As part of his ongoing desire to defend and nurture the subculture, Lloyd has put together the Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD box set, a companion piece of sorts to his popular book of the same name. Determined to get his ideas out to as many impressionable young people as possible, Uncle Lloyd prepares to walk us through his life as a filmmaker, as well as the many valuable life lessons he's picked up over the years. Relying on friends, associates, employers and enemies, the Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD box set is a digital example of tenacity leading to success. That it may not completely achieve its 'cinematic college in a box' concept, this is still a fine primer for anyone wondering how to make their own movie and how Troma itself has done it for so many years.
When he released his incredibly insightful (and joke filled) book, Make Your Own Damn Movie, two years ago, Kaufman was taking a stand of sorts, using the unusual memoir format to chide young auteurs into getting off their asses and actually shooting some footage. While it was incredibly anecdotal, and less instructional than insane, the tome does provide a foundation for understanding the realities of making movies in a Tinsel Town tainted medium. Therefore, it's no surprise that the DVD box set named for the book follows the same sort of format. Forged out of several Behind the Scenes and Bonus Featurettes used on other Troma titles, with lots of interviews and created vignettes made exclusively for this presentation, the Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD box set is not really a film school in a clever plastic case. Instead, it's a way for Lloyd to pass on some of the highlights and lowlights of his years in the business, hoping that anyone inspired to create their own consarned cinema will learn by his example.
While it may be impossible to cover ALL the content in this package there is over 18 hours of material here breaking down the set segment by segment will at least help you understand the information parameters of Troma's intent. This is not just a storehouse for past added content. There is indeed a lot of important training to be absorbed while canvassing this collection. Starting with Disc 1, we can start to understand where Lloyd and the Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD Box Set is coming from:
Disc 1: The Make Your Own Damn Movie Basics (total disc time @ 3 hours)
Compiled together and augmented with documentaries, an early Kaufman opus, and more mini-segments than are digestible in a single sitting, the Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD Box Set is meant to be a supplement not only to Lloyd's book, but to your knowledge of what it takes to make a film. Basically, if you don't have the burning desire and talent to take on such a Herculean task, this DVD is not going to show you a shortcut. Your desire to do has to be as important as Troma's desire to teach. Looking at the specific content here, we start with:
The Troma System of Casting (5 mins): Seated behind his desk at Troma (where he will spend a lot of time during the material made specifically for this box set) Lloyd discusses some of the things to look for when hiring actors and actresses. He stresses the importance of being upfront on such issues as violence, sex and nudity, and argues against classically trained performers. He likes the reality of non-professional "personalities". During his discussion, clips from the casting process of Terror Firmer are intercut.
How to Raise $$$ (9 mins): In what will perhaps be the biggest letdown for a young filmmaker, Lloyd has no real secrets about getting the cash you need to make your own damn movie. Instead, he offers some suggestions, tells a few horror stories, and makes it seem like, aside from the actual filming, locating the dough to support your cinema will be the biggest burden you face. Yea.
How to Get Your Films Financed in France (19 mins): Hoping to show some of the alternatives to typical financing, Lloyd participates in a French horror western shoot, and talks about creating a "show trailer" for your film. Using said professional production piece, the filmmakers here hope to lure potential backers into supporting the project. As Lloyd accurately pointed out, it worked for Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) and Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Cannibal: The Musical).
Troma's Prop Shop (2 mins): In a hilarious throwaway bit, Troma takes us to the place that houses all their production needs: a dumpster outside CBS's New York studios.
Advice from the Masters on Writing a 2 Part Featurette
Larry Cohen (15 mins): Unlike Gunn, Cohen is a self-made man, having forged a full career in TV writing before becoming the independent maverick behind such horror highlights as the It's Alive movies. With recent Tinsel Town successes like Phone Booth and Cellular, Cohen can play the learned elder. And play it he does, providing more of a lecture than a series of lessons about making it in show biz.
Advice from the Masters on Becoming a Filmmaker a 3 Part Featurette
John Badham (2 mins): In a brief bit, Badham (Saturday Night Fever, WarGames) gives the viewers a nice, short pep talk. In essence, he argues that with perseverance, anyone can succeed.
Herschell Gordon Lewis (4 mins): While it's always great to see the Godfather of Gore, Lewis is hampered by the setting of his segment. Surrounded by crowds at a convention, Hersch is forced to speak very loudly, and briefly, about his approach to moviemaking.
Make Your Own Damn Music Video a 2 Part Featurette
Purple Pam "Kick in the Head" Video Shoot (17 mins): Though her music may be middling, the shoot for her video shows just how hard Pam, Lloyd (as the director) and the crew work to create something saleable especially out of the chaos that is a typical Troma set.
