Full Tilt Boogie

Even if you wanted to drive a stake through the trash heart of From Dusk Till Dawn, don't avoid this deliciously funny and savvy documentary about the making of that 1996 vampire gorathon directed by Robert Rodriguez, written by Quentin Tarantino and starring Tarantino, George Clooney and Juliette Lewis. Director Sarah Kelly offers insights into the follies of filmmaking that even her mentor, Tarantino, couldn't have figured on when he invited her on location in the blazing heat of Barstow, California.

Production is menaced by weather and unions, but these events pale next to the daily minutiae that reveal what life is really like on a movie set. Take the vanities: The stars employ personal assistants to cater to their needs. Clooney sends out for a sculpture of an extended finger as a gift for Lewis, who has fondly flipped him the bird during shooting. Tarantino launches a comic tirade against a grip who supplies two kegs of beer for a cast party when Tarantino had ordered three kegs. "OK," Tarantino tells Kelly in his own defense, "if you just use the sound bite, I'll look like I'm an asshole."

He's not alone. To avoid boredom, contests are arranged to see who has the best butt; extras and hangers-on discuss whom on the set they'd most like to fuck; some of them succeed. Most crew members say they're in it for the money. Why else would they break their backs in the sun while the stars cool their heels in the shade and earn the credit? "I like to be around famous people," says one grip with smiling sarcasm. "I love to watch them eat." Full Tilt Boogie is fun to watch for the way Kelly reveals a film set as a feudal society in which the serfs serve the creative kings. Kelly, 26, is a former production assistant who tempers her acute observations with compassionate humor. She knows how a film crew bonds into a family by the end of shooting. That's what keeps them coming back for more. Kings be damned; it's their show, too.

From The Archives Issue 793: August 20, 1998