MY BEST FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY: THE MAKING OF A QUENTIN TARANTINO FILM (paperback)
“This is a cool idea for a book.” — Quentin Tarantino
My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film is the story of a group of friends who set out to make their own movie in 1983, financing it with Tarantino’s minimum wage earnings from his job at a video store. In most biographies and Tarantino histories, this unfinished $5,000 film is mentioned only in passing and is looked upon as little more than a curiosity. But with this oral history, author/editor Andrew J. Rausch details how each of the friends came together, other early film projects they worked on, and how they ended up making (or trying to make) a black-and-white screwball comedy.
He also makes the argument that My Best Friend’s Birthday is something far more meaningful than a curiosity. Not only did it mark the screenwriting and directorial debut of Quentin Tarantino, one of the greatest filmmakers in history, but it also launched the careers of two other professional filmmakers, Craig Hamann and Roger Avary. My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film provides an in-depth look at the film from its conception to its eventual demise and proves that even at the young age of 20, Tarantino already possessed the talent (in a still rough, unpolished form) that would lead him to make classic films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Django Unchained, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film and screenplay for My Best Friend’s Birthday, rough as they may be, provide us a glimpse of an artist on the verge of real success, still trying to find and hone his voice.
"My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film is a book that few expected. The film discussed wasn’t even completed, and most books on the director relegate this abandoned effort to a mere footnote. Andrew J. Rausch hopes to remedy this unfortunate tendency amongst Tarantino scholars. The writer interviewed a great many of those who worked on the project—including Tarantino himself—and presents these textual interview snippets in an order that traces how each of these people came together, other early film projects they worked on, and how they ended up making (or trying to make) a black-and-white screwball comedy. The final section of the book is a breakdown of the film as it would have been if it had been completed. He also makes the argument that My Best Friend’s Birthday is something far more meaningful than a curiosity. After all, the film’s production was a formative experience in Tarantino’s life. It helped shape his voice and prepared him for bigger and better projects. If the book has a weakness, it is that the “oral history” nature of the text results in a book that is sometimes slightly repetitive. However, one imagines that scholars and fans will be thrilled to have this information available to them as it offers a relatively detailed account of a part of Tarantino’s history that has been largely reduced to mere trivia until now."
"Andrew J. Rausch loves cinema and his writing overflows with this passion. Both My Best Friend's Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino FIlm and Conversations on Quentin Tarantino are exquisitely crafted. These works dive into the early, creative ecosystems of now legendary QT films. Not only do you glean bits of insight from Tarantino himself, but Andrew's format allows a more complete picture as viewed through the eyes of Quentin's friends and collaborators. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys film and, specifically, those who have a penchant for Quentin's unique cinematic perspective."
- Eshom Nelms, co-writer/co-director of Fatman and Small Town Crime
"My Best Friend's Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film is just a load of crazy, breezy, informative fun."
- Rod Lurie, writer/director of The Contender and The Outpost
MY BEST FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film by Andrew J. Rausch (BearManor Media; bearmanormedia.com; $25.00). Years before RESERVOIR DOGS electrified the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino took his first stab at directing with the uncompleted screwball-comedy MY BEST FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY, and though only fragments of this 16mm amateur project have been made public, those rough sequences provide a fascinating glimpse into Tarantino's inherent talent and cinematic influences. The most comprehensive book on this topic to date, Andrew J. Rausch has compiled an impressive oral history of how two friends without any film school training - Tarantino and Craig Hamann- tried to make their own movie with only a $5,000 budget, several amicable acquaintances and a truly inspired script. Rausch weaves together interviews with Tarantino, co-scriptwriter Hamann, castmembers Crystal Shaw and Linda Kaye, Video Archives co-workers (including future PULP FICTION co-writer Roger Avary), classmates and teachers, and even Quentin's mom! Broken up into three sections, the first portion of this 196-page book examines how the film's participants first came together, along with amusing anecdotes about Quentin's acting school days and his stint at Video Archives. The second details the actual shooting of MY BEST FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY, with participants providing rare insights about this DIY production, which Tarantino worked on for three years. Lastly, there's a breakdown of what could've been, pieced together from the script, available footage and interviews. Sprinkled with Todd Henschell's photos of the shoot, this overflows with intriguing details about Quentin's pre-fame life, explores the early stages of his evolution as a filmmaker, and is an absolutely essential read for any Tarantino fan.
-- Shock Cinema