Chapter 11: Show Up!

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 11 from my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. In this chapter, I talk about understanding the true “bear necessities” for your business, and how I learned what are ultimately the most important things needed to make a movie. What do you think?

If you haven’t done so already, you can read the Foreword by Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, and the Introduction to the book as well as Chapter 12345 and 67 , 89, and 10. You can also see me read a few chapters live, along with Lloyd and Toxie, at Florida Supercon as well as a few chapters I read on Facebook Live. Stay tuned for additional chapters to be published here. If you like what you read and can’t wait for more, please don’t be shy. You can buy the book now on Amazon (and also please don’t be shy about sharing, and reviewing the book when you do read it.) Both Toxie and I greatly appreciate your support! – Jeff Sass


Chapter 11: Show Up!

Question: What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to making a movie? A good script? A talented director? A great DP? (Director of Photography).

Answer: None of the above.

The bottom line is, every day of production you need three things to be able to make a movie, and without these three things, well, basically then you are fucked. Without fail you need the following:

1. A working camera
2. Film (or in this day and age, ample digital storage to record on)
3. Actors and actresses to perform in front of the camera

Without those three things, it doesn’t matter how good the script is or how talented the director is. It doesn’t matter if the DP has won awards, or if the lighting is perfect or if the location is amazing. No camera, no movie. No film, no movie. No performers, no movie. Those are the basics. You must show up every single day with those three things as the bare minimum. But they are more than the bare minimum. They are the bare essentials. Or, as they’d say in Jungle Book, “the bear necessities.”

When I worked on my first Troma movie, the epic masterpiece, Troma’s War, I learned these lessons. I was the associate producer, and one of my first assignments was to “protect the cameras” and make sure all the principal actors and actresses showed up on time. Protect the cameras? WTF? It turned out, once before, while filming an earlier cinematic epic, a rogue group of angry Teamsters stole the Troma camera truck overnight, literally bringing that production to a costly halt.

You see, as a (very) low-budget operation, Troma makes nonunion, independent films and back in the late ’80s, especially when shooting in New York, the powerful Teamsters Union didn’t like that. Even though we always played by the rules and had permits and permissions, often with the kind support of the New York City Mayor’s or New York State Governor’s Film Commissions, the Teamsters would go out of their way to attempt to make our lives miserable and disrupt our production.

Perhaps it was because it was before the dawn of the World Wide Web and free Internet porn, and those lonely Teamster souls had nothing better to do with their time than leave their homes and families on a weekend to come harass the Troma Team. Perhaps that was it, and now with the Web readily available via the mobile device in their sweaty palms, perhaps now they don’t bother the Indy filmmakers as much. Perhaps.

But back then they were nasty, and I was warned. Protect the camera truck. That was my responsibility. The camera truck was a rented U-Haul truck that was custom decked out by our team to house all the rented camera and lighting equipment for the shoot. We may have been low budget, but our largest expense, and thus the most-prized asset, was all the professional (and valuable) 35-mm camera and lighting equipment we rented from the same well-known NYC rental houses that served the “Hollywood” crews when they were in town. Fully loaded with all our essential gear, the camera truck was the first vehicle to arrive on the set every day, and the last vehicle to leave each night after it was carefully packed, every lens, film can, and camera body in its designated, custom-fit place. Where to park the camera truck each night was a critical decision, because, once before, those tricky Teamsters had stolen our truck, rented cameras and all, right out of a locked and guarded NYC parking lot.

I had to protect the camera truck. It was not going to get stolen or disabled on my watch. Fortunately, we filmed most of Troma’s War in Peekskill, NY and at the National Guard training facility, Camp Smith. At the time, I was living in Rockland County, about a twenty-five-minute ride away, through the winding roads of Bear Mountain State Park. So, I would have the camera truck park behind my house every night, hidden from view from the main road. With the fear of Teamsters deeply ingrained in my younger, impressionable mind, I remember the first few nights, waking up at the simplest sound to look out the window and make sure the truck and its precious contents were still there, behind my humble abode.

The basics. Protect the camera (and the film, which was also stored in the truck). Make sure it showed up on set, first thing, every single day. And don’t forget the actors and actresses.

There’s a reason the transportation captain is one of the most important people on a movie crew, and more importantly a reason that captain makes certain that a car and driver was waiting outside the apartment or home of every principal actor before they even were awake, ready to herd those sleepy thespians to the day’s location long before they were actually needed. Despite our low-budget operation, even our talent got picked up by a car and driver every day (granted, on a Troma set it was usually a wide-eyed intern in their own beat-up vehicle, but it was a car and driver nonetheless). We did this not because we wanted to treat them special or like a “star” (although many of them took it that way), but rather because of the basics—no actors, no movie.

Understanding the necessity of the basics was a good lesson. In business, it is very easy to get caught up in the detritus, in the details of the moment, and lose sight of the simple things that are actually far more important.

Exercise: What are your basics, your “bear” necessities? What are the three things you should be doing every day to ensure that you are keeping your business or marketing on track? What are your equivalents of the camera, film, and actors?


That’s Chapter 11  –  Another valuable lesson I learned making Troma movies: No matter what your business is, you need to recognize your “bear nececessites” to keep your business moving forward, and focus on them every day! Stay tuned for “Chapter 12: “Sink or Swim!” which focuses on learning by doing, even if – no, especially if – you’ve never done it before!


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