Special Effects Demo a 5 Part Featurette
Troma's Arm Rip (4 mins): An old Troma Edge TV piece, recycled here once again.
Troma's Arm Rip Goes to Hollywood (6 mins): On the set of The Janitor, Lloyd learns how the patented Troma F/X trick is being utilized in actual productions.
Advances in the Making of Fake Blood (2 mins): The new recipe? Hair gel and food coloring.
Disc 2: The Battle for Love's Return Master Class (total disc time @ 3 hours, 15 mins)
But as aggravating as the actual film is the plot is a structure-less look at one nebbish's attempt to make sense out of the amazing, multi-faceted world around him it does function as a cautionary example of what NOT to do when making a movie. And Lloyd is right there to criticize the Hell out of his hopelessly dated disaster. His alternative narrative track is the lesson here, a non-stop conversation about aesthetic and artistic choices in tandem with the pros and cons of the final product. While the film may be trying, Lloyd's insights are superlative.
Lessons from Young Filmmakers a 6 Part Featurette
Making Zombie Movies in Kansas (17 mins): Lloyd is acting in Chris Watson's Midwest epic Zombieggedon, and he talks with the producer/writer/director/actor about making films so far from Hollywood, as well as how he managed to get some big name genre stars (Brinke Stevens, Robert Z'Dar) to be in his movie.
How to Get People to Work for Free By Giving Them Titles (5 mins): A group of filmmakers show up at the Troma studios to film Lloyd's cameo for something called Insane Asylum. The Troma titan interviews them about why they work for free.
Making a 35mm Film for Very Little Money (35 mins): Prison a Go-Go is the setting for this next on set segment from Lloyd. Along with getting a chance to reconnect with Mary Woronov (associates from way back) as well as rub up against Rhonda Shear, Lloyd walks us through his days working with co-writer/director Barak Epstein. Less instructional and more casual, we do learn about using short-ends for filming, as well as the pitfalls of location management.
Jenna Fischer - First Time Filmmaker (8 mins): James Gunn's wife Jenna catches the directing bug, and naturally Lloyd is there to help out. Discussing her debut film LolliLove, Fischer is forthright about the rigors of being in charge, as well as lamenting the lack of opportunities for first time female auteurs.
Learning from Your Miss-Steaks (6 mins): Lloyd spends the entire time tearing about the production of Meat for Satan's Icebox. By showcasing the problems they facds bad sound recording, lame special effects he hopes to steer untested young guns in the right direction.
Lessons from Established Filmmakers a 2 Part Featurette
Spierig Twins (8 mins): These Australian filmmakers (2003's cult hit Undead) describe why it's important to make short films, raising the money yourself, and involving the Internet community when making your own damn movie.
Lessons in Sound a 2 Part Featurette
Disc 3: The Complete Citizen Toxie Bonus DVD (total disc time @ 3 hours, 41 mins)
Toxie Makeup Test (3 mins): With a new actor involved, Toxie gets his F/X on.
Script Meeting (8 mins): Hoping to work out many of the kinks in the story before hitting the set, the creative crew behind Citizen Toxie argue over the screenplay.
Production Stunk in the Middle
"Apocalypse Soon" Appendixes a 9 Part Featurette: presented here are outtakes from the documentary that didn't make it into the final cut. Included are:
"Meet Armando the PA"' (4 mins): a Q&A
Completion: The End...Is Just the Beginning a 5 Part Featurette
NYC Premiere (5 mins): The movie finally opens and we get a chance to gauge fan and filmmakers reaction.
LA Premiere (4 mins): Same, with the location moved to La-La land.
"Rashamoron Pt. 1" (7 mins): During a radio interview, Lloyd and some of this Troma buddies got a little insane. Luckily, a Japanese filmmaker was there to capture it all. He shows Lloyd the footage.
Sitges Film Festival (3 mins): How Citizen Toxie played at the Troma friendly cinematic celebration.
Disc 4: Terror Firmer and Beyond (total disc time @ 4 hours)
When Reshoots Go Wrong: Tales from the Crapper (1 hr): To quote the original review of this 2004 film:
After seeing both "Apocalypse Soon" and "Farts of Darkness", it is easy to understand Lloyd's somber state. It seems that any movie they are involved in has massive, monumental troubles.
Shooting a Feature Film on a Bolex (35 mins): Lloyd is off to the Great White North to make an appearance in the film Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace. We are introduced to director Lee Demarbre and his unusual way of making movies. Using an old fashioned camera that cannot record sound, the filmmaker hopes to gain a certain ambient feel from the throwback technology. Watching Lloyd work alongside an actor that is purposefully being given real liquor throughout the scene is a hoot.
