In 1970 Frank Zappa assembled a new lineup of the Mothers of Invention which featured three members of The Turtles along with some jazz and British musicians. The first release by this new combo was Frank Zappa's solo album Chunga's Revenge. This record plus a May 1970 concert where Zubin Mehta conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic along with a rock band, served as a preview of Zappa's intended film. He presented multiple audio tapes, a ten page treatment, and media clippings to United Artists and this pitch resulted in the studio giving Zappa $650,000 to create the film.
Initial filming took place at Pinewood Studios in the UK. Along with the new Mothers of Invention, musical celebrities Ringo Starr and Keith Moon were also part of the proceedings. Interesting to note that 200 Motels was lensed entirely on videotape and then blown up to 35mm film using a Technicolor film printer used by the BBC.