Raindance MA in Filmmaking: Part 2 - Research module
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
What common elements are used to make strong and compelling, character-driven action films on a low budget?
Student nr: P2618742
Word Count: 4070
MA in Filmmaking with Raindance, De Montfort University
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
Literature Review 2
Case Study: El Mariachi….………………………………….....5
Case Study: Reservoir Dogs.…………………...……………..6
My Action Film Framework - Part 1……………………………11
My Action Film Framework - Part 2…………………………...12
Full Case Study: El Mariachi……………………………….…..13
Full Case Study: Reservoir Dogs……………………………...21
Films have been a way for audiences to experience things beyond their normal lives. Ever since The Great Train Robbery (1903) the action genre has been a staple of external escapism where we can be transported into a new, exciting world for a few hours, where we can be the hero, fight the villain, fall in love, evade the law and go home at the end of it with no repercussions or consequences.
This holds true for me as well. I have always been drawn to car chases and fight scenes in movies since I was a kid. Making movies for me is just the grown up version of playing make-believe with better costumes and bigger toys.
Therefor in my research I will be focusing on the following enquiry:
What common elements are used to make strong and compelling, character driven action films on a low budget?
I aim to look into the methods of directors that have managed to build their careers on the back of low budget, independently produced films that contain elements of action and stunts to see if I can find a pattern in what makes these films successful. I aim to use my findings to plan my methodologies for future modules in line with my overall MA goal.
I hypothesise that through the constraints of budget you are forced to be more creative in your execution and I think that the films that ultimately do gain success or “cult status” in spite of their low budgets are the ones that cut through the “standard” way films were made at the time of their production.
If I can find a process for making my own films in a creative and exciting way that does not require a massive budget and that can then go on to actually make money, then I believe that I will find the key to personal success.
In his book, The screenwriters taxonomy: a roadmap to collaborative storytelling, Eric R Williams defines Action films as one of the eleven “Supergenres”. He says that they contain “...great fight scenes and/or extended chase scenes, enhanced with heart-racing stunts, and vivid special effects.” He goes on to describe some common themes within the genre; Good over Evil, Logic over action and Individual in a single-minded world. When it comes to characters he writes of three key character types and their goals; A. Resourceful Hero - Struggles against all odds to survive, B. Smart but nasty villain - Single-minded evil objective, C. Dame/Dude in distress - To be rescued. (Williams, Eric R 2017)
“Producer Joel Silver says that you've got to have a whammo every ten minutes... An explosion, a car chase, a fight scene, an exciting scene that keeps the audience interested. Silver believes pacing is one of the most important things in an action film…” (Martell, William C. 2011)
“...The villain is your most important character - they bring the conflict…Because the villain brings the conflict and story is conflict. No villain, no story!” (Martell, William C. 2011)
Action films tend to cost the most to make, closely followed by Fantasy and Sci-Fi. They also bring in the most profit on the UK market, followed by animation and beaten only by comedies (Stephen Follows 2013). Blockbuster movies such as the Avengers and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises have an average budget of $350m per film, while directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodrigez managed to make their debut films with well below average budgets of $1.2m for Reservoir Dogs (1992) and $7000 for El Mariachi (1992) respectively.
In his 2014 article; What’s the average budget of a low or micro-budget film? Stephen Follows defines “Micro-Budget” film to be between £150,000-£250,000 and “Low-Budget” to be on average around £1.38million. The BFI defines anything with a budget below £50,000 as “No-Budget”. (BFI 2008)
Robert Rodrigez documents his journey of creating a feature film using locations and props that he had at his disposal, friends as actors and himself as his crew so as to keep the budget as low as possible and create an action movie that could compete with the Mexican video market. He planned to use the experience as a way to grow his skills as a filmmaker and then sell the film for enough profit to finance his next movie, to then repeat the process while getting better with each picture. This process was later coined as “Mariachi Style” filmmaking, where creativity - not money - is used to solve problems. (Rodriguez, R. 1995. Rebel Without a Crew)
Other directors such as Tarantino and Kevin Smith followed similar paths, Tarantino with his film My Best Friends Birthday (1987) which he shot over four years with friends for a budget of $5000 and Smith who dropped out of Vancouver Film School using his tuition money and maxed out credit cards to make Clerks (1994) for just over $27,500.
According to Robert Newman “you are considered a huge success in this town [Hollywood] if you can…” triple your money (Rodriguez, R 1995) which John Carpenter more than exceeded with Halloween (1978) which made over $60million at the box office, a huge return on the initial $320,000 budget.
My industry mentor and author of Milestones in Cinema, David Worth mentioned in several discussions we had, that Stanley Kubrik made use of as much practical lighting as possible to make the set up of his scenes as quick and easy as possible. This would allow him to cover the scene from any angle without the need to reset equipment. This is very clear in both A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). In both these films, the use of handheld cameras is also prevalent throughout. This is another trick many filmmaker's including Worth, Rodriguez and Martin Scorcese use to get more set-ups in a shorter amount of time, thus saving money, recalls Scorcese; “We were fighting to open up the form. Our idea was; The lighter the camera the better. You can move faster, break down a location faster, get the lights off the ceiling faster. We weren't equipped to shoot in studios, didn’t come from the studio tradition.” (Biskind, Peter. 1998. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.)
In an interview with Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez says; “If you wanna do anything you gotta reduce your I need list to very little...the longer that list the further away you’re gonna come. So you gotta shrink that down to ‘I need nothing. I’ve got everything here’. If you can do that then you’re up and running”
In the same interview Smith hails Rodriguez as the reason for him making Clerks. “...I was writing Dogma which was very ambitious and then I listened to that interview [Howard Stern 1992] and I was like, ‘No shoot here, this is what I have access to’...[in reference to the convenience store used in Clerks]...You going out and talking about El Mariachi, going out there telling people how it was done kinda like enlightened me and made me jump into it as well.” (Hulu. 2012. Spoilers with Kevin Smith: Interview with Robert Rodriquez.)
I began by looking at what the typical codes and conventions are that define the action genre, as well as what is considered low budget. I then moved on to combine these two elements to narrow down my research to the work of filmmaker's that started out independently from the studio format, working with low budgets to create films that were either primarily action oriented or contained elements in line with the traditional action tropes, that then went on to be successful. I define success in monetary terms, where the return on investment is at least tripled and where the director has then gone on to make further films with larger budgets which in turn have also continued to make money.
Using the definitions that I found through my research and the guidelines from William C. Martell’s book: The Secrets of Action Screenwriting I created a framework which I based my case studies on. (Framework in Appendix)
Using this framework I pinpointed three directors that fit the main criteria; Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and John Carpenter. A fourth director, Kevin Smith, who does not fit into the primary action genre, but who does use elements of action in his films and where the other criteria surrounding budget and career progression fit was also looked at for comparison.
I conducted qualitative research into the film careers of Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter and Kevin Smith, focusing primarily on their debut and low budget films so as to take note of similarities in technique and execution of action.
By focusing on low budget debut films containing action that have then gone on to gain popularity and monetary success, I should gain an idea of what techniques and tools I can implement and incorporate into my own debut feature film that I will be developing over the next year.
The films I primarily based my research on are the Rodriguez El Mariachi trilogy; El Mariachi (1992), Desperado (1995) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003). I then also looked at his collaboration films with Quentin Tarantino; From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Grindhouse (2007). Following on from that I looked at Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994). With John Carpenter I primarily looked at interviews where he discussed his projects and methods, while also looking deeper into his film Halloween (1978). Finally, I investigated Kevin Smith's “Askewniverse” films, including his debut film Clerks (1994), Mallrats (1995), and his slightly more action focused Dogma (1999).
Alongside these films, I also looked at the rest of these directors' film catalogues, as well as interviews and articles to reference their work and career progression. I also watched other films within the genre, in varying budgets, to see if I could find similarities and differences. These include John Wick (2014) and Extraction (2020) which are larger budget ($20-30m and $65m respectively) debut films from stunt professionals Chad Stahelski and Sam Hargrave, as well as Bullets, Blood & Fistfulls of CA$H (2006) a $50k independent film by Sam Akina.
