By Erica K. Cardozo
October 06, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Robert Rodriguez won critical acclaim and the attention of every studio in Tinseltown with his action-packed debut feature, El Mariachi — but the question remains: However did he write, direct, shoot, and edit the flick all by his lonesome…and for a paltry $7,000? You’ll find that out and more in this straight-talking and highly entertaining memoir-cum-moviemaking primer that includes the film’s screenplay, Rodriguez’s irreverent answer to formalized movie education (a chapter entitled ”The Ten-Minute Film School”), and El Mariachi-related entries from his diary. Rebel Without a Crew takes us from the surreal month he spent as a human guinea pig in a hospital (enduring up to 10 blood draws a day) to earn financing for his film to the miraculous 21-day shoot itself, when Rodriguez fearlessly made use of whatever and whoever crossed his path (including a turtle). Then there are his unflinching descriptions of smarmy agents and clueless industry big-wigs that make The Player look like, well, a Hollywood movie. If you’re not already so inclined, Rodriguez won’t succeed in inspiring you to become a fellow filmmaker — ”Who has this guy’s talent, or energy?” you’ll think — but you will never view an independently made movie (or $7,000) the same way again. A-