Robert Rodriquez is a filmmaker who has wrote and produced many movies including Spy Kids, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, and more. He began making short movies as a kid for fun and ended up turning his passion into his life’s work. My interest in Rodriquez initially came because my daughter is a beginning filmmaker and I try to share things with her that I think may help her.
As I dug into Rodriquez’s story, my interest moved beyond helping my daughter to trying to learn as much from him as possible. Right now, I’m reading his book titled “Rebel Without A Crew – How a 23-Year Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player.” In the book he shares the story of how he made his first full length movie, “El Mariachi” for just $7,000 without a film crew.
In his book, he writes:
“So I decided what I needed was as much practice making features (longer movies) as I had gotten making short films. I realized it was the experience that had gotten me where I was. If you want to learn the guitar, you don’t take a couple of guitar classes and expect to do anything more innovative. You practice in your garage until your fingers bleed….
In (film school) they don’t teach you how to make a movie when you have no money and no crew. They teach you how to make a big movie with a big crew so that when you graduate you can go to Hollywood and get a job pulling cables on someone else’s movie.”
He realized to learn how to make a movie with no money and no crew, he just had to do it himself and learn along the way.
… I was inventing my own film school where I would be the only student and where experiences, mistakes, problems, and solutions would be my teachers. And the best part was that even if my movies were no good, no one would ever see them and I’d still be able to get my money back.”
Rodriquez’s mindset really is the key to success in life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a filmmaker, entrepreneur, sales person, or an investor. You learn by actually doing what you want to do. You don’t need to wait for anyone, or anything, to start. You don’t need to go to school. You don’t need a diploma. You don’t need anyone’s approval. You just simply start and learn along the way. You create your own ________ school.
Notice how he setup a situation where he had everything to gain and almost nothing to lose? He wanted to learn how to make feature length movies, so he made one on his own for just $7,000. If his movie flopped, he would walk away with everything he learned throughout the process. All he had at risk was $7,000, which he made by participating in pharmaceutical drug tests. He would apply for pharmaceutical studies that offered payment to participant. And while he was participating in these studies, he wrote the script for his first movie.
So in essence, he created a situation where he got paid to write the script for the movie. He used the money he earned to make the actual movie.
These are the situations we want to create for ourselves. We want to setup situations where we have everything to gain without significant loss.
Heads I win.
Tails I don’t lose too much.
(Quote from Mohnish Pabrai)
Apply this mindset to everything you do in life including business, investing, relationships, and your health.
In “Rebel Without A Crew”, Rodriquez shared why he specifically avoided borrowing money for his movie:
“There’s no one we can borrow the money from and I really don’t want to borrow it. The money we make back once we sell the movie is what we’ll use to finance future films. We don’t want to have to pay someone back with that money. We’ve decided this project has to be our own risk. Besides, it’s been my experience that you’re a lot more careful where the money goes when you’re using your own money.”
Was he COMPOUNDING FILMS?
Yes, he most certainly was!
His plan was to make his first movie without debt. If he could sell them movie, he would use the proceeds from the sale to make his 2nd film. He would invest the money from one asset into creating a second asset.
He also understood that if he borrowed the money to make the first movie, his compounding wouldn’t have a chance because the proceeds from the first movie would have to be used to pay the back the loan. Without debt, he could reinvest all of the proceeds into his second movie.
Wonder if this thinking applies to business and investing?
An important part of making a movie for just $7,000 was utilizing EVERY asset he had at his disposal.
In a podcast with Tim Ferriss, Rodriquez said…
“I just took stock of what I had. My friend Carlos, he’s got a ranch in Mexico. Okay, that’ll be where the bad guy is. His cousin owns a bar. The bar is where there’s going to be the first, initial shootout. His other cousin owns a bus line. Okay, there will be an action scene with the bus at some point…
...I wrote everything (the movie) around what we had, so you never had to go search, and you never had to spend anything on the movie. The movie cost, really nothing. The only cost was really just that I wanted to shoot it on film instead of video, so that it would look more expensive, and try to tell people I made it for $70k and try to sell it for $70k.
This movie “El Mariachi” he made for $7,000 on his own ended up winning Sundance and was purchased by Columbia.
There are many lesson in this short article for us to consider:
1. You learn how to do something by actually doing it.
2. You don’t anyone’s approval and you most certainly don’t need a piece of paper to create your own _______ school.
3. You can compound just about anything.
4. You don’t need to borrow money to achieve your goal. Instead be extremely resourceful.
6. Leverage every single asset you have available.
7. Debt will minimize the power of compounding.
(I haven’t seen this movie yet! I’m waiting until I finish his book detailing how he made it!)