As my research progressed and after discussions with my academic advisor I decided to narrow down my focus to two primary films which I applied my framework to. These are the career launching debut films by Robert Rodriguez; El Mariachi (1992) and Quentin Tarantino; Reservoir Dogs (1992). (Full case studies in Appendix)
When approaching this research, I originally started out with nine directors and their entire catalogues. These, I narrowed down to four primary filmmaker's that fit my primary definitions of Low-Budget Debut films which went on to triple their budgets.
When applying My Action Film Framework two films stood out and were used to create case studies.
EL Mariachi (1992) Columbia Pictures, Dir. Robert Rodriguez (Full case study in Appendix p.13)
El Mariachi is a Spanish language film shot in Acuna, Mexico for a budget of $7,225 and was then picked up and distributed by Columbia pictures making around $2million at the box office.
The film focuses on a guitar player that gets mistaken for a gangster that carries his weapons around in a guitar case.
The main villain (Moco) and the guitar case gangster (Azul) have a history. Moco owes Azul money, but instead of paying him he sends six of his men to kill Azul while he is locked up in prison. But Azul ends up killing Moco’s men instead. This triggers the chain of events that become the main plot of the film.
To avenge his original six men, Moco sends more out to hunt for Azul. The men have never seen Azul before, so Moco tells them that he always wears black and carries his guns in a guitar case. On the same day a Mariachi arrives in town looking for work. Unlucky for him, he only has the clothes on his back, which are black, and his guitar which he carries in its case.
The first act introduces the main villains, Moco and Azul, with some very intense action straight out of the gate. We are also introduced to our hero, El Mariachi, and the love interest, Domino.
The theme and plot are established and the stakes are raised every 5 minutes with new twists and action scenes every 10 minutes, following the framework almost to the minute.
Act 2 raises the stakes as Moco calls Azul again, blaming him for the death of ten of his men, Azul says he has only killed six (Mariachi killed the other four in Act 1). The relationship begins to flourish between Mariachi and Domino. The action increases with returning themes; chases on foot, gun fights, jumping through traffic and into the back of trucks. The capture of our hero - the realization that a mistake has been made.
In the final act, the pacing increases and the stakes are at their highest as our hero decides to face the villain and save the girl. At the climax of the film, the hero appears changed forever and a clear set up is made for future sequels.
The film follows the codes and conventions of the action genre almost perfectly, with clear themes of good vs evil, a dude and dame in distress, a villain with a plan and the hero having to become his polar opposite in order to achieve his goal.
Rodriguez uses the three act structure to his advantage, using small changes in each character and planting seeds throughout. The action intensifies with each scene and is enhanced through the editing, kinetic energy of the camera, and the soundtrack.
Reservoir Dogs (1992) Miramax, Dir. Quentin Tarantino (Full case study in appendix p.21)
Quentin Tarantino had technically already made his first feature film a few years earlier when he made My Best Friends Birthday, that later became the basis for the screenplay for True Romance (1993) which he sold for $30k - this was originally going to be used as the budget for Reservoir Dogs. However, when Tarantino managed to get Harvey Keitel attached to the project, they were able to obtain funding from Miramax to the sum of around $1.2million.
The film is an unconventional heist film that takes place at the rendezvous point after the job, which has gone horribly wrong. It is an ensemble piece with no real clear protagonist or antagonist, however the themes of good and bad are prevalent in each character as well as underlying morals and a code of conduct. A great example of this is in the scene where Mr Pink [Steve Buscemi] arrives at the warehouse and notices Mr Orange [Tim Roth] covered in blood. He starts to go on about how crazy the situation was (giving us as an audience some more context along the way) and asks Mr White [Harvey Keitel] if he killed anybody.
Mr White replies - “Only cops.”
Mr Pink - “No real people?”
Mr White - “Just cops.”
Although a lot of the action is told through context and pacing, and happens off screen, There is still a lot of the big “Whammos” expected from an action film, including; blood, guns, a clear uniform in the form of the black suits that the main characters all wear, a chase scene between cops and Mr Pink which includes a shoot out and grand theft auto - a theme that is repeated later in the film after Mr Brown [Quentin Tarantino] comes speeding around a corner, crashes into the back of a parked car and dies from a bullet wound in his head, forcing Mr White and Mr Orange to go head-to-head with a cop car, shooting the officers dead, before running and jacking a car for themselves, which ultimately leads to Mr Orange getting shot.
Tarantino references back and forth multiple times to tell the same story from each character's perspective at separate times, revealing more and more of the story in a unique and exciting way that employs heavy use of dialogue, juxtaposition and a fantastic soundtrack.
Entwined in the action are vulnerabilities and flaws within the characters, taking us as an audience on an emotional rollercoaster that complements the action like a fine wine does a steak, making us so invested that by the final showdown smacks us in the face and we are left not knowing whether to laugh or cry as the credits begin to roll.
What I discovered when looking into the action genre and why the directors I chose to focus on stick out so much comes down to creativity and thinking several steps ahead. When looking at interviews and articles with Rodriguez, Tarantino or Smith, they are always able to explain their thought process and are very specific about what they wanted to achieve with their movies and why. Rodriguez even mentions, in a keynote speech at the University of Texas in 2012, that you need to have a ‘why’ and references a case study on Apple from Simon Sinek's book Start with WHY, in reference to how he was able beat out his competition to found his TV network, El Rey.
When it comes to the creative aspect of filmmaking, you can see that these directors as well as many others such as Nolan, Linklater, Peter Jackson, Kubrick and many more, had to find alternative ways of getting their first movies made. All of these directors have, at some point, mentioned the importance of using what you have around you in terms of location, equipment, people, natural and practical lighting as well as story - write what you know and write in what you have [access to].
When it comes to story these directors’ productions also stand out for their structure, pacing and dialogue. The use of strong dialogue really lifts a picture if combined with interesting shots, movement and pacing.
What I noticed when looking at the dialogue of the standout films, was that they tend to be very natural and flowing. More often than not, delivering general conversation or side stories that have nothing to do with the film’s main storyline. For example, the characters are not talking about themselves or what is happening, but rather discuss mundane, everyday things, anecdotes, jokes, funny stories and thoughts, Often making reference to other cult classics - the power of the 'in-joke' to make the audience feel like a part of the action because they 'get it', that, in themselves, reveal who the character is in a natural way. A few examples being the “Empire or Jedi?” conversation in Clerks or the “I bet you I can piss all over the bartender” joke/anecdote in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).
Another powerful device that stood out for me is the weight of what is not shown, said or mentioned. For example, the Heist in Reservoir Dogs that we never see or the infamous ‘cutting off the ear’ scene in the same film. This is a technique that both saves time and money on a production while also engaging the audience who will automatically create a much more vivid image in their own minds than ever can be created on screen.
When it comes to creating on screen action there are many cheap and effective ways to make things look faster, bigger and more expensive than they really are. Rodriguez and Tarantino both make use of handheld camera shots alongside their running characters, cutting between different characters running down the street, firing a few shots, jumping over cars. The scenes and stories are very different, but the technique is the same and very effective. When filming fights a similar technique can be applied so as to get the audience up close to the action, creating a very raw feeling where the viewer becomes part of the action. The movement also allows for faster editing and disguises safety distances and lesser trained actors when the budget does not allow for fully trained martial arts specialists.
Improvised or Natural/Organic Moments, where the director has allowed his actors to experiment in a playful and safe way, also stand out. For example, in Desperado there is a scene where Salma Hayek’s character is pulling a bullet out of El Mariachi [Antonio Banderas] as he lies on the counter in her book store. After she pulls the bullet out, she looks at it and then drops it [which is clearly not scripted], picks it back up and laughs it off in a very natural way that creates a romantic and relaxed moment between the characters in an otherwise serious and physically painful scene.
