Tarantino wrote the script and would play one of the lead roles and Rodriguez would direct. The horror-part was saved for the second half of the film, a strategy inspired by Stephen King, explains Tarantino. “First you let the audience get to know the characters, like them, and then you put them through hell.”
“Many horrors deliver too soon”, says Rodriguez in Full Tilt Boogie, a documentary about the movie’s production released a year after the film in 1997. “There are no clues that the vampires will show up, so the audience members – like the characters – are totally surprised. All of a sudden they’re just there.”
Full Tilt Boogie spends a lot of time interviewing the people that normally don’t get attention; the assistant directors, the personal assistants, the drivers, the best boys, the gaffers, the special effects people, the stunt guys, the caterers… Even the extras get their few minutes of fame. Like Bob Ruth who was also in Pulp Fiction (“I was the coffeeshop manager; ‘I am not a hero’”).
What’s interesting is that while for the creative team (writer, director, cinematographer) it is all about the creative process, for most of the others it is just a job. Sure, they all like movies, but they could easily switch to another industry if it would pay better. They are all mostly concerned with getting overtime paid and complaining about the food, the accommodation and millions of other things.
Still, if you are gonna work on a film then From Dusk Till Dawn is a good choice. It has hot new directors and a hot new star (George Clooney in his first big movie film role after many successful years in television) and lots of groovy special effects and stunts. There were also a lot of parties obviously.
But there were problems as well like sand storms, permits, extreme heat and the union going after the 18 million dollar independent film. Not because there were complaints from workers, but – according to the makers – because of the success of Tarantino and producer Lawrence Bender. And because Rodriguez did almost everything himself. The unions weren’t used to that.
Full Tilt Boogie is ultimately a disappointing documentary, because you learn surprisingly little about the filmmakers. I would rather listen to Tarantino and Rodriguez talking for 90 minutes than watch a lot of film people that don’t have a lot to say about the beauty of the medium.