Like it or not, film as an art form is all about money. Even a tiny independent film about a couple of dudes hanging around their apartment can cost more to make than an average waiter makes in a year.
So for the aspiring filmmakers who don't happen to have wealthy friends or connections at a studio, securing funding is by far the biggest obstacle between them and the fulfillment of their vision. Sometimes that means getting creative. Horribly, horribly creative.
5Robert Rodriguez Paid for Movies With Medical Experiments
You know director Robert Rodriguez from movies like Machete and Sin City, though he also finds time for family fare like the Spy Kids movies. But once upon a time (in the '90s), Rodriguez was an indie film hero for making El Mariachi. It was a microscopic budget film (made for as little as $7,000, reportedly) starring some dudes he knew and using every money-saving trick in the book. Rodriguez became an inspiration to every film student and video store clerk who dreamed of making a movie on their own terms, without having to sell out to The Man.
But how far did he have to go to scrape the cash together to make his little action movie? Let's put it this way: It involved letting people perform medical experiments on his body.
"Take everything except my artistic integrity. And my penis."
In his book Rebel Without a Crew, Rodriguez describes his life as a "human lab rat," signing up for several rounds of drug testing and medical studies to generate enough cash to fund his short films and eventually his first full-length feature. It started with a desperate Rodriguez looking through classified ads and seeing he could get a few thousand dollars for participating in a medical experiment and staying in a hospital for about a week. It's one of those things that seems too good to be true if you've never seen a horror movie.
Rest assured, he's already recreated the whole agonizing experience in 4D.
And, yes, there was a reason they didn't mention what the experiment actually entailed until he got there. The company running the experiment, with the delightfully evil-sounding name Pharmaco, was testing a drug to help with the healing of skin and muscle tissue. What they didn't mention in the ad is that to test "healing" his skin, they would have to "wound" his skin. A few football-shaped chunks out of the backs of his arms and a seven-day hospital stay later, and he found himself $2,000 richer.
He would have held the money in his arms but, you know, mangled.
This is when Rodriguez figured out that the medical studies that paid the most were high-paying for a reason -- they tended to hurt. Still, money was money, so he came back for more, signing up for studies that promised even longer stays (and presumably more awful side effects).
To fund El Mariachi directly, he signed up for a one-month drug trial that paid $3,000 but put him through Draconian scheduling (his days were planned out to the minute, and showing up late to things like meals or his daily blood draws would cost him $25 an occurrence). Even more fun, he was required to poop into clear Tupperware, place it in a fridge alongside the other patients' samples and discuss his poop's consistency with a drug counselor.
It only cost $7,000 and a lifetime of human dignity.
It would be worth it, in the end. Though the film didn't make much money, the right people noticed it. This enabled Rodriguez to more or less remake it as Desperado, launching the English-speaking careers of Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas in the process. Fifteen years later, Rodriguez is still making movies ... and he still has his medical testing scars to remind him where he came from.