Produce Your Own Damn Movie
Directors - Lloyd Kaufman
Cast - Lloyd Kaufman
Country of Origin - USA
Discs - 2
MSRP - $14.95
Distributor - Troma
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 4/5
Lloyd Kaufman, the king and majordomo of Troma Films, could tell you aspiring filmmakers a thing or two about making in the world of low-budget feature filmmaking. In fact he has turned that extensive knowledge, as well as that of his filmmaking peers, into a series of best-selling books and DVD box sets. The first two - Make Your Own Damn Movie and Direct Your Own Damn Movie - were both extensive sets containing fascinating interviews with a wide range of industry professionals and feature newcomers along with bonuses like documentaries and a few movies from the Troma catalog thrown in for relevance. Produce Your Own Damn Movie, the third book in Kaufman’s Your Own Damn Movie series, has become the third DVD set in the series as well, only this time the man who has given the world cinematic classics such as The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High, and Sgt. Kabukiman, N.Y.P.D. has run out of things to talk about.
Truth be told only half the set is devoted to the topic of film producing and most of the time the subject is brought up briefly before we’re treated to yet another crudely-shot video of Uncle Lloyd filming a cameo in some young director’s first indie horror flick. That’s the overarching theme of disc one now that I think of it. Midway through the first disc the primary subject switches to financing and selling films and it continues through the end of the second. Disc one is comprised mostly of Kaufman’s video diaries from visiting movie sets and shooting his bit parts with some interviews included, and disc two is all interviews. The contents of the set break down as follows:
“Introduction” (3 minutes)-Lloyd Kaufman never shies away from filming a lengthy introduction to one of his company’s DVDs, and in most of cases those intros are the highlights of the disc. Here Kaufman is reporting from the Berlin Film Festival while surrounded by several adoring German fans.
“Bloodbath in the House of Kaufman” (10 minutes) finds Kaufman traveling to Pennsylvania to visit the set of the film Bloodbath in the House of Knives and play the bit role of a lawyer who dies violently, another overarching theme of the first disc.
“Momma’s Boys” (9 minutes)-One of Troma’s earliest and best films recently got remade and Kaufman and his brother Charles (who directed the original) were on hand to film cameos for the new Mother’s Day and pay a visit to the SFX artists.
“Make Your Own Damn Greenscreen” (15 minutes)-Lloyd journeys to the set of Slime City Massacre to die horribly in a dirty bomb blast that will be created digitally by having him shoot his part against a green screen with the backdrop and explosion effects added in post-production. His pre-shoot conversation with Greg Lamberson, writer and director of SCM (and one of my Facebook friends), is pretty cool.
“Godfather of Gore” (18 minutes) is possibly the best feature in this set because it focuses on none other than Herschell Gordon Lewis, the Steve Jobs of micro budget splatter flicks, and his long and storied career in exploitation filmmaking. At first I thought this was going to be the feature-length documentary about Lewis of the same name that was released this year, but alas I was disappointed. Still it’s a fantastic interview with a living legend and the undisputed highlight of this set.
“Lloyd Goes to the Set of Super” (8 minutes) is pretty much what the title implies. Kaufman makes a pilgrimage (I’m running out of variants on “Lloyd goes to a set”) to the set of Troma alum James Gunn’s violent superhero comedy Super to film yet another cameo and chat with Gunn and producer Ted Hope.
“Lloyd Goes to the Set of Sucker” (10 minutes)….okay the folks in charge of editing the DVD features at Troma have obviously run of titles and clearly don’t give a shit anymore, but that matters little now. Anyway, Kaufman…blah blah….movie set….blah blah….cameo….gets killed….I think….how should I know….all this set is starting to run together. But Kaufman does to get to talk with the director, producer, etc. about fun stuff such as selling your movie and taking advantage of those sweet tax incentives certain towns will offer your production if it’s guaranteed to pump some money into the local economy.
“Lloyd Goes to the Set of Nun of That” (5 minutes)-This video is only worth a watch if you’re interested in seeing Uncle Lloyd play the Pope.
“Lloyd Goes to the Set of Killed on the 4th of July” (8 minutes) finds Kaufman taking part in the making of a zombie movie produced and directed by a 16-year-old newcomer named J.D. Lifshitz.
Lloyd goes to the sets of Under These Hills (13 minutes), Survival (12 minutes), Midnight Orchids (8 minutes), and Jon (11 minutes) to film cameos, get killed, chat with the filmmakers, and shove his video camera into anyone’s face who would take such a thing as an honor. Hey I can see up your nose Lloyd!
As I mentioned before this disc is all about the interviews and the topic of each one is the financing and selling of movies. Lloyd talks with Ghost Rider producer Steven Paul (13 minutes), filmmaker David Cronenberg (2 minutes), Troma alum Trent Haaga (12 minutes), director Joe Dante and his longtime producer Mike Finnell (7 minutes), indie filmmakers Jay and Marc Duplass (8 minutes), producer Avi Lerner (5 minutes), B-movie overlord Roger Corman (12 minutes), author and director Mick Garris (12 minutes), filmmaker Monte Hellman (19 minutes), director and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson (11 minutes), producer (and former Troma production manager) Caroline Baron (10 minutes), and sales agent Kathy Morgan (7 minutes).
As much as I enjoyed watching Produce Your Own Damn Movie I didn’t come away from the experience having learned anymore about the art of film production than I did when I started. Plus the various interviews and on-set video diaries suffer from repetition and become monotonous after a while. The DVD set then begins to resemble that scene from Office Space where the hero keeps getting hassled about not using the new cover sheet on his TPS reports by the different bosses in his division and what makes it infuriating is that they convey the same grievance in the same pleasant tone of voice using almost the exact same words. What we’re seeing here is an extension of the information that was already covered in great detail in the first two entries in the Your Own Damn Movie book and DVD series and that’s fine by me but aspiring film producers will find little of value in this set, at least on the first disc. Of course a lot of people learn best through observation so they’ll get a kick out of the multiple fly-on-the-wall videos of indie horror filmmakers at work, but most of these video diaries could have been done away easily and freed up enough space to make a second disc unnecessary.
Speaking of those video diaries, they all look like someone’s home movies. Kaufman starts out almost each video holding the camera right up to his face so you can practically smell his breath. It gets tiring after a while. Editing, Lloyd. Look into it. But it’s a lot of fun to hang out on these movie sets with Kaufman and the various writers, producers, and directors who have been inspired by the Troma model of filmmaking, which really works in that it produces movies that people see, say what you will about it. The interviews on disc two are the real meat of the set; Kaufman keeps his face behind the camera and gets the filmmaking perspective from a group of true masters (including a few of my film heroes like Monte Hellman, Roger Corman, David Cronenberg, and Joe Dante). Most of these people have been in the industry for years and they have a literal wealth of wisdom to offer the next generation of movie makers, and we are all the better for it. These interviews make up a lot for the repetitive shortcomings of the first disc.
Most of the segments are presented full frame with a very basic but fine 2.0 mono soundtrack.
There are no extras, as the entire set basically resembles a list of bonus features.
Produce Your Own Damn Movie is a decent effort from Troma to share some valuable filmmaking insight but the worthwhile features are nearly snuffed out of existence by an excess of interesting but ultimately irrelevant behind-the-scenes videos. It’s a pale imitation of the vastly superior Make Your Own Damn Movie and Direct Your Own Damn Movie DVD sets, but at least it’s cheap.