Filmmaking in Germany (15 mins): Lloyd's in the Fatherland, making the Teutonic terror tale Lord of the Undead. Writer/Director Timo Rose's twisted tale is being created on a very serious, very workmanlike set, something Lloyd is unfamiliar with.
Lessons from the Masters on Filmmaking a 2 Part Featurette
Vincent Sherman (14 mins): In what is perhaps the oddest piece in the entire Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD box set, Lloyd has a conversation with the 98 year old director (famous for lots of big and small screen productions). The topic under discussion is the blacklist, and aside from some very telling statements about those who "named names" there is really no other point to the discussion. Lloyd obviously includes it as a testament to the filmmaker, but there are not a lot of current lessons about independent moviemaking to be learned from this piece.
Disc 5: All The Love You Cannes and Beyond (total disc time @ 4 hours)
Combining Old and New Technology (11 mins): It's back to Bolex land as the Harry Knuckles post-production takes place. Lloyd is back in Canada, dubbing his dialogue in the scene. This is a very technical, how-to style segment.
Union Contract Troubles (11 mins): Prison A Go-Go gets the organized labor shaft as the young filmmaker, Barak Epstein, discusses how SAG and his lack of contractual protection cost him a bundle when the time came to sell his gals behind bars epic.
Film Festival Honors (14 mins): Lloyd attends the South by Southwest film festival, and is initially honored to be part of such a celebration. He learns however that, even as a celebrated guest, there is no table for him to sit at during the ceremony. Then, Jack Valenti, ex-MPAA president and known nemesis of Troma is honored with induction into the Texas Hall of Fame. Lloyd bails, rightly calling his treatment "a travesty" and a slap in the face of true independent art.
Knowing Your Audience a 2 Part Featurette (with a 30 sec Intro from Lloyd)
Make Your Own Damn Movie Theater (6 mins): Though it's far more silly than serious, a couple of eager entrepreneurs walk Lloyd through their decision to purchase a run down theater and start their own cinema. While it would have been nice to learn more about the logistics of running a real movie house, this is still an interesting piece.
Lessons from the Masters a 4 Part Featurette
George Romero (3 mins): In a very brief bit, Romero is in cheerleader mode, telling potential filmmakers to stop hemming and start helming.
Adam Rifkin (7 mins): Rifkin is another quasi-successful Troma alum (that is, if you consider Detroit Rock City and The Dark Backward successes) and he gives Lloyd the standard "follow your goals, live your dreams" spiel. It's effective, but it's also not the most insightful bit in the entire box set.
Eli Roth (26 mins): While you may love or hate Roth (he just comes across that way) or his movie (the overrated Cabin Fever) you have to admit this is a wonderful look at independent moviemaking. Roth has a lot of very valid things to say about film, about working hard, and about getting involved in the industry for the "right" reasons. His stories of production problems, financing failures and lack of commercial (read: cash) credit should be mandatory lessons for every first time auteur. Along with Gunn, these Hollywood insiders give us great insight into what it takes to Make Your Own Damn Movie.
Make Your Own Damn Comic Book a 2 Part Featurette
Kevin Eastman (10 mins): Known to most as the co-creator of the WILDLY successful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise, Eastman is also the owner of Heavy Metal and all its media offshoots. This allows Lloyd to discuss not only the world of animated kid vid (something Troma tried with the Toxic Avenger) but the success/failure of the Heavy Metal movies.
As with most businessmen, Kaufman is not about to lend out his proprietary secrets to the great unwashed. There has to be things he is keeping to himself, and from fans, that only he needs to know. As it stands then, the Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD box set is a letdown, albeit a very minor, miniscule one. Since Lloyd is not providing actual filmed lessons (though there are moments in the DVD trailer where he is shown in a classroom setting, delivering a multi-media presentation) and the structure of the offering is exploratory, not linear, many may be disappointed. They will be the ones hoping for something other than a collection of interviews, skits, homemade making-of's and already available DVD bonus features. But taken in total, one does learn the Troma philosophy and production style, for good and bad. And on that level, this is a great package.
Indeed, if you discount the lack of step-by-step instruction, this is a magnificent overview of the Troma legacy, and the underground spirit of independent moviemaking in general. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (who does NOT make an appearance here, sadly) have become icons to artistic drive because of an internal commitment to the beat of their own unique cinematic swing band. They have definitely played to the lowest common denominator when it comes to quality and subject matter, but they always do it with a satiric nod to the obviousness of the devices. Films like The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'Em High, Troma's War and Terror Firmer endure because fans see something in them that regular people are apparently oblivious to: a true love of moviemaking, either as an aesthetic or commercial endeavor. Just like the book that started it all, the Make Your Own Damn Movie box set is, perhaps, the ultimate expression of what Troma is all about. This dopey, delightful DIY is a must have for any potential filmmaker, and any aficionado of the oddball New York company.