What Remains of Quentin Tarantino’s First Film, My Best Friend’s Birthday

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With Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood out this week, our staff has been hard at work putting together some retrospective pieces on the filmmaker’s work. While many of us have seen every major release he has either written or directed, not one of us has watched his first film My Best Friend’s Birthday – well at least not in its entirety.

For those of you who may not know, the first 36 minutes of Quentin Tarantino’s first film, My Best Friend’s Birthday, found its way online back in 2011. Although completed in 1987, the film was never officially released and rumour has it the rest of the 16mm film was destroyed in a fire. All that remains is what you can see courtesy of YouTube.

My Best Friend’s Birthday, shot in black and white, was written by Craig Hamann and Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tarantino while he was working at the once-famous Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, California. The project started in 1984, when Hamann wrote a short 30-40 page script about a young man who continually tries to do something nice for his friend’s birthday, only to have his efforts backfire. When Tarantino became attached to the project, he and Hamann expanded what was originally a short script into an 80-page feature. On an estimated budget of $5,000, they shot the film on 16mm over the course of the next four years.

Hamann and Tarantino starred in the film, along with several video store clerks and other friends, and worked on the crew, which included fellow Video Archives employees Rand Vossler and Roger Avary.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, he referred to it as a “Martin and Lewis kind of thing.”
While these thirty-six minutes isn’t anything to write home about, it is a must-see for any Tarantino fan, simply because it has some of the trademarks that would follow him throughout his career. Enjoy!

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