In 1984, with a basic screenplay partially written, Craig Hamann approached a Quentin Tarantino to suggest a collaboration on the black-and-white amateur film My Best Friend’s Birthday.
The film, which has been partially lost as the result of a devastating fire, tells the story of a young man who continually tries to do something nice for his friend’s birthday only to have his efforts backfire in numerous different scenarios. While the premise and execution might be a basic one, it marked the beginning of an emphatic career in cinema for Tarantino and remains his first-ever film project.
While Hamann had managed to pen around 30 or 40 pages of a script, when Tarantino became involved with his now trademark writing thirst, the two worked to beef out the script to 80 pages and managed to scrape themselves a budget of $5,000 to complete their film. During the period of creation, Tarantino was splitting his time on the project while working at the video rental shop ‘Video Archives’ in Manhattan Beach, California.
Given the incredibly tight budget, both Tarantino and Hamann appear as part of the cast which was made up of acting class friends and a handful of colleagues from the Video Archives rental shop which included the likes of Rand Vossler and Roger Avary—the latter going on to appear in Tarantino’s 1994 hit film Pulp Fiction.
Shot in black-and-white and on 16mm film, My Best Friend’s Birthday took nearly four years to complete and was released in 1987 and had a run time of 70 minutes. In what is undoubtedly the most comedic film in Tarantino’s repertoire, the man himself once described it as a “Martin and Lewis kind of thing” when interviewed by Charlie Rose.
A disastrous film lab fire was said to have destroyed all evidence of My Best Friend’s Birthday until a portion was rescued and surfaced online in 2011. Below, enjoy the 36 minutes of the project that was successfully restored.