When former Independent pornographer and pocket billiards retailer, Vincent Rocca, decided to enter the world of legitimate low-budget filmmaking with Kisses and Caroms, a comedy about finding love in a billiards store, his entire life changed drastically.
Rebel without a Deal essentially is the self-published journal of how Rocca came up with the idea for the film, how he got Kevin Smith to watch and endorse his film, how he almost got it released under the National Lampoon banner, how he eventually got it distributed under the Warner Brothers masthead, and how things occurred after distribution.
In the mindset of a tell-all book like Motley Crue's Dirt, Rebel without a Deal tells the entire sordid tale from beginning to nearly the end. (More on that later.) Few details are spared and readers learn a lot about the micro-budget film industry through Rocca's miscues, trick shots, and bad breaks.
There's no question that Rebel without a Deal is easy to read, which speaks a lot to a self-published book in the first place. (Of course, as we learn through the book, Rocca has spent a lot of years trying to polish the different things that he does, so it makes sense that the narrative account of his journey would have been thought out well.)
My own background as a microbudget filmmaker may be quite different than Rocca's, but his choices and decisions along the way are all understandable through the prose he uses in these journals. (Interestingly enough, despite our very different backgrounds and location, our first films were both comedies based around retail sales shot around the same time due to the same inspiration: Kevin Smith! And, unlike Kevin Smith, both Rocca and myself chose to fund the initial production budgets with our own money, rather than credit cards.)
I was really impressed with the willingness Rocca had to delve into all the gritty details of the ordeal of making the film, the costs of things at each step of the way, his endless desire to improve the film, his eventual deal to distribute the film, and his in-depth breakdowns of the costs, times, and actual returns he received on his investment. He managed to provide all sorts of great info in this book, without dragging down the overall interest level, which is great.
With that said, there is one area that I really felt is lacking in this book: the ending. He does a lot of foreshadowing of things that start coming toward the end, and you can see the writing on the wall, but, rather than explaining how it all pans out, he abruptly stops the narrative and tells the audience that his film has been successful and he's glad he started his journey as a filmmaker. These are great sentiments, but they ring a bit hollow because the final elements of the journey involving this particular movie weren't explained in the book.
Apparently there's more explanation on his website and in YouTube videos, but that's not really the same thing. After all, it would seem an awful gamble for someone to make a film that tells 90% of the tale and, then hope that people will check a separate website if they want to see the end. In the end, he's so extremely honest in every other element of the book, that it just seems odd that he just didn't finish the tale in its entirety. In my personal opinion, I think the book would've been stronger for it and I think it would've served to help more filmmakers. But, I could certainly be wrong, so pick a copy of the book up and see what you think!
Vince Rocca's honesty and willingness to proclaim his own weaknesses serve the book well and help command your interest throughout. The tale is compelling and makes you want to learn what happens next. For folks who are aware of some the news in the world of distribution over the last few years, some of the people and companies Rocca comes into contact with are even more interesting and horrifying.
Although this book is extremely readable, the re-readablity factor isn't terribly high. Of course, this is less a fault of Rocca's writing and more simply a factor of these types of narratives. You will likely learn many of the cautions and inspirations on the first read through. With that said, there are a lot of steps that Rocca goes through in the stages of his filmmaking journey that could help new filmmakers when thinking things through. As such, I could see these users finding this very helpful to read and re-read as they prepare for their shoot itself.
For all the information and story that Rocca packs into this book, I think the essentially $15 price is a good one. I think it's completely justified and it earns the right to be on the bookshelves of many low-budget filmmakers. While it may have a few failings, it's a good book that I would suggest to many who are thinking about trying to go the more traditional distribution and/or festival route!
As with all journal based books, who knows how many of this books entries were originally penned at the supposed time they are credited. [As I found out after this review was finished, although it's not mentioned in the book, the author kept a tape recorder with him much of the time, so many of them were transcribed after the fact. Which explains why he wasn't lynched by his crew writing production journals during a five day feature film shoot. An impressive bit of forethought that I admit many low-budget filmmakers haven't managed to pull off, including myself.]
While I wish he would expand the ending to complete the tale, the book is a testament to his hard work and, even more, the continuous promotion of his work.
Rebel without a Deal is a decade-long tale of endurance that speaks to the resolve of a filmmaker to follow through on a motion picture that many low-budget filmmakers lack and for which I applaud Mr. Rocca heartily.