True Indie: Life & Death in Filmmaking is a autobiography of Don Coscarelli’s career in filmmaking. To say it’s a no holds bar into the perils of indie filmmaking is an understatement. Mr. Coscarelli tells us about how he became a filmmaker, and how he made his films. I had no idea that when you saw a Coscarelli film it was a “family” affair. His dad provided the financing to Coscarelli’s first film ” Story of a Teenager” and on “Phantasm”. His mom (Kate Coscarelli) held down several jobs as a cook, seamstress, and make-up artist. Don talks about the making of each film, and he really gets into detail. The most interesting thing Coscarelli does is talk about he and his crew created the flying globes of death in Phantasm. He uses good old ingenity, and a bit of trick photography to accomplish what we see in the film. When Coscarelli says that indie filmmaking is not for the weak he is not kidding. It’s because of his description of how he pulls off his films that makes this book very special. He tells it like it is, and he doesn’t sugar coat it. Having worked on several films in my youth and making my own feature I can concur that it’s pretty straight forward, and it pulls no punches. You’ll love the scene where Coscarelli’s face is on fire after filming a chase scene from the movie Phatasm, and yet he comes out unscathed due to his ingenuity in preparing how to film that scene safely. If you ask me though the stunt seemed crazy and he was a bit lucky. There maybe a lesson in that for all of us and that is “safety first”. But then again the scene shows his enthusiasm to the profession. I’ve gained a massive amount of respect for Coscarelli and his team, and I think this can help others who want to get into indie filmmaking. From the highs of making a fantastic film like “Phantasm” to the lows of trying to get a sequel to his film “Bubba Ho-Tep” off the ground it’s all in there. Coscarelli tells you all the good, the bad, and the ugly of working as a independent producer / director.
Throughout the book Coscarelli shows his enthusiasm for filmmaking and how he tackled problems such as creating flying orbs of death in “Phantasm“, or working with different animals on his film the “Beastmaster“.
It’s a pretty interesting look at how low budget filmmaking is done in the trenches. I admire Coscarelli for his determination to get it done. He’s a triple or quadruple threat because he started filmmaking by writing, directing, shooting, and producing his first two films. When you’re a low budget filmmaker you better know how to get down in the trenches and start digging. Any filmmaker worth his or her salt should know how to weld a camera or edit a sequence. Coscarelli is that filmmaker, so he has a lot to say and it would benefit us to listen because we might just learn something. I have gone back to some of his films and have always been a fan of the first “Phantasm”, and I really have a special place for his film “Kenny and Company“. Reading the book and re-watching his films puts a lot of things in perspective, and you really see how Cascarelli worked his tail off.
I’d say if you’re a fan of his films it’s a definite read, and if you’re a budding filmmaker it sure could not hurt reading this and re-watching his films. You’ll learn a lot about filmmaking from this book and it is my hope that we’ll see more from Coscarelli in the near future because the guy kicks butt.