Spanish home video sector. ‘We knew we could compete with the stuff that was out there.‘ Rodriguez

takes up the story. ‘because so much of

it was just rip-off time. A great sleeve. but nothing happenin‘ in the actual movie. We initially saw [5/ Mariachi as a series with this wandering hero. pret- ty much like the Mad Mar pictures. except here we’d be taking the guitar player. the wimpiest character in Mexican culture. and turning him into a tough guy.‘

Just how [5/ Mariachi got from draw- ing board to Hollywood deal. however. is per haps the most remark- able aspect of the young

Austin moviemaker’s extraordinary saga. Rodriguez had been

making his own little video movies. mini- action epics with friends and family. for years. but had found most suc- cess with his first lomm short Bedhead. which had played at a number of film festivals. ‘l‘d done a ten-minute short that cost $800. so I then figured I could make an 80-minute feature for under $8 000. I went into a research hospital fora month. had an anti-cholesterol drug tested on me. used the time to watch movies and write the script. and came out with $3 000 I could put into the project without even thinking about it. I’d already been doing two jobs to get myself through film school at the University of Texas.‘

With cash in hand. the next obstacle to be faced was how on earth to shoot an entire feature on such a pittance. This Rodriguez achieved with bags of inven- tiveness and less equipment than you’d ever have thought possible. ‘We had a 16mm Arriflex camera. two modelling lamps. a still camera tripod. an ordinary tape recorder and two mikes. so the style of the movie comes down to those budgetary limitations. If you have a shaky stand. you have to move the cam- era around a lot we put it in a shop- ping trolley or the back of a truck and ifyou’re trying to save on film you only allow yourself one take to get the shot. That didn’t happen all the time. but if we thought we had what we wanted. there was no otherjust—in-case take.’

Watch the movie and you’ll see a mas- terclass in instinctive editing. Only one take per shot. yet. by and large, [51 Mariachi zips along with quicksilver dash. fast cuts in your face for the uproariously exaggerated action set-

‘I went into a research hospital for a month, had

an anti- cholesterol drug tested on me, used the time to in

watch movies and write the script, and came out with $3 000 I could put into the proiect without even thinking about it.’

pieces. How did he do it? Well. years on editing on videotape played their part. ‘I started out with two VCRs. and I still transfer to tape and edit my movies on it. With video. you have to build up the final version by adding a shot at a time. You don’t see the end result until you’ve finished. but the great plus point is that it teaches you to edit in your head. You have to imagine the final result before you put a shot in. so you learn which parts of any sequence are the ones you‘re going to use. If you have that training. you then have the movie edited in your head before you go out and lilm it. then you only shoot the parts ofeach scene you know you’re going to need. You don’t have to bother with the lux- ury of coverage.’

All of which may not nec- essarily be what they teach film school. but in Rodriguez‘s case. it has paid dividends and then some. ‘I went to LA to negotiate the Spanish home video deal for If! Mariachi. and while I was there I left a tape copy of Bedhead and a two-minute trailer for [5/ Mariachi with ICM. one of the big agencies. I figured I’d give 'em a trailer because these guys don’t want to watch a whole movie with Spanish subtitles they don’t like to read! But they took the bait. started sending my stuff around town. and because it had their stamp on it. the studio people would actually bother to read it. That’s where Columbia came in.’

As if a two-year contract with one of the Hollywood majors wasn’t enough. the fairytale didn’t end there. Having negotiated a deal that enables him to stay in Austin. Texas, and work on his next feature (a further mari- achi adventure) there, Rodriguez has seen El Mariachi get a cine- ma release from Columbia that he never expected. ‘They bought it with the idea of doing a remake. but then they showed it to an audi- ence. put it in some film festivals and decided it should get a wider showing. They made a 35mm print. remixed the sound into Dolby stereo. despite the fact it’s still the same dia-

m: "

Rodriguez promises a lot of bangs for your buck

logue and effects I recorded myself. and it’s out there. which is terrific.‘

Though he has his doubts that the fresh- ness of If! Mariachi can be recaptured on more substantial resources. Rodriguez's

main source of contentment is that even if

he screws up. he can go back to what he was doing before. ‘l’ve got $7 000 in the bank. so I can go and make a movie. The great thing is that I know I don’t need any- body else to make a movie. On 15/ Mariachi. I wrote the script. shot it. record- ed it and edited it myself. so the main thing was to be doing a fun movie. My prime objective was to amuse myself and that’s why it’s worked. There's no jazz in this movie. it’s an honest piece of work and that’s what I’d tell prospective young film- makers to aim for. Be true to yourself and don’t make the movie you think other peo- ple are going to want to see.’ 3.]

The List 30 July:l-2-August l‘Ni 11

15/ Mariachi plays the Ifdin/nrrgh International Film l‘estit'a/ an l"rida_\' 20 August. and opens soon (illei'tt'iit‘cl.s. Robert Rodriguez will lie at the l'es'tit'al to participate in the .last I )a It debates on Saturday 2/ and Sunday 22.

the next film has a $5

mllllon or the girl gets it.