Co-cinematographer Roger Avary later said of the film, "Had we ever finished the film it would have looked something like a sloppy version of She's Gotta Have It (1986); a miracle considering the budget. Contrary to legend, the rest of the film was not 'lost in a lab fire'. It was simply never finished due to loss of steam."
The lighting equipment would be rented on Friday, because the rental company wasn't open on weekends. This meant they could pay for one day, and get it for three.
Actor Allen Garfield was teaching Quentin Tarantino acting at the time, and that is how he also became involved in the project. Filmed over three years, from 1984-1987.
Craig Hamann said that the film was shot on an "even-then-ancient 16 mm Eclair, using a car battery to power the camera."
Quentin Tarantino's friend and fellow Video Archives clerk Roger Avary worked as the cinematographer on this film. He found Rich Turner to be very funny, and later cast him as the American tourist in his debut feature, Killing Zoe (1993). In addition to playing minor roles in both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (1994), Turner would later play a minor role in Boogie Boy (1998), written and directed by Craig Hamann, who also worked at Video Archives and who co-wrote this film.
Actress Linda Kaye later became a stunt-woman. Quentin Tarantino cast her in Reservoir Dogs (1992) as the woman who gets pulled out of a car.
The film was not destroyed in a fire. According to Rand Vossler, some footage was destroyed during a power outage at the developer, which meant the film processed for too long, and came out all white. He believes the story of the fire was made up by Tarantino to save face around his friends once he realized the film was not turning out how he planned. Tarantino says the myth the film burned was something he read in his biographies and he thought it was a more interesting story, so he never corrected it. Roger Avery has further said another film Tarantino worked on was destroyed in a fire, possibly deliberately by Tarantino's co-director.
Quentin Tarantino claims actor David O'Hara ( who plays a cop) is the most difficult actor he ever worked with. At one point, O'Hara said "This is the last take." To which Tarantino said "I'll tell you when it's the last take." This then became a running joke on the set: whenever they got towards the end of their shooting for the day, someone would yell out "This is the last take!"
Famously claimed to be the victim of a film lab fire as only 36 minutes of the film exists. It was reportedly another film Quentin Tarantino and Scott Magill had worked on according to Roger Avary, known as Love Birds in Bondage (1983).
Don Coscarelli met with Craig Hamann and Quentin Tarantino before they began production. Coscarelli spent a day with them answering any questions they had about film making and how to work with a low budget.
According to Tarantino, the 29 minute long cut (which he personally edited) is just a collection of his favorite scenes. He claims to still have enough footage to put out a complete cut, and that one day he might decide to do so.
Al Harrell, who plays Clifford, had previous directed Tarantino and Hamann in a shot on video movie called Warzone. Tarantino played the villain and Hamann the good guy. That film was also abandoned after they were unable to afford an editing station to put the film together.
Clarence apartment was actually Tarantino's mom's house. Tarantino's mom, at that time, thought film making was just a hobby for Quentin and something he would out grow. She expected them to show up with a hand held camera for the scene. Instead, she was shocked when they came with a load of equipment and numerous crew members who needed to be fed (Bologna sandwiches with Kool-Aid, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies. The crew was happy because this was a large meal for them compared to what they usually got on set).
After the actress playing the receptionist didn't show up, Rand Vossler called Alan Sanborn up and asked him to play the part. However, the character had been mentioned in previous scenes as Meg. To account for this, Tarantino decided the character's name is Nutmeg. Sanborn also provided his own wardrobe: a black shirt with pumpkins on it. Later when shooting Reservoir Dogs (1992), Tarantino cast Sanborn as a patron at the coffee shop and had him wear the same shirt with pumpkins on it. Tarantino has said "It's definitely Meg in Reservoir Dogs. Not only that, but Alan is sitting right next to my girlfriend from the time."
Tarantino had worked on the film for 3 years, but was unable to process the footage till towards the end of that. When he finally did see the result of the years of work they had done, he was depressed and embarrassed. But he realized the stuff he shot during the last year of filming was much better than the first years work. He took this as a sign that he was getting better and knew what he would have to do on his next film.
