The Art of Guerrilla Filmmaking
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The Art of Guerrilla Filmmaking

Independent filmmakers who lack the finances needed to obtain the proper film permits will sometimes have to resort to illegal methods of guerrilla filmmaking in order to complete their project as they desire. Although illegal, this method of filmmaking has made directors into icons of cinema such as Robert Rodriguez and Spike Lee.

Independent filmmakers working on a project constricted by a limited budget will sometimes have to resort to a film tactic known as ‘Guerrilla Filmmaking.”  Guerrilla filmmaking is a type of filmmaking that does not involve obtaining the proper permission to film in public or private areas through film permits.  This is because independent filmmakers do not often possess the budget needed to spend the additional amount of money on film permits to finish the movie as they desire.  Instead, independent filmmakers who have to resort to guerrilla filmmaking tactics will break such laws as ‘trespassing’ or ‘entering without consent’ in order to capture on camera the scenes they may need.  This sometimes however can result in consequences such as warnings, fines, or even possibly jail time.  Although guerrilla filmmaking is illegal where filming is prohibited, this rule has never stopped some of the most famous directors from achieving the status that they have now such as Robert Rodriguez or even Spike Lee. 

The movie “El Mariachi”, directed by Robert Rodriguez, only had a budget of $7,000 which was mostly earned by Robert Rodriguez donating his body to medical testing prior to the filming of the movie.  Due to the lack of budgeting, Robert Rodriguez had to film the entire movie ‘guerrilla style’ which eventually earned him the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992.  The movie ‘El Mariachi’, spoken entirely in Spanish, was then picked up by Columbia Pictures and remade into the movie “Desperado” starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.  Soon after, Robert Rodriguez not only earned a reputation as a famous director but also went on to write the book “Rebel Without A Crew” to inspire other independent filmmakers about the art and success of guerrilla filmmaking.  Spike Lee’s full length feature film “She’s Gotta Have It” only had a budget of $175,000 which later made $7,137,502 in the box office after he used guerrilla filmmaking tactics to complete his project.  This later inspired Spike Lee to write the book “Spike Lee’s Gotta Have It: Inside Guerrilla Filmmaking.”   

Guerrilla filmmaking can take place almost anywhere such as a local high school or even a grocery store with very few customers.  Most times, small business owners will not mind a team of independent filmmakers filming in their location but larger establishments will expect film permits or even compensation checks as the filming may disrupt their business for the day.  Because of this, independent film teams will have to either find ways to build a larger budget or resort to illegal methods of guerrilla filmmaking to obtain the scene necessary for their project.  This action of course does not go without consequences but this is the risk that independent filmmakers will take in order to achieve the status of an established director.   


Guerrilla Filmmaking: No Such Thing As No Budget.” By Sid Kali

A Film For A Song: Robert Rodriguez Garage Movie.” By Peter Broderick

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