Saturday, 20 September 2008

Inspirations 5: Rectangle of Cloth

Today's Inspiration: El Mariachi

The final stepping stone on my path leads me to the DVD age.

Though I had been 20-odd years watching Private Schultz, Minder, The Ladykillers, Doctor Who, The Singing Detective and many more shows on the goggle box, I'd never owned my own TV. My family had had one, then my college had had one, then flat mates or girlfriends had had one, I'd just shared each for long spells.

[This ain't an isolated phenomenon - I don't think I've ever bought a tea towel, but I always seem to have a collection of them. I've never been to Torbay. I don't know anyone who's been to Torbay. I don't even know where Torbay is: how did I get a rectangle of cloth emblazoned with it's tourist attractions? Mysteries...]

I moved into my own flat in 1999 and had to face the inevitable - I was going to have to buy a TV. I had my eye on a widescreen model, and I was going to buy a DVD player to go with it, as they'd started to become popular. I mentioned this to a colleague, and he said 'You only really need that equipment if you watch a lot of films'. Hmm, I thought, he's right: if I get that equipment I'll be able to watch a lot of films: great! 

And so I did, and the beauty of getting on board when the DVD delivery medium was new was that a lot of old classics (film and TV) were getting reissued in the new format; I had my film school education in front of a cathode ray tube, gobbling up British classics, and Hollywood greats, as well as indie pics.

And you don't get more indie than Robert Rodriguez's mega low budget action flick, El Mariachi, which I bought in a double pack with Desperado. The film is great fun, but the real revelation was listening to the director's commentary. Everything that had inspired me up to that point seemed out of my reach: they were made in fancy studios by Olympian professionals. If I was to get my stuff to an audience, I thought, I'd have to get patronage from someone of that ilk.  But here was some one who'd been successful by just doing it himself, and he was telling me that I could do the same, and not only that, but he was telling me how.

Very soon, I'd bought a digital camera, and got some editing software, and I was making my own movies.  None of them set the world alight but each one was a learning experience, and made me a better writer.  There's nothing like shooting and editing your own material to hammer home what is dispensable or otherwise on the page.  And working with the limitations of budget is always good for the imagination.

I recommend any Rodriguez DVD: even if you don't like the film you get value for money.  As well as insightful commentaries, there's always a ten minute film school featurette on every disc, and even a rather wonderful ten minute cookery school on Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Next: I realise that I may have created a meme here.  I'm not going to send this out to five other bloggers, because if it's a worthy meme it will self-replicate.  If you want to list five films or TV shows that have been of autobiographical significance to you (you don't have to ramble on as much as I did) then please go ahead, but please do drop me a line to let me know you've done so.

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