Again in Reservoir Dogs during a long one-take, when Mr Pink [Steve Buscemmi] and Mr White [Harvey Keitel] go off to have a private conversation, Mr White offers Mr Pink a cigarette, takes out a zippo lighter and (unsuccessfully) attempts to light it by clicking his fingers against it. He attempts multiple times as they continue their conversation, before eventually giving up and lighting it normally. Later in the scene the same thing happens again. And, as it is a one-shot, Keitel continues with the scene and director Quentin Tarantino obviously decided to keep that take in the movie, which I feel adds flavour and depth to the character.
“To make a movie, all you need is a girl and a gun...To get a movie seen by an audience you need a good distribution partner.” Luc Besson - (Biskind, Peter. 2004. Down and Dirty Pictures). On an external note, I noticed through interviews and articles that independent films that received a wider audience and larger level of success were all distributed through large companies, and all of these directors have, at some point, worked with Miramax/The Weinstein company.
Looking back over this research module, I feel enlightened and motivated by the insights I have gained into low-budget filmmaking and how to use creative, guerilla style techniques to solve problems and drive story in an interesting way that can heighten the experience of the viewer. I have also gained a deeper understanding of the action genre as a whole.
Moving on to the coming modules of this MA program, I feel confident that the framework I have used in my analysis will serve me well when creating and designing my own low-budget action script.
One of the biggest takeaways from this process is a new direction of focus for my coming story writing. When watching Rodriquez’s El Mariachi Trilogy and seeing how he was able to use a Spanish language film to build a foundation on which he created two sequels, filmed in English, with a larger budget and a completely new cast where the new films work both as standalone movies and as part of the larger story, I realized that I could do the same thing. I will be creating an English language “requel” of my Swedish Indie Horror flick Sargad (2017) where I will reshoot some key aspects of the original film, beef up the Swedish sequel script we already have, and add new set pieces and structure using my Action Film Framework developed during the RM.
Sadly, the interviews I had originally intended to include in this report were conducted during a previous module and were not recorded. Therefore, I was unable to include any transcripts and the information was rendered useless in this context. However, I was able to draw conclusions and see connections based on the knowledge I gained from speaking to friends and experts in the field who had experience of stunts and action in movies.
In future modules, I will use these contacts for feedback and guidance and any future interviews I conduct will be recorded and transcribed so they can be used to compliment my core texts and other materials.
When looking over my initial plan for this research paper, written into my learning plan, there have since been some minor adjustments. I began with the idea of wanting to look at Proof-of-concept films, but ended up looking at low-budget debut films instead. The reason behind this adjustment came from a discussion I had with my industry mentor, David Worth. Specifically, we discussed the fact that it takes the same amount of blood, sweat, passion and energy to produce and shoot a feature as it does to make a decent short. To quote the man himself; “F*** Short Films!”
Biskind, Peter (1998) Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Simon & Schuster
Biskind, Peter (2004) Down and Dirty Pictures, Simon & Schuster
Grove, Elliot (2014) Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking, Focal Press
Inouye, Kevin (2020) The Screen Combat Handbook, Routledge
Jones, Chris & Jolliffe, Geneviece (2000) The Guerilla Filmmaker's Handbook, Living Spirit
Kenworthy, Christopher (2015) Shoot Like Tarantino: The Visual Secrets of Dangerous Storytelling, Michael Wiese
Kenworthy, Christopher (2016) Shoot Like Scorsese: The Visual Secrets of Shock, Elegance and Extreme Character, Michael Wiese
Lane, Andrew (2015) Movie Stunts A Comprehensive Guide To Planning And Executing Special Effects
Martell, William C. (2011) The Secrets of Action Screenwriting, First Strike Productions
Rodriguez, Robert (1995) Rebel Without A Crew, Plume
Simens, Dov S-S (2003) From Reel to Deal, Warner Books
Williams, Eric R. (2017) The screenwriters taxonomy: a roadmap to collaborative storytelling, Routledge
Worth, David (2014) Milestones in Cinema: 50 visionary films & filmmakers, Silver Screen International
Beggs, S., 2009. Exclusive: We Shoot The Sh*T With Kevin Smith. [online] Film School Rejects <https://filmschoolrejects.com/exclusive-we-shoot-the-sh-t-with-kevin-smith-c62a80b020d8/>
Broderick, P., 1993. ABC's OF NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING [online] Peterbroderick.com <http://www.peterbroderick.com/writing/writing/abcsofnobudgetfilmmaking.html>
En.wikipedia.org. n.d. List Of Most Expensive Films. [online] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_films>
Follows, S., 2013. What Genre Are British Films?. [online] Stephen Follows <https://stephenfollows.com/genre-british-films/>
Follows, S., 2014. What's The Average Budget Of A Low Or Micro-Budget Film? [online] Stephen Follows <https://stephenfollows.com/average-budget-low-micro-budget-film/>
Grove, E., 2017. 25 Low Budget Films That Launched Careers Of Filmmakers. [online] Raindance.org <https://www.raindance.org/25-low-budget-films-that-launched-careers/>
Indie Film Hustle®. 2020. Reservoir Dogs: Breaking Down Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece - IFH [online] <https://indiefilmhustle.com/reservoir-dogs-quentin-tarantino/>
Little, S., 2020. Star Indie Filmmaker Kevin Smith Named Creative Ambassador For Vancouver Film School [online] Global News <https://globalnews.ca/news/6548172/kevin-smith-creative-ambassador-vancouver-film-school/>
Martell, W., 2018. SCRIPT SECRETS: Writing Action Movies—How Much Juice Is Enough?. [online] scriptmag.com <https://scriptmag.com/features/script-secrets-writing-action-movies-much-juice-enough>
Smith, E., n.d. Literature Reviews: An Overview For Graduate Students. [online] Lib.ncsu.edu <https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/lit-review>
Tenreyro, T., 2019. The Improbable True Story Of How 'Clerks' Was Made. [online] Vice.com <https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/zmj8g9/an-oral-history-of-clerks-25th-anniversary>
Timeinpixels.com. 2015. Reservoir Dogs As A Low Budget Film [online] <https://timeinpixels.com/2015/09/reservoir-dogs-as-a-low-budget-film/>
EL Mariachi (1992) Columbia Pictures, Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Desperado (1995) Columbia Pictures, Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) Columbia Pictures, Dir. Robert Rodriguez
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) Dimension Films, Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Grindhouse (2007) Troublemaker Studios, Dir. Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino
Reservoir Dogs (1992) Miramax, Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Pulp Fiction (1994) A Band Apart Pictures, Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Halloween (1978) Compass International, Dir. John Carpenter
Clerks (1994) Miramax, Dir. Kevin Smith
Mallrats (1995) Miramax, Dir. Kevin Smith
Dogma (1999) Miramax, Dir. Kevin Smith
Bullets Blood & Fistfulls of CA$H (2006) Akina Films, Dir. Sam Akina
John Wick (2014) Lionsgate. Dir. Chad Stahelski
Extraction (2020) Netflix, Dir. Sam Hargrave
El Rey Network, 2014. The Director's Chair: John Carpenter [video] <https://youtu.be/knEwtAinVlA>
El Rey Network, 2019. The Director's Chair: Quentin Tarantino (Vol.1) [video] <https://youtu.be/ASnRKzXOpHY>
El Rey Network, 2019. The Directors Chair: Quentin Tarantino (Vol.2) [video] <https://youtu.be/0xzHIULmYA8>
El Rey Network, 2019. The Directors Chair: Sylvester Stalone [video] <https://youtu.be/ZzI_Ef_jaFI>
Entrevistas de Cine, 2017. Quentin Tarantino Interview (Director/Writer) - Reservoir Dogs (1992) [video] <https://youtu.be/ceG1c9eh0Kc>
Eyes On Cinema, 2014. An Interview With Quentin Tarantino On RESERVOIR DOGS (1993) [video] <https://youtu.be/uveuX1pcC5o>
Filmschoolcomments, 2013. Kevin Smith On Filmschool. [video] <https://youtu.be/XiuY6OqJuo8>
Filmschoolcomments, 2013. Quentin Tarantino And Kevin Smith On Directing [video] <https://youtu.be/moRQQwqVit8>
Hulu, 2012. Spoilers With Kevin Smith:Interview With Robert Rodriguez [video] <https://youtu.be/2ZoH7n44Uzk>
Evan Carmichael, 2017. Robert Rodriguez's Top 10 Rules For Success [video] <https://youtu.be/ViSqHhjnJpI>
Rodriguez, R., 1993. Robert Rodriguez: Ten Minute Film School [video] <https://youtu.be/nMEAMHlulR0>
Rodriguez, R., 2013. The Making Of "El Mariachi" - The Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School [video] <https://youtu.be/VQE9eEmu1b4>
The Royal Ocean Film Society, 2016. Lessons For The No-Budget Feature [video] <https://youtu.be/SIQxm7bNOWc>
El Mariachi (1992)
Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Open on a white security truck with a flat tire in a dry desert landscape outside a small police/jail. A police van with two police officers drives on to the lot as the title card reads; Jimenez, Coahuila, Mexico.
