Troma's Lloyd Kaufman is the definition of independent. He doesn't ask for permission or even appreciation. He doesn't let anything get in his way. He keeps making movies and he keeps them making money. We can all learn a few things from the man.
Luckily for all of us, he has a new book out: SELL YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE!. Luckily for you, I have stolen a few passages to post for you today.
GRASSROOTS MARKETING, ALSO KNOWN AS GUERILLA MARKETING (WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE MARKETING OF KING KONG )
When I’m looking for a new, innovative idea, I always look to porn.
The porno industry has led the way for years, in everything from
home video and cable to the Internet. Back in 1970, when we were
looking for ways to advertise The Battle of Love’s Return for little
money, I noticed that the guys in Times Square handing out strip
club ﬂiers had a pretty good technique. They would wave the ﬂi-
ers in your face as you walked by and yell, “Check it out! Check it
out! Check it out!” They’d say it three times like that, and invari-
ably, the hapless passerby would take the ﬂier and, for all I know,
end up at the strip club later that night, checking it out. I decided
to borrow this technique when it came time to get the word out about our movie. I called everyone who had worked on The Battle
of Love’s Return and was still talking to me,5 and we started blan-
keting New York City with little yellow ﬂiers. Of course, the few
people who went to see the ﬁlm as a result of our “check it out” ﬂy-
ers were understandably furious when they were presented with my
boring movie instead of naked, dancing sluts.
For our second attempt at cheap marketing, we made a card-
board stencil of the ﬁlm’s title and went to work spray-painting the
sidewalks. Unfortunately, the cop who saw us doing this was under
the impression that it was illegal, and he grabbed our stencil, broke
it over his knee, and threw it in a garbage can. Luckily, he didn’t
know who he was dealing with. I dove right into that garbage can
and got our stencil back the minute he walked away. The cop need
not have worried, though. Even before he broke the stencil, our
spray-painted stenciled titles were unreadable. But if there had been
a movie called BADD DLEI%*# in theaters at the time, it would
have beneﬁted greatly from our stenciling attempt.
Learning from the spray-paint ﬁasco, we moved on to posters. And
like smart guys, we ﬁgured we would glue them in a place where a lot
of people would see them. For some reason, we chose the storefront
window of a Chinese restaurant. Now, let me impart some practical
knowledge on you in this chapter—if you are going to put up a poster
on a Chinese restaurant owner’s window and royally piss him off,
make sure that the poster does not say who you are and where you
will be at a certain time on a certain day. Because, if you do, that irate
Chinese restaurant owner will know exactly where to ﬁnd you. Since
our posters were advertising our ﬁlm’s premiere at the prestigious
Thalia Theater, this particular irate Chinese restaurant owner knew
exactly where to ﬁnd us. He came to the theater on the night of the
premiere, yelling in Cantonese6 and looking like he’d been waiting his
whole life to beat up a skinny Jewish kid in a bowtie. Poor Mrs. Lewis,
the owner of the theater, was horriﬁed. We agreed to take down the
posters and clean the windows that next day, but the whole thing was
embarrassing. But you know what? After the irate Chinese restaurant
owner beat the shit out of me, he sat down and watched the ﬁlm, and
gave us our ﬁrst great review, which was printed entirely in Cantonese
in the 报纸 Daily. We were the hit of Chinatown!
Back then, we didn’t need the Internet to get the word out, and
we still don’t! In fact, we use it far less than we should. Don’t think
that the Internet is your only option when it comes to generating
word of mouth. Sure, the Internet is great, and it can make it easier
for word to travel over distances, but don’t ignore your own home-
town! These are the people that are most likely to support you, so
get them on your side ﬁrst! And don’t forget the Chinese!
-- Lloyd Kaufman