Thursday, August 11, 2011


2-Disc DVD Box-Set

LABEL: Troma Entertainment
RATING: Unrated
DURATION: 300 mins
VIDEO: 1.33:1 Fullframe
AUDIO: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
DIRECTOR: Lloyd Kaufman
CAST: David Cronenberg, Roger Corman, Avi Lerner, Monte Hellman, Joe Dante, Ernest Dickerson, Steven Paul, Mick Garris, The Duplass Brothers, Caroline Baron, Herschell Gordon Lewis, James Gunn, Darren Lynn Bousman

SYNOPSIS: When it comes to producing, no one speaks with more authority than Lloyd Kaufman creator of The Toxic Avenger and founder of the longest –running independent film studio, Troma Entertainment. Over the years he has discovered talents such as Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park, The Book of Mormon,) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) to name a few. Candid interviews, tips, tricks and tidbits scattered throughout the DVD give filmmakers practical tools for getting a movie shoot off the ground, keeping it afloat and seeing it through to the end – Lloyd Kaufman shows you how it’s really done. (from the DVD box)

Say what you will about Lloyd Kaufman and the quality of the films released by Troma Entertainment throughout the years, I know that there's a ton of what some might generously call stinkers among them, but they've been doing it for over 35 years. The simple fact is they've made a successful business of producing and distributing no-budget trash cinema and cult b-movie mayhem, that's no small feat. While it may not be for all tastes but I'll tell yeah that more than just a few folks out there are tried and true Tromaholics, they are legion. Troma is the longest-running indie film studio still in business today. Proverbial stinkers aside there are in fact many gems amidst the dreck; THE TOXIC AVENGER, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH, POULTREYGIEST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD, THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE and a handful of classic genre cinema titles they've only distributed under The Tromapiece Collection banner; COMBAT SHOCK, MAD DOG MORGAN, THE LAST HORROR FILM and a more recent entry, the very cool retro-80's slasher that I just can't say enough great things about, BLOOD JUNKIE.

What we have here is a companion piece to Lloyd Kaufman's best-selling book Produce Your Own Damn Movie! which is a sequel of the "how-to" book Make Your Own Damn Movie! and Direct Your Own Damn Movie!, each of those were followed with a DVD companion, too, but this is my first viewing of the series. This time out Lloyd sets out to answer the question of what exactly is a movie producer, how to raise money for a production, capitalizing resources, casting, securing locations and pre-selling your move among others.

PRODUCE YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE is parsed into two separate discs. Disc one is a series of behind-the-scene vignettes filmed on a hand held DV camcorder by Lloyd himself in true cine verite style as he appears in various cameo roles and speaks to the directors, filmmakers and producers on the set of backyard horror films, indie fright flicks and multi-million dollar productions.
Not in any order and possibly missing a few folks along the way we meet n' greet director Greg Lamberson (SLIME CITY) on the set of SLIME CITY MASSACRE while he shows us how to make our own damn inexpensive green screen. Lloyd visits The Godfather of Gore - Herschell Gordon Lewis (BLOOD FEAST) -  on the set of his film THE UH-OH SHOW in which our fearless moderator Lloyd cameos as a dapper pimp. Watching Herschell and his staff contemplate another term for dildo is priceless. Then onto visit to the set of SLITHER director and Troma alum Jame's Gunn's vigilante justice feature SUPER. Next up is Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW II) who's filming a remake of Troma's MOTHER'S DAY featuring cameos from both Lloyd and brother Charles, who directed the original film.

There are also behind-the-scenes set visits and cameos on Richard Griffin's NUN OF THAT, a low budget nunploitation flick from the director of Lovecraftian film BEYOND THE DUNWICH HORROR. in the film Lloyd cameo's as none other than his holiness the Pope whom delivers a Papal Pardon. Lloyd's cameos are classic Kaufman, fun, silly and terribly acted not unlike a lot of the Troma films really. Others sets visited include KILLED ON THE 4th OF JULY directed by a 16 year old named J.D. Lifshitz who was inspired by Lloyd's Direct Your Own Damn Movie!, Ted Moehring's indie Giallo BLOODBATH IN THE HOUSE OF KNIVES, a period horror film called UNDER THESE HILLS by young filmmaker Sam Bahre, Mike Huecks MIDNIGHT ORCHIDS in Berlin, Germany, behind-the-scenes on Jeff Burr's (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III) SURVIVAL (working title), on the set of BAD GIRLS BURN IN HELL with actress Devanny Pinn, a film in which Lloyd's head is blown up. The SF/X guy on the film didn't realize that Lloyd had a beard before hand so he has to improvise using some fur from a teddy bear, that's the wonderful improvisational nature and necessity of indie filmmaking right there. It's an interesting filmset located in a town that had been condemned by the state government for lead poisoning, not sure I would wanna be on that set. Lloyd is willing to risk life and lung for our entertainment, that's dedication.  There's also a nice segment of director William Instone  on the set of JON who instills upon us the value of treating your crew right and exploiting strip clubs, that's good advice for young filmmakers and young men in general.

