision. As a result, Columbia distributed and it launched a Hollywood filmography that have seen a significant budget increase over seven grand: FROM DUSK TIL DAWN, SPY KIDS, THE FACULTY, SIN CITY and PLANT TERROR, among others.
In the years to come, Rodriguez continued the story of EL MARIACHI with DESPERADO (1995) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (2003). As the trilogy grew in scope, so did the talent involved. A cast of unknowns expanded to include Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Joaquim de Almeida, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Willem DaFoe, Mickey Rourke and Johnny Depp.
And to think, it all started in 1992 with EL MARIACHI. In this story, a young unnamed Mariachi is mistaken for a vengeful ex-con and hunted by a ruthless drug lord and his men. A mere drifter equipped only with his guitar, he gets pulled into this deadly game and fight for his survival. An action movie with elements of a Western (Call it a "Southwestern," if you will), it showcased Rodriguez as a force behind the camera. Not that his role was limited only to director, producer and screenwriter. He had a hand in nearly every aspect of production: sound, visual effects, cinematography, editing, and music. Think of him as a Swiss army knife of cinema with the blunt force of a machete.
And so now, two decades later, we celebrate this first endeavor from Robert Rodriguez. The Paramount will host the event, sponsored by AMD, The Austin Film Society and EL Rey Network. On Thursday, Rodriguez himself will be on hand to present a 35mm screening of EL MARIACHI. Afterward the screening and a Q&A, stick around for live musical performances by Robert's band Chingón. They will play music used in Rodriguez's films as scenes are projected on the silver screen behind them on stage. It's a great way to commemorate a landmark film by an enduring Texan talent.
Not many have the cajones to shoot from the hip, but Rodriguez is a true visionary whose range of talents and skills are the result of one very simple fact. Like a Mariachi, he plays by ear... but he also plays by his own rules.
EL MARIACHI plays Thursday, August 30th at 7:30 p.m. It's gonna be killer.