Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson, and Luke Wilson made a 13 minute B/W short film called Bottle Rocket (1994) which was first shown at the USA Film Festival in Dallas. It met with a sufficiently enthusiastic response that they took it to Sundance where it came to the attention of screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson who directed it to towards Polly Platt and James L. Brooks. It was with their intervention that the team were able to get financial backing from Columbia to expand their short into a feature film.
James L. Brooks insisted that major work be done on the script so he had Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson flown to Los Angeles and set up in an office on $100 a day. Wilson tried to exchange his plane ticket for a bus ticket, hoping to pocket the cash instead.