A female officer exits the truck and walks into the jail where another officer is reading a paper at the entrance desk. She picks up a spanner from the desk and enters the cell area revealing several resting inmates.
A man dressed in black sits at a desk in one of the cells speaks on a phone while taking notes in a journal with an open briefcase beside him.
The police officer makes sounds and turns on the lights to wake the resting inmates, the man on the phone switches off his cell light with a remote clicker.
The officer then sits down next to the other officer reading his paper.
Cut to a girl walking around a swimming pool. She then dives into the water and swims across to the otherside where she exits to reveal a man dressed in white who picks up a phone and dials a number.
Back in the cell the man in black’s phone rings. He looks surprised, almost afraid as he answers.He reveals that the man in white is named “Moco” and the man in black is named “Azul”. Moco and Azul discuss business setting up the premise of the film as a red truck is shown entering the jail parking lot. Moco is threatening Azul who says that Moco owes him money.
The men in the red truck exit their vehicle holding automatic rifles and start making their way towards the jail.
Azul believes the men are there to help him escape at first and then realizes this is not the case. Another man inside his cell throws him a machine gun that was hidden in the cell.
Azul starts shouting down the phone about the armed men, asking Moco what the hell is going on.
5 minutes in and the tension and action is already building, setting up the theme of the film nicly.
The tension and action builds during the opening to the first climax at around the 5min mark with the first gun fight and the killing of all 6 of the Bad Guys henchmen.
Opening credits over black.
Azul walks out of the jail, bribing the police guard who lets him go.
The music builds as he is met with a man who hands him a guitar case full of guns.
They get into a car and drive off as the police woman counts the money she was just given.
The pace slows and enters a gentle calmness just before we reach 10mins. The music switches to a slow calm melody as a voice over plays.
A man dressed in black with a guitar is hitchhiking to town. Our Protagonist. A turtle in the shot, they are both taking their time, relaxed and ready for new adventures.
The mariachi enters town, gets a coconut and a shoe shine. He is looking for work in the city as a musician.
He enters a bar, the music gets tense again. He places down his guitar case and orders a soda before asking the bartender if they are looking for a musician to work at the bar.
14min a comedic scene with an electric keyboard automatically playing electronic music and a man in a sombrero randomly pressing keys to change the sounds.
The mariachi is not impressed. Disappointed at not getting any work he leaves to try his luck elsewhere.
Just as Mariachi leaves, Azul enters with his guitar case (full of weapons). The bartender gets mad thinking he is another Mariachi. Azul orders a beer.
The tension in the room grows. The other bar patrons are nervous at the sight of Azul who has a menacing presence. He asks the patrons if they know where he can find Moco.
When he is given an answer he does not like he sets down the guitar case, opens it and takes out a large machine gun and kills everyone in the bar. The music is rhythmic, upbeat and tension building as Azul walks into the bathroom where a patron runs in to hide and then suddenly stops as he fires another shot from behind the closed door. He comes out calmly, places his weapons back into his case, closes it and exits the bar. The bartender quickly picks up the phone and dials a number… Suddenly the music starts again as the door swings open an Azul enters the bar again. The bartender shuts his eyes in anticipation of death as we hear the sound of a beer cap popping open. Azul slams the empty bottle and some money on to the counter and leaves again. The bartender shouts “MOCO!” down the phone and the music builds into a power theme as Azul struts down the street.
We see a man in sunglasses outside of a blue hotel looking around. He enters the hotel and asks the receptionist for the phone so he can make a call. He calls Moco. He finds out all the henchmen and bar patrons are dead and asks for a description of the killer. He is told that he carries a guitar and is dressed in black. He assures Moco that he will find this person and kill him. He then tells the hotel receptionist to call a number if he sees a man matching the description.
The Mariachi finds another bar and heads inside continuing his quest to find work.
Inside he finds a beautiful woman working at the bar. He orders another soda and tells his story and asks for work. Again he is turned away, so he leaves.
He walks past the blue hotel and goes inside to get a cheap room for the week.
As he takes his key and walks to his room the receptionist notices his guitar case and black outfit. As soon as the Mariachi is out of earshot the receptionist rushes to the phone and calls the number he was given.
25min The Mariachi walks to his room. The music gets tense again as he sits on the bed to rest. He falls asleep and we enter a dream sequence.. A little boy with a ball, the ball turns into a bloody severed head.. The Mariachi wakes up from his nightmare as the music builds even more and we cut to a truck full of armed men pulling up outside of the hotel.
The man with sunglasses leads the group of men through the hotel towards the rooms.
The mariachi steps out to see what the commotion is as the receptionist shouts to the men that they have the wrong room and shouts Mariachi’s room number.
The mariachi starts to back away and runs away out of the hotel and down the street.
Fast cuts between the mariachi running and the men chasing him through the town.
The Mariachi realises he left his guitar in the room and turns back to get it.
The men continue searching the town.
The receptionist shouts to the men that the Mariachi is back in the hotel.
With his guitar he starts climbing the walls of the balconies to the hotel roof, still cutting between him and his pursuers. On the roof he finds a cable going across the road which he zip lines across, his guitar clasped between his knees… halfway across the road a bus comes into view. The mariachi lands on the hood as the men start shooting at him from the hotel roof. When they realise they can't reach him they run back inside and down to continue the chase. When the bus stops at a red light the Mariachi jumps down and continues running away.
We cut between the Mariachi and the man with sunglasses wielding an Uzi running down the streets of Acuna. Lots of movement in the camera.
A truck pulls up in front of Mariachi, he runs straight for it, two men with machine guns pop out of the windows as he jumps on the hood and over the roof they aim at him and end up shooting each other instead, blood spurting everywhere. 30min
Mariachi hides behind the truck as the man with sunglasses finds the dead men hanging out of the truck windows.. As he comes towards the back of the truck Mariachi jumps out hitting him in the groin with his guitar case. Once on the ground another hit to the face. The Mariachi takes his machine gun which he then uses to kill another one of the men who comes around the corner. Realising he has just killed a man and looking at the other dead men he gets scared, puts the gun on the ground and runs away,
He slumps back to the bar with the beautiful woman. He admits to the woman that he just killed four men. She goes to the phone, but before she calls he tells her to wait and asks her name - Domino. He tells Dominio that it was self defence and begs her for help. She offers him to stay in the room upstairs. He takes her hand to thank her, the music turns romantic, she slaps him and tells him to watchout for the pitbull.. She smiles as he leaves to go upstairs.
The mariachi enters the upstairs room, it is big and light with a large bathtub in the center. He sits on Domino's bed and falls asleep again. We get a flash of his previous nightmare.. He opens his eyes and gets himself a drink. The music switches between calm and tense as he surveys the room. He looks at the bath and starts to undress.
