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Book Review: Director Vincent Rocca’s “Rebel Without a Deal”

Vincent Rocca’s “Rebel Without a Deal (Or How a 30-year-old Filmmaker with $11,000 Almost Became a Hollywood Player),” is a tell-all account of the making of his first film, “Kisses & Caroms.” 

The book is an obvious take on screenwriter and director Robert Rodriguez’s “Rebel Without a Crew (Or How a 23-year-old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player)” — a point Rocca is quick to discuss in the first chapter, as well as his further inspiration from Rodriguez to keep a journal, which provides the format for his book. As the saying goes, “good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

“Rebel Without a Deal” covers everything about “Kisses & Caroms,” from brainstorming and writing the script to hosting auditions and shooting the film in five days for $11,000 to a post-production filled with financial struggles, losing a multi-million dollar deal with National Lampoon, suicidal depression and equal amounts of rejection and determination until finally releasing the film through Warner Brothers, which offers more frustration.

The book also features a conversational take on Rocca’s experience intermixed between the journal entries with New York Times bestselling author and award winning screenwriter and director Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Mallrats,” “Red State”), who relates Rocca’s struggles and triumphs to the making of “Clerks” (which many say was ripped off by “Kisses & Caroms”).

Reading a book about a complete stranger is like attempting to take the first bite of a sloppy, over-sized burger, dripping with greasy, cheesy goodness. You need a plan of attack. To research or not to research. I go into my books and movies blind because I want to make my own judgements, free of prejudices and the point of view of others. 

After looking at the front page of the book and reading the first chapter or so, I was skeptical. Yet another overblown ego eager for fame with a Clerks-esque film. Boy was I wrong. Yeah, Vincent has a big ego but to follow a dream as huge as writing, directing and selling a movie, you need a big ego.

This is a great book for up-and-coming directors who need an honest look at how to write a script, shoot a movie and get it distributed, complete with an undoctored look behind the scenes so newbies know it isn’t all glitz and glamour. It isn’t easy. Rocca provides a straight up experience, highlighting the ups and downs in great detail — he includes copies of profit/loss statements and crunches numbers (to the point of making me dizzy). He also explains how much work it takes to accomplish his goals (from putting together press kits by himself to contacting every film festival imaginable to being put on hold or asked to call someone back more than a thousand times).

This is also a great story about determination. On page 124, during a conversation with Kevin Smith’s assistant, Rocca says, “(Filmmaking) isn’t easy but it isn’t as hard as many make it seem. The toughest part is just getting off your butt and doing it. Making the commitment and following through.” He is rejected and ignored, he loses an amazing deal, he spirals into a severe and dark funk but never stops. Even when he is tired of watching his movie and reading through the script to make edits, even when he is beat down and exhausted, he keeps going. That, in itself, is amazing.

Yeah, I could sit down at my little desk and go through the book with my little red pen marking up incorrect grammar, syntax, spelling and punctuation but Rocca is a high school dropout so the reader shouldn’t expect literary greatness and that is not his reason for writing the book. The sloppy writing gives it even more of a journal feel (which it’s supposed to be) and is so genuine that it made me like Rocca even more!

You see “Kisses & Caroms” listed on Netflix.com and Amazon.com and see the cover of the DVD and a blurb. That’s it. Take from it what you will. This book gave me an appreciation for filmmaking, directing and following dreams of indie filmmaking greatness but also I don’t see just the DVD. I see the countless months of working, the stress, the highs and lows, the self-doubt and self-assurance. I see the roller coaster, not just in association with this film but lots of films.

And for all you Kevin Smith fans out there, the conversations with your hero are awesome and provide a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Clerks” and a look into his unquiet mind and life. A definite added bonus!

Take the journey with Rocca, check out his book, then watch “Kisses & Caroms.”
“Rebel Without a Deal” is available in paperback at Amazon.com and in e-book for the Kindle, Nook and iPad. — Kate Vendetta