The 16mm camera used to shoot the film was borrowed from director Fred Olen Ray. Originally they planned to shoot it on 8mm, but Rand Vossler convinced them 16mm was a better choice, citing films like She's Gotta Have It (1986) and Stranger Than Paradise (1984) as what they should aspire to achieve on a technical level. The script was also barely 30 pages long at that point, but Vossler encouraged them to extend it to a feature length.
The bakery scene with Allen Garfield is actually being shot in Video Archives, where Tarantino worked. This explains why there is a standee for the film Runaway Train (1985) in the scene. They also decided to bring in a professional cinematographer for the scene. Roberto A. Quezada, who was working on the Don Coscarelli movie Survival Quest (1988) at the time, agreed to come in shoot the scene for them. Quezada worked for one day and the film makers regretted the decision, feeling it's the worst looking footage in the film.
While Crystal Shaw Martell and Quentin Tarantino were filming their kissing scene, Shaw leaned in for the kiss and burned her face on a light bulb. Despite Hamann and Tarantino wanting to stop shooting and pick up the scene on another day, Shaw instead put some make-up on to cover up the burn and continued with the scene.
Hamann and Tarantino wrote a script for a second film while working on this one. Titled The Criminal Mind, the story followed two detectives hunting a serial killer who has inexplicably stopped killing. Tarantino also wrote two other scripts during the the three year shoot: The Neon Jungle about a hotel heist that goes awry and Undercover Elvis, where Tarantino would play Elvis Presley who faked his death because he was working undercover. None of these projects progressed passed the scripting phase.
The film took 3 years to shoot but most of the stuff that survives was shot during the first week. The radio show footage was the last to be shot by the crew.
A feature length script for the movie can be found on the internet. It is actually not the script written for the film, but a new version created by Hamann years later and fleshed out from the existing footage on the internet. The actual script is only 40 pages long and a lot of the film was improvised by the actors. Tarantino has said the feature script online isn't his movie and he wishes his name wasn't on it. Hamann has said it follows the blueprint him and Tarantino established.
Editing started at Armand Hammer Films, but after five days spent going frame by frame through the footage and syncing the sound, the editor lost interests and quit. Tarantino then convinced his mom to rent a Steinbeck and have it put in her house, where he edited the film by himself. Only a few people who worked on the film received a copy (Vossler and Hamann were among two who received video tape copies). Most of the people who worked on the film never saw it until a copy leaked on the internet in the early 2000s. The copy that leaked was taken from a VHS tape that had been duplicated many times and is of poor quality. It's unknown whose copy of the film was duplicated for the release.
Clarence gives Mickey a VHS copy of Rio Bravo for his birthday. In real life, Tarantino did the same thing, gifting Hamann a copy of Rio Bravo for his birthday. (Depending on the leaked version you watched, sometimes this scene is missing from the film.)
Was almost remade in the 90s following Tarantino's success. Hamann optioned a script to producer Don Murphy. Murphy at the time was feuding with Tarantino , eventually leading to Tarantino slapping him at a Hollywood eatery. Murphy has said he partially optioned the script just to annoy Tarantino. A lawsuit from the assault was filed with Tarantino settling out of court.
A recurring gag in the film is people showing up at Ronny's bar and intimidating Ronny to find out where Clarence and Mickey live. The scene where Clifford (Al Harrell) shows up was damaged during developing and no longer exist.
Allan Garfield had a small dog that went everywhere with him. While shooting the bakery scene, no one was paying attention and the dog ate half the birthday cake. This is the reason the cake looks destroyed in some of the shots while Clarence is buying it.
Production on the film was nearly completed, with only three scenes left not filmed at the time the project was abandoned. The completed film would have had a run-time of about 80 minutes. Meaning there is around 30 minutes of completed film missing from the leaked version (which has a run-time of 36 minutes). Leaving out the scenes not filmed and the destroyed rolls of film, if an assemble of the finished footage is ever made, it will most likely clock in at around 70 minutes.