The second is stuffed with on-camera interviews with a variety of known and lesser known directors, producers and filmmakers. Of the two formats I prefer this one, I've always preferred interviews to behind-the-scenes special features and this entire film is one gigantic bonus features. Joe Dante (PIRANHA) speaks on GREMLINS and how the studio practically begged him to make the sequel, about the opportunities he was lucky enough to have had in the industry and the dismal future of filmmaking, it's not very uplifting in my opinion. Dante is someone so informed, so enthusiastic about filmmaking that I wish the entire disc had been filled with his recollections and insight, great stuff.

The Duplass Brothers, directors of BAGHEAD and THE PUFFY CHAIR, speak about making short films and the opportunities afforded to them after being accepted into the Sundance film festival. Producer Steven Paul (DOOMSDAY) gives a from the ground-up perspective on obtaining the rights to Marvel's GHOST RIDER on through finishing the film while Avi Lerner (THE BLACK DAHLIA) similarly recollects ramping up production on Stallone's RAMBO. The DP on Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING, Ernest Dickerson, speaks about the nebulous nature of the producer's role, the do's the don'ts, the benefits of being a producer versus a director and the availability of funding from outsider sources; shipping magnates, realtors and such.

Monte Hellman director of TWO LANE BLACKTOP and some notable acid westrens speaks of producing Quentin Tarentino's RESERVOIR DOGS, what makes a good producer and pointing out that by his standards Lloyd's iron-fisted producer model would be unacceptable, feeling producers should be hands off, a facilitator not a creator. He also speaks about the importance of pre-selling films to foreign markets, all of this is spoken of while he toils away in his kitchen preparing a morning ritual of coffee, pancakes and eggs, it's all very Zen. CAPOTE producer Caroline Baron, who started her career as a production manager on Troma's TOXIC AVENGER, drives home the point that Troma's legacy truly is anyone can make a film. Her own career a prime example of someone who came into the industry with no experience and worked their way up through the ranks through trial and error. There's a nice nostalgic segment as she finds the original Toxic Avenger production diary in her office, it's a pretty fascinating look back, even Lloyd seemed mesmerized by it.

Creator and producer of Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR Mick Garris reminisces about breaking into the business as a writer and catching the notice of Spielberg circa AMAZING STORIES, and working his way up to a point where he doesn't have to chew on turds anymore (obviously he doesn't watch his own films). There's a fun bit with yet another Troma alum Trent Haaga (CITIZEN TOXIE) that opens with a staged masturbatory intro that is very Tromatic. Haaga goes onto discuss a script he penned called POOR THINGS that got picked up by some novice producers. The script gained some notice and was cast with Shirley McClaine, Channing Tatum and Lindsay Lohan in the leads until it fell victim to the producer's avarice and Lohan's drug bust, completely derailing the project. He also speaks to the value of a good location contract following a bad experience with DEAD GIRL which he wrote and expounds on what he considers the good and bad of Troma's business model.

Of course what good would PRODUCE YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE! be if it did not feature the American king of schlock films, Roger Corman. The Cormster looks back at producing independent cinema for so many years (and still going strong), the differences between then and now, producing CYCLOPS for the Syfy channel and what his current business model is, it's a bit dry as Corman sometimes is but still a good watch.

VERDICT: Coming to this is a non-filmmaker I still found it quite fascinating from the perspective of a special features enthusiast and film nut. If you're a young filmmaker I can't say this is THE answer to all your questions about producing a film but it does pose many useful tidbits worth pondering, and it's quite inspiring seeing these filmmakers toil under sometimes adverse conditions to put forth their vision on film for the masses. Lloyd is a great host of course, he's smart and funny, he hits on the young ladies and pokes fun at himself at every turn, fun stuff.