Cannonball Read 2: Book 5: Make Your Own Damn Movie by Lloyd Kaufman

Lloyd Kaufman is a unique man. As a technical filmmaker, he voluntarily stepped away from Hollywood productions in the 1970s and never looked back. As a producer, he has dedicated his career to the pursuit of true independent cinema, for better or worse. And as a director, he managed to turn questionably sexy horror films into iconic symbols.

Lloyd Kaufman is Troma. This is the independent production company behind such classics as The Toxic Avenger, Sgt Kabukiman, NYPD, and Tromeo & Juliet. He has inspired countless modern horror directors to produce hilarious, gory debut horror films and be swallowed up by the studio system thereafter (need proof: James Gunn started with Troma, then wrote the screenplay to the live action Scooby Doo; he has since atoned for his sins and embraced digital distribution for film projects). It's not an easy road for the truly independent filmmaker, and Lloyd Kaufman doesn't try to pretend otherwise.

His book, Make Your Own Damn Movie, is a must read. Not just for those interested in making a movie, but for anyone interested in the film industry. Kaufman's voice is strong, smutty, and funny. He makes reading about financing a film as entertaining as the film itself. With helpful advice like giving nickel bjs behind the bus terminal to fill in gaps in production budget and keeping a man and a woman behind the casting table at all times to mitigate potential lawsuits, Make Your Own Damn Movie somehow manages to find a balance between the absurd and the educational. It's like the candy coated rim on a bitter cocktail: it makes it all go down much easier.

A book filled with anecdotes, advice, and jokes from Kaufman would surely be worth reading, but Make Your Own Damn Movie goes further. Troma staff, past and present, voluntary and coerced, write long passages detailing aspects of filmmaking they have a different perspective on or recollections of hellish experiences in the trenches of independent cinema. Throw in footnotes that often read like non-sequitors, arguably libelous statements about the biggest names in Hollywood, inspiring stories about rat feces and dentists, and transcribed (probably imagined) fights between contributors, and you have a bizarre and enjoyable read. The final result is an open-minded text that makes it clear there is no right answer when it comes to the film industry.

Well, in Kaufman's mind there is a right answer, and that's just making the movie however you have to within the confines of the law. Better to have a finished film that's pure crap than a perfect film that never hits one frame of filmstock. Considering the man is running one of the only pure independent studios and distribution companies and has for a very long time, I'd take that as good advice.

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