Down in the bar the man in sunglasses enters, places his sunglasses on the bar and asks Domino by name for the phone so he can call Moco. (We realise Domino knows Moco and his men). The man asks her if she has seen anyone strange, dressed in black, with a guitar… He says he has killed 10 of their men. He orders a drink
The music shifts to a dark, sombre tune as Moco has his hair brushed by the girl from the pool. She takes his hand and starts filing his nails as he is lost in thought. His phone rings. It is the man with sunglasses at Dominos bar.
Moco is calm and tells the man not to worry, just keep an eye out for the man in black with a guitar case, he will be easy to find, but be careful as it is not a guitar in the case, it is full of weapons. He puts the phone down.
Domino hears about the weapons and gets suspicious.
Domino enters the upstairs room scaring the Mariachi who is in her bathtub. She says he can finish up as she grabs a knife from a drawer, the music starts to build as she slowly walks towards the unexpecting mariachi in the tub. She offers him shampoo and as he turns she grabs his arm and puts her knife to his throat demanding he tell her who he is. He says he is a musician. She asks what weapons he has in the case, He promises it is just his guitar.. She grabs the case and starts to open it with her feet.. Seeing the guitar she grabs it and throws it at the Mariachi, demanding he play her something as she thrusts the knife into the water pointing it at his genitals. He plays for his life, improvising a funny romantic song for Domino who is clearly impressed at his virtuosity. She says he is good and offers him to play at the bar for house and board.
41mins-MidPoint - Act 2
A pool table is being set up.. This is Azul’s hideout. The guitar case with weapons lays open on a table. The phone rings, Azul is in bed with 4 women, one of the women passes him the phone. It is Moco. Moco says Azul has killed 10 of his men, Azuls says he only killed 6 but is more than willing to double that body count before the end of the day,
Moco is lounging in his pool, his girl serves him a drink. They discuss the business and money from earlier. Azul gets dressed, grabs his case and leaves his hideout.
The mariachi is warming up on his guitar getting ready to play his first show at Dominos bar. Domino comes in and tells him to hurry.
He plays “The Mariachi Theme” and then goes into the full packed bar and plays the theme for his audience.
Domino observes him from the bar as he sings. Cut back and forth between Mariachi and Domino - chemistry. A patron snaps his fingers to get dominos attention and orders a drink. She serves him and then continues watching the Mariachi.
The audience cheers, the mariachi basks, Domino looks on proudly.
Later. Mariachi and Domino getting ready for bed. She warns him to stay on his side of the bed, threatening with her knife and dog. They converse and get to know one another more. Domino wishes him sweet dreams and switches out the light - The mariachi enters his dream world again. The music shifts to a dream like swil. The kid with the severed head..
Mariachi wakes startled.
Down in the bar Mariachi sits as Domino comes in. He says he has to go back to the hotel to get his money back. He leaves his guitar case by the bar and asks Domino to watch his things while he is gone. She watches him out the window as he leaves and then makes a phone call. On the other end is Moco.
At the hotel the receptionist goes to give the Mariachi his key. Mariachi refuses and asks for his money. They argue a little before the Mariachi reaches over and takes it from the till, he counts it, takes out a bill and gives it to the receptionist. Mariachi leaves and the receptionist dials a number on his phone again.
50mins Back at Dominos bar Azul, dressed in black with his case full of weapons enters. He orders a beer. The music is suspenseful and droning. Azul asks if there is a girl that works there. The bartender says there is, and that she is the owner. Azul says that must be Moco’s girl.
The bartender says he has just seen her hanging around with some musician.
Azul pays for his beer, grabs his guitar case and leaves.
The Mariachi returning from the hotel sees Azul, dressed in black, carrying his guitar case as he exits the bar. He gets worried and as soon as Azul is out of sight he runs inside.
He tells Domino that must be the guy they are after, not him.
Outside Azul is walking down the street when the man in sunglasses spots him. 2 of his men come out of the shadows and point their guns at Azul. The man in sunglasses also points his gun. The men say its him, the sunglass guy isn't sure. They ask what is inside the case. Azul says it’s a guitar, that he is a musician. He is told to open it - if it is a guitar he can go, if its not he is in big trouble. They open the case… Azul has his eyes shut in anticipation but slowly opens them as the men release their weapons and tell him to go.
Back in the bar Domino tells Mariachi not to carry his case around with him. He agrees and goes to take it upstairs. As he picks it up he feels it is heavier than normal.. It isn't his case.
He runs outside.
Azul opens the case to find a guitar. The men with guns see his surprised look and realise he is the man with the weapons and are about to chase him when the Mariachi carrying Azuls case comes running round the corner. The men start to chase him instead as Azul makes his escape.
55min The mariachi jumps into the back of a pick up truck. At a red light he jumps out and gets caught in an alleyway with no way out but forwards / towards his assailants. He opens the case, takes out the big machine gun and starts blasting, killing one of the men. He then continues to run, shooting and killing another of Moco’s men. The man in sunglasses finds his dead henchmen as mariachi struts down the street with his gun and case, a look of new confidence on his face.
Back at Azul’s hideout his two friends await his return. The stand to their feet when he arrives and apologize for not stepping in and helping him when the men with guns stopped him. He opens his case, they look scared, then he says his case got switched out by some stupid Mariachi’s.
He orders his men to go and find his case and retrieve it for him.
Domino puts alcohol on a swab and cleans the Mariachi’s wounds as they talk. She tells him about Azul and Moco’s men. We get more background to the reason Moco and Azul are at odds with each other. The Mariachi asks Domino to tell Moco to leave him alone and then she explains that not just anyone can talk to Moco, as he is a dangerous man.
60minsThe man in sunglasses arrives at Moco’s compound. Moco has a cigarette hanging from his lip and just stares at the man as he explains his mishaps. Moco lights a match on the man's face and lights his cigarette which he then flicks at the man as he walks away.
The Mariachi and Domino continue their conversation as the phone rings / it is Moco / he asks her to come and see him, pleading with her - he asks if she has ridden the motorcycle he gave her? She says no. They hang up.
Mariachi asks if it was her boyfriend - she says no.
More backstory about how she came to own the bar - it was a gift from Moco.
64mins Domino switches out the light and we enter Mariachi’s dream sequence again.
Domino is in his dream. He follows her through a graveyard. She starts running and he chases after her. She is covered in blood - Smash to the Mariachi waking up in a sweat.
Domino gives him some money to go an buy himself a new guitar so he can play in the bar again.
The Mariachi is walking through the town as guitar music plays softly. He finds a store with guitars in the window. Suddenly he looks up to see the man in sunglasses lift his gun and aim towards the Mariachi who ducks behind some cars and starts to run.
The man radios a henchman in a truck as Mariachi tries to flee. He sees a yellow pick up truck and jumps in the back as it passes, laying low so as to not be spotted. The man in sunglasses radios his henchman again who says the Mariachi just jumped unknowingly into HIS truck.
He drives it to the man. Mariachi peeks up and is punched in the face. Knocked out they drive off with him in the back.
67min The music gets tense as the truck pulls into Moco’’s compound. The two men laugh and call Moco over to see the Mariachi passed out in the back of the truck.
Moco exclaims that this is not the man he wants and lights a match on the back of sunglass dude’s head, lighting a cigarette. Before walking away. The two men get back in the truck and drive off back to town.
Domino is working in the bar.
Act 3 Azul’s 2 men run into his hideout where they are met by his 4 women who point guns at them as they enter. When they see that it is his men they put their guns down and return to the bed where Azul is lying.
He asks if they found his case.
The Mariachi is dumped on the side of the road as the truck speeds off. Cars honk and he gets up and walks away.
At the bar Azul arrives and orders a beer from Domino.
She asks if he wants anything else - he asks for his guitar case. She leaves to go and get it.
Mariachi is stumbling down the street.
