Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Sell Your Own Damn Movie" - a book review in multiple parts

I'm a somewhat erratic reader of books. I love them, but I find that I'm inconsistent in my actual reading of them. When it comes to books, one of three things happens:
  1. I buy a book, excited by it's topic and interesting cover. I take it home and never open it.
  2. I bring a book home, read a bit, put it aside, read a bit more. Over the course of two months, I read about three chapters, by which point I totally lose interest, and I never finish it.
  3. I read a book from cover to cover in two days flat, often staying up all hours to finish it.
I've always been this way, and it's somewhat frustrating that I can't be more moderate in my book consumption. I've tried, but I can't.

Here's the thing, I won a copy of Sell Your Own Damn Movie! by Lloyd Kaufman at a recent BOSFCPUG meeting, and one of the things group leader Dan Bérubé asks people to do is to review or let him know how you like the thing you won. Talk about getting some guilt with the prize!

But I'm not sure I'm going to finish this book. I may not get past the introduction (which I HAVE read.)

So what I'm going to do is a multi-part book review. I'm going to review it as I go. Or more accurately, post my notes. If I only get to the third chapter, well at least you'll know what the first three chapters are like. If I haven't posted again in three months, youll know how this book turned out.

Having read the first two chapters, I'm pretty sure that Lloyd will be cool with that.[Lloyd may be, but you're editor won't -Ed]

We're hardly into the book and it's clear that Lloyd doesn't like Jay Leno. He also presents himself as a bit of a huckster, a bit of a bullshitter and a bit of a failure. But he's enough of a success as a huckster, he assures us, to have persuaded the publisher to print this book. He then proceeds to tell us that to be a success, you need to believe in what you are selling:
"Do you know how hard it is to sell something you don't love? Try working at Kmart or Foot Locker for a few months. Do you know why those people are so f&*king unhappy all the time? It's because they hate their lives."
He also warns us that:
"Thanks to the democratization of filmmaking, everyone on earth can make a movie and does!"
oh, and don't think that you are just dealing with the studio's. No, it turns out there are lots of people trying to make money with their movies, so you better be prepared to hustle!
"You think all the other little puppies are going to let you have a table scrap? No, goddamn it!"
He finishes by saying that we don't need him to give us a pep talk, but I'm not so sure...

Chapter One
This chapter begins with a highly suspect history of film distribution. It then turns into a diary page where, after some serious drinking, it comes to Lloyd that the book should be pro-piracy, and he emails his editor with the idea. She replies:
"I'm not sure about your piracy angle, mostly because I believe piracy is illegal. We would like to sell copies of this book, unlike the last two that you wrote for us."
Karen Black of Family Plot - and other movies - pops up in a side-bar to suggest that, yes, you should be a nuisance if you want to be a success. This comes as a bit of a shock to this reader who is easily rebuffed. I will resolve to be more annoying in future.
"No! You're not annoying people. You're actually giving them a chance to say yes to you!"
I must remember to repeat that.

Finally, for those who aren't sure, there's a flow chart that answers the question; should you read this book. Evidently, I work for Disney. [If this makes no sense to you, we were puzzled too - Ed.]

A special side-note for those who think this book might make a good gift for pretentious young filmmakers: Due to extensive use of colorful language, probably not.

Chapter Two
It's chapter two, and time to review the state of movie distribution today. It turns out that Reagan ruined the theaters for the independents by allowing the studios to once again own theaters and pressure them into showing certain titles.

Forget the studios and national distribution, Lloyd counsels; try for week long runs at small theaters. He provides some advice for promotion and also gives examples of money/ terms to expect i.e. get a deposit against a percentage of the gross. And, Don't forget to get everything in writing.

He also explains how to lose $40,00 on $30,000 of ticket sales. That's the sort of information you probably don't find in every book.
"You didn't make the movie so you could make millions of dollars, right?"
Then follows eight pages of an interview with two filmmakers about distribution, film festivals and selling DVDs. For those thinking of writing their own book, Lloyd really demonstrates how to fill pages..

The interview works so well that it's followed by an interview with producer Ted Hope that goes from the uplifting story of the Brothers McMullen - literally being made on a shoe string and becoming a big hit - to how it's impossible to make money from the studios, in less than a page. I think I need Lloyd to give us a pep talk now..

Coming Up
Chapter 3 is going to be about piracy being good. Of course, after being raped by the studios and the theater owners, piracy is looking pretty good.

OMG, this is long. I might have to rethink this review strategy and come up with something shorter.


Harriet Tubman said...

Lloyd Kaufman is my favorite film director

Harriet Tubman said...

This book has been incredibly useful to me.All Lloyd's books have helped my career.Also I found them all educational and hilarious!He is brilliant.SELL YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE unlocks secrets and is a great read!