My Best Friend's Birthday (lost full cut of Quentin Tarantino film; existence unconfirmed; 1987)
My Best Friend's Birthday is a black and white comedy film co-written by Craif Hamann and co-written, directed by, and starring Quentin Tarantino that was developed between 1984 to 1987. It was created while Tarantino was working at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, California.
The project began as a 30-40 page script by Hamann. The plot involved a man trying to do something nice on his best friend's birthday, only to have his efforts backfire on him. After Tarantino became attached to the project, he and Hamann extended the script to 80 pages in length, and, on a budget of $5000, shot the film on 16mm reels over the next few years.
The film was originally intended to run for roughly 70 minutes, but currently only 36 minutes of footage is available online. Conflicting information exists surrounding the whereabouts, condition and even existence of the remaining footage.
The most common story is that the footage was lost in a lab fire, though it is unclear where exactly this story originated. The Wikipedia page for the film, likely the main publication of this story, cites an article from film journalist website IndieFilmHustle as the source for this claim, labeled with "unreliable source?". It is possible this rumour could've spread purely through word of mouth in the days before the internet, though this is just a theory to explain the widespread use of this story despite a lack of concrete source.
Rand Vossler, a producer who worked on the film, claims the "lab fire" story is false in the book My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film:
"The fire never happened. We did lose some footage, but the fire never happened. When we processed the initial batch of footage at Hollywood Film Enterprises... there was a power outage. Approximately one-and-a-half reels of our original footage was destroyed... So there was no lab fire. That was completely fabricated, but that was back when Quentin embellished his story a little bit."
This claim is backed up by Quentin himself:
"A lab fire didn't destroy the movie. A couple of rolls were destroyed. I don't remember specifically how many, whether it was two or four or six.... Frankly, if they hadn't destroyed those rolls, I probably wouldn't have ever had the money to get the film out of the lab. They had destroyed so many rolls they gave us a discount. For the record, I never actually said the movie was destroyed in a fire. That just became part of the mythology. I started reading it in the biographies, and I figured, why not just go along with it? It was an interesting story, so I never corrected it."
He goes on to say that he edited his favourite scenes from the surviving footage after abandoning the project, which is what makes up the 20-minute cut, but he "still [has] the footage":
"It's sitting in storage. I could finish the movie one of these days. I might still do it, just to have it."
It is unclear exactly how much of the footage he still has, but the possibility of him being able to finish the movie likely means that a much less significant portion of the film is lost than previously thought.
Cinematographer Roger Avary, who also worked on the film, has supposedly stated that "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." However, the authenticity of this quote is unconfirmed.
- IMDb page for My Best Friend’s Birthday. Retrieved 13 Jun '20
- IndieFilmHustle article on My Best Friend's Birthday. Retrieved 13 Jun '20
- My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film. Retrieved 13 Jun '20