Azul finishes his beer as Domino enters with his case. He pays for his beer, takes his case and tells Domino that if she wants to see the Mariachi again she should come with him because Moco has him. She goes with him.
71min Domino and Azul arrive att Moco’s compound in a truck. They stop just outside the entrance. Azul grabs a gun out of the case, puts it to Domino's throat and tells her to Play Along.
Mariachi arrives at the bar and shouts for Domino that they need to leave right now. The bartender tells him she has gone. Mariachi is stressed and asks where she went. Mariachi runs off.
Azul kicks Mocos door and shouts for Moco to open up. The gate swings open and they are met by Moco, sunglass man and several other armed men.
Azul shifts in with Domino.
Moco apologizes to Domino for Azuls behaviour, using her as a way to get in.
Mariachi grabs the motorcycle keys from Domino’s apartment.
Domino asks what Moco wants with the Mariachi. Moco is confused and then puts it together and gets mad that she is seeing someone else.
Azul gets frustrated and shouts for Moco to give him his money or else he will kill her.
Moco ignores him and shoots Domino himself.
Mariachi is riding the motorcycle.
Domino drops dead in Azul’s arms, a look of surprise crosses his face.
Moco’s men look on.
Azul lays Domino on the ground, her blood on his hands.
Moco is menacing as Azul quietly says that all he wanted was his fair share.
Moco shoots Azul who drops to his knees - Moco shoots him again.
Mariachi is close to the compound now, riding fast over the sandy road.
76mis Moco’s men begin to disperse. Moco heads back towards the house.
Mariachi is riding towards the compound and sees Azul’s truck with the guitar case. He stops next to it, running through the open gate to find Domino. He embraces her dead body as Moco and his men make their way back out towards him.
Mariachi kisses Domino’s forehead softly.
Moco approaches him menacingly exclaiming that he is the Mariachi that has come to his town and messed everything up.
Mariachi stands up slowly and raises his hands.
Moco pulls out his gun and shoots the mariachi in his left hand, Saying he will never play his guitar again!
Mariachi claps his bloody hand and falls to the ground as Moco and his men look on.
On the ground Mariachi sees Azuls gun close by..He reaches for it and shoots Moco as his men leave his side.
He fires more shots and red blood covers Moco’s white suit as he falls to the ground.
Sunglass man walks up to the dead body and lights a match across Mocos face, lights a cigarette, looks at Mariachi who drops the gun and then he and the rest of the henchmen walk away towards the house.
Mariachi kisses Domino one more time before backing away out of the gate. He grabs the case of weapons and takes it with him.
78mins epilogue with voice over matching when Mariachi entered the town. He is on the motorcycle with the case on his back and explains he is ready for his next adventure.
EL MARIACHI BUDGET
12 400 ft Rolls Kodak 7292 (Indoor)....................................$1,1140.00
13 400 ft Roll Kodak 7248 (Outdoor).....................................$1,170.00
1 100 ft Test Roll (B+W).............................................................$19.00
25 400 ft Roll, (13c per foot).................................................$1,300.00
1 100 ft Test Roll.......................................................................$23.00
2 Clip-on Modeling Lamps.........................................................$60.00
Used Guitar Case.......................................................................$16.00
3 Sheets Diffuser Gels...............................................................$15.00
Blanks (Machine Gun)................................................................$50.00
Fake Blood. Condoms (for Squibs), Gaffer Tape.
Knick Knacks, Lens Cleaner Kit, Extra Bulb.............................$122.00
4 rolls 35mm Production Still Film............................................$18.00
10 Maxell 11 Audio Cassettes..................................................$23.00
6 197 Ampex 3/4" BLA 60s....................................................$103.00
Video Transfer with Overall Color Correction (28c/ft)*........$2,824.00
Broderick, P., 1993. ABC's OF NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING [online] Peterbroderick.com <http://www.peterbroderick.com/writing/writing/abcsofnobudgetfilmmaking.html>
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Open on a monologue about Madonna's hit song “Like a virgin” saying it is about dicks. Movement of camera, a group of men in black suits around a table. Talking, joking, eating food. Clear cut characters with individual personalities. A lot of kinetic movement, the men all go about their business of eating, sharing stories, listening to each other, talking over each other, laughing. Anecdotes are shared.
7:45 Fade to black and VO of a radio presenter, music starts as the opening credits roll. The men walk in slow motion down the street in their suits and black sunglasses, close ups of each character with the actors' names on screen. TITLE CARD: Reservoir Dogs - Additional credits over black.
Screaming of pain, fade to Mr.Orange [Tim Roth] bleeding in the backseat of a car with white interiors to contrast the red blood. Mr.White [Harvey Keitel] is driving and holding his hand trying to comfort Mr.Orange and calm him down. They are heading to a rondevu. More screaming, more reassurance. Tension builds as they..(Mr.Orange calls Mr.White Larry)
Smash through a door entering a warehouse, Mr.White carrying the bloodied Mr.Orange as he screams in pain. He gets him over to a ramp and lays him down, places a gun in his hand and starts to try and take care of him and comfort him. There is a lot of blood. Mr.White says they are going to wait for Joe [Lawrence Tierney] who will come and help the scared Mr.Orange. Mr white starts combing Mr.Oranges hair as he continues to take care of him and assuring him he will live and things will be fine. Mr.Orange begs to be taken to a hospital stating he can just be dumped on the sidewalk, promises he won’t speak to the cops. Mr.White refuses, says he will be fine.
15:30 Suddenly Mr.Pink [Steve Buscemi] barges through the door complaining about cops, notices the bleeding Mr.Orange. On the floor and asks where Mr.Brown [Quentin Tarantino] is. Mr.White informs him that the cops shot him and he is dead. Mr.Pink asks how bad it is saying the situation is fucked up, he thinks someone set them up. He goes on a tangent about all the cops that show up straight away after the job, he is certain they were there waiting for them. The tension is high - Pink is agitated, White is confused, Orange is in pain.
Mr.White and Mr.Pink go to talk in another room. Pink is speaking frantically about how he regrets taking the job. White is calm and tries to calm Mr.Pink down, tells him to wash up and have some water in the sink while he scopes out the area, he then offers Pink a cigarette - he says he has quit, then takes one anyway. They smoke together as they try to calm down and gather their thoughts. They go over the situation, backtracking their steps - simultaneously explaining the plot and backstory for us as an audience. They talk about the alarm and the Cops, mentioning that Mr.Blonde [Michael Madsen] started shooting up the place. Mr.White tells pink he is sick of code names.. Pink gets mad and tells him no way should they share their real identities with one another. White acknowledges the direness of the situation.. Then asks Pink how he managed to get out, to which Pink replies that he shot his way out.
20mins Mr.Pink is running down the street with a bag in one hand and a gun in the other as the sound of an alarm sounds. He is being chased by three police officers as he pushes through pedestrians causing people to swear and fall to the ground. He runs into the street and is hit by a car, smashing the windscreen. He aims his firearm at the driver and yells at her to get out while smashing her window. He pulls her out and starts shooting at the cops before getting in the car and speeds off with the officers firing at the rear of the vehicle. [FLASH BACK]
Back at the warehouse [Current Time] Pink tells White he shot a couple of cops and then asks White if he killed anybody, he replies he just killed a few cops. Pink finds a chair on the ground, picks it up and sits down as White cleans up in the sink. They start discussing Mr.Blonde and his crazy behaviour.
Pink pulls out his gun, reloads it and cocks it - White turns and looks at him - Pink places the gun down next to him They discuss what the hell Joe was thinking hiring a guy like Mr.Blonde, and then discuss how young the black girl he had killed was. Then they start pondering over where he and the others are, and who has the diamonds. Mr.Pink says he has the diamonds, which makes Mr.White happy. Pink says they could go right now, grab them and get away. White says they need to stick to the plan and wait for the others. Pink is concerned about the rat and that whoever it is might be talking to the cops about the meet up location and that they are sitting ducks if they wait around.
