The Ten Minute Film School – Robert Rodriguez

– Posted in: Directing Films and Videos Directing the Camera

Robert Rodriguez is a digital storytelling maniac, in the best sense of the phrase.

I say maniac because he does everything himself. In this video, Rodriguez goes behind the scenes in his movie Desperado to show us how, with a little creativity, a combination of digital compositing and in-camera effects, can be used to overcome many problems. That is, if you understand filmmaking as a craft.

In my opinion Desperado doesn’t look like gorilla filmmaking, but it was. They filmed in Mexico to save money and for authenticity purposes. But, they had problems getting the movie guns as well as the proper army vehicles across the border. Like a true gorilla filmmaker Robert saw the problem, rolled up his sleeves and used his knowledge of the “craft” to find the solution.

By using digital effects,including explosions, bullet holes, wounds, green-screen, lockdown compositing tricks and more, Rodriguez solved scheduling conflicts, budgets constraints and border crossing problems. I love it, and I believe this is gorilla filmmaking at its best. A gorilla filmmaker, like a magician, must have tricks up his sleeve.

What happened when Robert didn’t have one of the two main actors for an important scene being shot that day? No problem. While shooting Desperado, Salma Hayek wasn’t available until the last week of shooting. So, Robert pulled an old filmmaker trick out of his hat. He shot Antonino Banderas surrounded by soldiers in one direction, and ended that shot with a swish pan into the shadows. When Salma arrived he started the shot in the shadows, did a swish pan to Salma and connected the two with an edit. Like magic, the shot looked seamless and the viewer never knew the difference.

A good story and great characters will always trump “slight of hand” effects in my book. But, used correctly, these sneaky filmmaker tricks can hide mistakes, punch-up scenes and save a lot of money. A movie full of effects for the sake of “cool” is not worth the price of admission. Instead learn from Robert to motivate your effects with a style that’s rooted in your films genre. These effects, like any well motivated action, will become another hook that pulls the viewer even closer to the edge of his emotional seat. Your job is to get the audience to care about the characters and to wonder what will happen next. Respect their intelligence and their desire for authenticity.

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