One simply cannot engage in a serious discussion about independent cinema, no matter what the genre, without mentioning the name Lloyd Kaufman. The maverick director (and co-founder of Troma Studios) has spent nearly half-a-decade thumbing his nose at Hollywood and mainstream conventions, crafting much-loved cult classics like The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘em High, and Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., on shoestring budgets that would make Roger Corman blush. While Kaufman did do a little studio work on the side to make ends meet, his ultimate goal was (and still is) to make the movies he wanted to make the way he wanted to make them. Period.
Back in the early ‘90’s, Kaufman co-authored a sort of handbook for aspiring indie filmmakers entitled All I Need to Know About Filmmaking, I Learned from the Toxic Avenger. This humorous-yet-enlightening tome proved Kaufman was as good at teaching about films as he was at directing them, and, in 2003, his much more in-depth follow-up, Make Your Own Damn Movie!, combined the humorous approach of the previous book with a very serious and well-though-out lesson plan to rival any film school. Other books soon followed in what would become a series, including Direct Your Own Damn Movie!, Produce Your Own Damn Movie!, and, now, Sell Your Own Damn Movie!.
As with the previous volumes in the series, Sell Your Own Damn Movie! is written in a conversational style, liberally sprinkled with scatological references, dick jokes, and lots of mentions of Kaufman’s “hit” 2006 film, Poultrygeist. While, at times, the books in the series have read like selling tools for that film, here its inclusion is vital as Kaufman lays out all of the groundwork that went into marketing and distributing the movie. We learn about everything from foreign rights and film festivals to the nuts and bolts of DIY DVD distribution. Like the other books in the series, Kaufman ropes in an assortment of friends and Troma alumni for interviews and sidebar pieces in which they share their perspectives on the subject, including Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity), Adam Green (Hatchet), Bill Plympton, and many more.
I’ve read every book Kaufman’s released on the subject of filmmaking, and, while his sense of humor may not be everyone’s cup of tea, one cannot discount the breadth of knowledge he brings to the table when it comes to making a career in independent cinema. Each one of his books have been inspiring and informative, but equally realistic and sobering, with this volume proving to be the most eye-opening of all. In his previous books, we met the passionate, eccentric filmmaker side of Lloyd Kaufman, but, in Sell Your Own Damn Movie, we get to see the shrewd businessman that he truly is. You’ll read chapters of this book and shake your head in amazement at just how much this tenacious little fella’s been able to accomplish for all of these years without so much as a single suit looking over his shoulder (at least not one that he didn’t hire to keep him reeled in).
Like all of the books in the “Damn” series, Sell Your Own Damn Movie should be considered essential reading for anyone considering a career in film, especially those who are making/have made a movie they intend to shop around outside the mainstream. This book is chock full of sound advice delivered in an easily digestible, humorous, and, most importantly, practical-yet-realistic fashion. Very highly recommended.