Mr.White mentions he must be jinxed, mentions there must be an undercover cop in the group. They start arguing about who they think the rat is. Mr.Pink goes to the bathroom.
26:30 [Flashback] Mr.White walks into Joes office and discusses some private affairs. Joe asks about Alabama, an old partner to Mr.White. - Title Card: Mr. White -
Joe continues to discuss “The Job” saying it's a five man job - busting in and busting out of a diamond shop. They continue discussing the details.
Back at the warehouse [current time] Mr.Pink walks back from the bathroom and exclaims that he is going to leave dead, he is not, just passed out. They discuss the fact that he needs medical attention.
They start bouncing ideas back and forth about how they can move forwards, how they can get out of this sticky situation. Pink is asking where Joe is, he is more and more stressed. They discuss taking Orange to the hospital and Pink says if Orange is fine with being dumped outside then it's his decision, to which White says he has told Orange his first name and where he is from - this infuriates Pink. White explains he was trying to comfort him in his last moments, justifying his choice.
31mins Mr.White punches Mr.Pink, they scuffle, White kicks Pink on the ground, they pull their guns and point them at each other as the camera pulls back slowly revealing Mr.Blonde leaning against a pillar by the entrance, casually sucking on a straw of a fast food drink.
Pink asks Blonde if he knows where Mr.Blue [Edward Bunker] is explaining that Brown is dead and Orange is shot… White starts screaming for Blonde to start talking and explain himself. They discuss that they have a rat and that they believe their location is burned. White and Pink want to leave.
Blonde says they are not going anywhere - White points his gun at him - Blonde doesn't react, staying casual. White lowers his gun. White shouts about the shooting spree Blonde went on during the Job and says if he ever knew what kind of guy he was he would never work with him.
Blonde asks if he is going to do anything, they are about to fight as Mr.Pink jumps in between them.
They go back to trying to figure out who the rat is.
Blonde says he has something outside he wants to show the others and starts walking towards the door. The others hesitate, but reluctantly follow.
The three men are walking outside, Blonde says they need to wait for Nice Guy Eddie [Chris Penn] to show up and sort things out. They walk to the trunk of Blonde's car. Blonde mentions he has spoken to Eddie who told them to stay put. He opens the trunk of his car, the others laugh as they see there is a cop tied up in there.
37:45 [Flashback] Title card: Mr.Blonde - Joe is in his office speaking on the phone.
Someone tells him Vic Vega (Mr.Blonde) is outside, he asks to send him in. Joe hangs up the phone and hugs Vic welcoming him home from prison, tells him to sit down and offers him a drink.
They discuss his parole officer, the time spent inside. Eddie enters the room and hugs Vic, Vic starts joking about Eddie, Eddie takes off his watch and they begin to play wrestle. Joe tells them to pack it in as they laugh, Eddie helps Vic up and they continue joking around. Vic lights a cigarette. They continue escalating their jokes before Joe finally tells them he is sick of it and tells them to both sit down. They begin to discuss business, they offer to help Vic out with a job. Vic asks when he can get some “real work”. They reassure him that once he is set up they will contact him. Suddenly Eddie has an idea, he says Vic is a lucky charm and says he wants him in on “the job”. Vic says he is in.
45:30 Black Out V.O Radio host [Current Time]- Music kicks in as a car speeds into shot. Eddie is driving while on the phone trying to get hold of Joe and discussing the situation that is occurring.
Back in the Warehouse the three men throw the cop from the trunk inside and to the ground. They kick him in the stomach.
Eddie is still on the phone in his car talking about how the men kidnapped a cop.
They have hung up the cop by his wrists and are beating him
Eddie is stressing out saying he doesn't know who is caught, who is dead, who is not.
Mr.Blonde rips some silver tape, flicks his cigarette and walks towards the cop.
Eddie says he is on his way to the guys and asks what he is supposed to say about Joe when he gets there.
Mr.Blonde is sitting smoking a cigarette while White and Pink are working over the cop who is taped to a chair, asking him who the rat is and smacking him around. The door opens in the background and Eddie walks in and asks what the hell is going on. He points to Orange and thinks he is dead, White says he isn't, yet.. But he will be if they don’t get him to a hospital soon. Pink says they were set up and that the cops were waiting for them. Eddie asks why they think that. They all start arguing, calling each other assholes. Blonde asks where Joe is. Eddie asks what happened to Brown and Blue. He is told Brown is dead and that no one knows where Blue is.
Eddie asks what is going on with the cop that is tied up and then asks who has the diamonds.
He tells Blonde to baby sit the cop and Mr.Orange while he and the others go get rid of the cars outside and pick up the diamonds.
White starts complaining about Blonde's actions during the job. Pink punches the cop. Eddie shouts his orders again and they get to work.
52min Mr.Blonde walks towards the cop, takes off his jacket and exclaims “Alone at last” as he gets closer to him.
The cop says he doesn't know anything about a set up, says he can be tortured and still won’t be able to tell him anything.
Mr.Blonde gets agitated and slaps him. He grabs the tape and tapes the cops mouth shut while telling him he doesn’t care what the cop knows or doesn’t, that he plans to torture him either way. He pulls his gun out, cocks it and points it at the cops face. The cop squirms in his seat. Mr.Blonde pulls a razor blade out of his cowboy boot while turning on the radio and switches it to a 70’s station Stuck in the middle with you starts playing and Mr.Blonde starts dancing around the warehouse [Midpoint] with the razor in his hand.. The cop squirms in anticipation. Mr.Blonde slashes his face, grabs his chin and puts the razor to his ear as the camera pans away with the sounds of struggle from the cop as Mr.Blonde walks back into shot holding his bloody, severed ear. He starts talking into the ear and then throws it on the floor and then walks out of the warehouse… as he leaves the music fades to silence.. He walks to the trunk of his car. Opens it up and takes out a canister of gasoline, walks back to the warehouse again.. As he enters the music fades back up… he walks over to the cop who tries to scream through the tape at the sight of the gasoline.. Mr.Blonde continues dancing around clearly enjoying the process, he proceeds to splash gas all over the cop who squirms and screams in terror.. Blonde rips the tape from his mouth as the song ends.. The cop begs and pleads for him to stop… Blonde pours gas on the floor and walks away from the cop, lights his zippo lighter…
59min...GUN SHOTS …. Mr.Orange is sitting up, the gun in his hand is cocked back from emptying the magazine into Mr.Blonde who lays dead in a heap on the floor. Mr.Orange is covered in his own blood and attempts to get up, the cop also covered in blood looks over in an attempt to speak. Mr.Orange slips back down in his blood and asks the cop for his name - Marvin Nash [Kirk Baltz] - Mr.Orange tells Marvin that he is also a cop, Marvin already knows, he says he knows his name is Freddy. They apparently met 5 months ago, Mr.Orange does not remember. Marv asks Freddy how he looks, Freddy laughs as he rolls around in his pool of blood. Marv starts to cry. Freddy tries to calm him down and tells him there are cops just a block away. But they can’t make a move until Joe shows up, so just hold tight.
63 min [Flashback] Title Card: Mr.Orange - Freddy walks into a diner and starts talking to a black man sitting in a booth, Holdaway [Randy Brooks]. They shake hands, hug and Freddy sits down in the booth.
Freddy starts talking about a phone call he received the night before stating that Joe was ready to meet him. He talks about his meeting with Joe and Mr.White in a bar, and that his name for the job is Mr.Orange. Holdaway is eating and drinking as he asks more questions about the meeting and the people Freddy met. He then asks if he used the “Commode Story”?
On top of a roof - Earlier Flashback - Freddy asks what the hell the commode story is. Holdaway explains it is a scene, a story he can memorize and tell to gain the trust of the guys while he is undercover.. He can use the amusing anecdote because being undercover is about being a good actor. Holdaway proceeds to coach Freddy in how to make the story his own. (It is a story about how he helped sell a brick of marijuana)
Freddy is practicing the story while pacing back and forth in his apartment….
