Back in 1991, a young filmmaker named Robert Rodriguez spent about $7,000 shooting his debut feature “El Mariachi.”
A few years and several movies which helped kick start both the 1990s independent film movement and the 1990s Austin film scene later, he published his diary about the experience in a book called “Rebel Without a Crew.”
Starting March 19, the go90 streaming service (and months later, Rodriguez’s El Rey network), will begin airing a 12-episode reality show called “Rebel Without a Crew.”
“When I started the idea of the network and what programming we could, I wanted new talent and diverse voices who don’t usually get a shot,” Rodriguez says. “I wanted them to have a training ground and get $7,000 to make a feature and make it like a film school and do what I did: learn how to make an entire movie by yourself.”
Here is the format: Five filmmakers were given $7,000 to shoot and edit their first feature. In addition, Rodriguez himself joined them in making his own movie using the same financial limitations his contestants were using.
The five films premiered at a private screening hosted by El Rey Network and go90 at the Violet Crown Cinemas on March 12. The series and the films will debut on go90 starting March 19.
Any first-time feature maker could submit their feature-length script (they already had to have made a short film). Rodriguez says more than 2,000 entries arrived in a few days.
“It was a blast,” Rodriguez, , whose most recent film is the mega-budget “Alita: Battle Angel,” says. “It’s all just theory, then within days of starting, you take on so much, it’s such a trial by fire that your idea of what is impossible and what is not becomes completely different.
Left to Right: Bola Ogun, Scarlet Moreno, Alejandro Montoya Marin, Robert Rodriguez, Bonnie-Kathleen Ryan and Josh Stifter at Troublemaker Studios in Austin, TX
The five filmmakers selected are:
* Scarlet Moreno, 28, a Laredo native who lives in Los Angeles who has written and directed short films and music videos that have premiered at festivals, such as the Austin Sci-Fi Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Other Worlds, among others.
* Josh Stifter, 32, of Crystal, Minn. who has made 2-D animations for Kevin Smith's podcast and a Christian media company.
* Alejandro Montoya Marin, 35, was born in Laredo, raised in Monterrey, Mexico and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has made short films, videos and commercials.
* Bola Ogun, 31, is a first-generation Nigerian-American born and raised in Dallas. She is an alumni of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and prdoduced the Emmy campaign music video for CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and has made various shorts.
* Bonnie Kathleen "BK" Ryan, 29, is from Columbia, South Carolina and lives in Los Angeles. Her short film “Three Legged Dog” took home "Best Dark Comedy Short 2017" at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival. She is also an actor.
While the $7,000 remained the same, today’s filmmakers had a massive technical advantage over the Rodriguez of 1991: digital cameras. Which means zero money spent buying and processing film.
“In terms of equipment, $7,000 goes a lot further now than it did then,” Rodriguez says. “(On “Mariachi”) most of my money went to buying film and developing film.”
Then again, the show stipulates the contestants’ movies have to be done, which means they have to consider how much of that $7,000 is going to, say, a location or music or effects.
Rodriguez emphasizes that this one-person-against-the-world theory of production means that by the end of the shoot, the novice filmmakers understand all of the parts of movie making -- production design, lights, sound, editing -- very well indeed.
“It’s very empowering so when you do go work with other people, you know how to do all of these jobs,” Rodriguez says.
RELATED: The “Alita: Battle Angel” trailer is here