...Freddy continues the story as rehearsed for Holdaway in a graffiti ridden alley….
...He continues the story in a bar for Joe, Eddie and Mr.White while lighting and smoking a cigarette...
...Freddy walks into a bathroom (in the imagination of Freddie’s story) as his V.O continues telling the story for the guys in the bar - We see a group of 4 cops and a sniffer dog hanging around
Cutting back and forth between the bar and the story visuals - Building tension.
The dog is barking, at Freddy. He is continuing his story to the cops in his imagination - the cops tell eachother their own story about pointing a gun at some perp. Freddy uses the urinal, grabs his bag (of weed), washes his hands, dries them - the cops staring at him - slow motion - closeup of the dog - he walks out.
Joe is clearly impressed with this story
Back at the diner Freddy and Holdaway continue talking.
Freddy is in his apartment, his phone rings, he picks up. It’s Eddie.. Freddy sees Eddie and Mr.White waiting in the car from his window.
He hangs up, grabs his jacket and places a small gun in an ankle holster and a revolver in his jacket pocket,, turns off his stereo, grabs his keys, a wedding ring from a bowl of coins, opens the door, waits and looks in the mirror where he tells himself “Don’t pussy out now…” opens the door again and leaves.
From a surveillance car we hear some cops talk about their boy with rocks the size of Gerbralter as they watch him get into the car with Eddie and Mr.White.
As the car pulls away the surveilers follow as Hooked on a Feeling starts to play.
In the car we see that Mr.Pink is also with them. They are in the middle of a conversation about the difference between white and black women.
Eddie starts to tell a story about a waitress from one of Joe’s clubs. The other guys interrupt with a small side discussion before Eddie tells them to shut up so he can continue.
In the warehouse (During the flashback) Joe is standing in front of a blackboard. Time to discuss the plan.
The 5 guys who are going to do the job are sitting in front of him listening.
He starts to introduce everyone's Aliases, and forbids them all from sharing personal details with one another - Here are your names: Mr.Brown, Mr.White, Mr.Blonde, Mr.Blue, Mr.Orange and Mr.Pink…
Mr Pink asks why he has to be Mr.Pink...Mr.Brown says his name is close to Mr.Shit...Mr.Pink says he can be Mr.Purple. Joe says he decides and he is Mr.Pink.
Joe gives an ultimatum “My way or the highway”.
Mr.Pink agrees. They get to work
Mr.Orange and Mr.White are sitting in a car outside the diamond store, they are casing the joint and going over the plan. Mr.Orange asks what happens if the store manager does not hand over the diamonds?
Mr.White explains that they have insurance and they are told not to ever give resistance in a robbery situation - should he get a customer or employee giving them any grief then he should hit them in the nose with the butt of his gun - If it’s the manager, cut off his little finger and tell him his thumb is next, after that he will tell you if he wears ladies underwear.
84 mins A car comes speeding round a corner and crashes into another parked car. Inside are Mr.White and Mr.Orange with Mr.Brown behind the wheel, blood gushing out from his forehead. Police sirens can be heard in the background. They have totaled their car and are stuck. Mr.White gets out wielding two hand guns. Mr.Brown and Mr.Orange chat while Mr.White shoots two cops dead in their car. When he returns to his car he finds Mr.Brown dead in the driver's seat. He hands Mr.Orange one of his guns and tells him they should go.
They walk down the alleyway and break into a jog till they get to the road and stop a car. Inside the lady driving grabs a pistol from the glovebox, as Mr.Orange opens the driver side door she shoots him in the gut - he falls to the ground and shoots her dead. Mr.White picks him up.
Mr.Orange is in the backseat bleeding all over the place (We are back where we started at the opening scene). Mr.White is reassuring him he is not going to die.
Back at the warehouse (Current time), the cop tied to the chair has his head slumped over. Mr.Orange is laying in his pool of blood. Mr.White, Mr.Pink and Eddie return to find Mr.Blonde dead in a pool of his own blood on the floor. Eddie asks what happened. Mr.Orange says Mr.Blonde was going to burn the cop alive. Eddie shoots the cop dead.
Mr.Orange says that Mr.Blonde was going to burn the cop alive, kill him and make off with the diamonds.
Eddie doesn’t believe him, Mr.White backs Mr.Orange up. Eddie tries to go over Mr.Orange;s story.
Eddie explains that Mr.Blonde just got out of prison for getting caught with a bunch of company goods and could have walked free if he gave up Joe, but didn’t, he did the time like a man - why would he betray his loyalty now?
Eddie asks Mr.Orange again if his story is true. The camera pushes in slowly on Eddie's angry face as he asks what really happened.
90min Joe walks in and explains that Mr.Orange is the one who set them up, tells the others that he is a cop. Mr.Orange tries to say he isn’t, Mr.White is also trying to convince Joe he is wrong, that he trusts Mr.Orange.
Joe says it is bull, and that Mr.Orange is the reason Mr.Brown and Mr.Blue are dead.
Mr.White asks how Joe knows this - He says he just knows and pulls a gun on Mr.Orange - Mr.White pulls his gun on Joe - Eddie points his gun at Mr.White (A mexican standoff) - Mr.Pink tries to calm everyone down. Eddie recommends they all put their guns down and have a conversation.
They continue to all negotiate/argue with one another.
Joe shoots Mr.Orange - Mr.White Shoots Joe - Eddie Shoots Mr.White - Mr.White shoots Eddie as they all fall to the ground.
Mr.Pink crawls out from a hiding spot under the ramp and walks towards the door, grabs the bag of diamonds and leaves.
Mr.White sits up groaning in agony, crawls towards Mr.Orange. Both men covered in blood, in total agony, the sound of sirens approaching in the distance. Mr.White places Mr.Oranges head in his lap, Mr.Orange admits he is a cop and says he is sorry. Mr.White starts to cry. The sirens get closer, Mr.White points his gun at Mr.Oranges face - The sound of the door opening and the voices of cops off screen “Drop the gun, drop the gun or I will blow you away!” - GUN FIRE - Mr.White drops out of frame.
Looking back over this research project I can see that I will require more practice with my academic writing. The actual research was very enjoyable. I loved searching for materials to watch and read - discovering connections and drawing my own conclusions and parallels, creating a framework and applying it to films as well as imagining how my own work could fit into it.
After speaking with my academic advisor and getting feedback on this report I realize that I need to make my framework more specific and tangible. I have since come up with some ideas and will dig deeper into it to then be able to apply it when developing my screenplay.
I also need to work on how I format my methodology and findings which will be important for my reflective reports in future modules.
In further discussions it was brought to my attention that I have focused primarily on older films and that the industry has of course changed, thus making some of my points less relevant to my own work as I of course am working in the current climate. Independent film in the 90’s was fuelled by an abundance of cash that stopped being available after the 2008 financial crisis.
This led me to look into two more recent directors that were recommended to me; Ben Wheatly’s film Kill List (2011) and Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin (2013) and Green Room (2015).
Kill List and Blue Ruin do fit into the Low-Budget category with budgets of $800,000 and $420,000 respectively. Green Room did not with its $5million budget. Although Wheatly’s film does contain elements of action, Saulnier’s did not and none of them fit the rest of my Action Film Framework requirements and were therefore not used in the body of this report.
Even though these films and directors were not included in the report, I have taken into consideration the fact that I will need to look further into how to proceed with my own projects under our industries current circumstances. Which however does lead me back to my original hypothesis that Creativity is the way forward.
Having balanced my time over the last month between my research, writing this paper and working full-time night shifts I feel relieved that this module is over, even if I perhaps could have increased my chances at a higher grade should I have had more time, but am happy so long as I pass and can move on to the next module, which I am incredibly excited to get started with.
I look forward to getting on with the more practical aspects of filmmaking as well as the challenges I will face when writing my future reports.