Movies, even the small ones, are expensive. Today, when a plucky new filmmaker gets rejected by the studio system, they can turn to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter to raise the capital they need to bring their dreams to (usually terrible) life. However, in the days before Indiegogo, some now-famous directors got the money they needed for their breakout films in less conventional ways. Like posing as the opposite gender in a sex chat room, or driving around delivering medical care for cash.
#6. The Director Of The Hangover Funded His First Film With The Help Of A Notorious Serial Killer
Todd Phillips’ biggest claim to fame is his role as the director of The Hangover, The Hangover 2: Just In A Different Country, and The Hangover 3: Ken Jeong Didn’t Get Enough Screen Time Earlier. But long before he rode Bradley Cooper’s broad shoulders into the spotlight, he was a regular old broke NYU film student in the early 1990s. As a junior, Phillips started making a documentary about underground punk rocker GG Allin, best known for cutting himself on stage and showering his performances with bodily fluids.
This is the only photo of him we can show you, because it’s from the waist up.
Phillips had managed to score a few hours’ worth of interview time with Allin, and had exclusive footage to help him document the story, but still needed about $10,000 to make the movie happen. Unfortunately, financiers weren’t lining up to give some random college kid money to make a movie about an infamous, self-destructive maniac.
Allin, as luck would have it, was good buddies with an artist who could fetch Picasso-like prices for his scribbles. Phillips and Allin reasoned that if they could convince the guy to design a poster for their film, they could maybe sell enough of them to pay for the rest of the documentary. The only tiny obstacle was that this artistic savior was on death row in the state of Illinois. His name was John Wayne Gacy. As in, “killed over 30 people” John Wayne Gacy.
He and Allin bonded over their mutual love of red facepaint.
Taking what must have been the world’s deepest breath, Phillips wrote to Gacy in prison and asked if he’d design the poster for this film about GG Allin that he wasn’t even close to finishing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gacy agreed to do it for “$50, for art supplies in jail, and a compromising photo of [Phillips].” Phillips took what he describes as a “hawkish” photo on the roof of his apartment building and mailed it along with $50 to Gacy, who in turn designed the poster for Hated: GG Allin And The Murder Junkies. You’re gonna Google it anyway, so here it is:
He might have plagiarized Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, but hey, you get what you pay for.
Gacy signed copies of the poster, they sold like hotcakes (if hotcakes sold for $12,000), and now Phillips makes comedies about middle-aged men acting like teenagers.
#5. Stanley Kubrick Paid For His First Movie By Hustling Chess Games
Every game that can be played for money has hustlers, but the people who hustle chess can be particularly sleazy. It’s a game of strategy, so they’ll use strategies like making your clock run faster to rip you off. Ever wondered what they do with that cash, though? Well, in the case of one chess hustler named Stanley Kubrick who operated in New York City in the ’50s, the answer is “Make classic movies that will be studied for centuries.”
Reportedly, HAL wanted to kick Kubrick’s ass for scamming it out of $50 bucks.
Kubrick’s dad had originally taught him chess to keep his brain sharp, but Li’l Stanley figured out its swindling possibilities early on. He began playing chess for cash at a young age, and when he dropped out of school at 16 to become a professional photographer, chess hustling seemed like a reasonable way to get by. It’s like that Paul Newman movie The Hustler, only for nerdy, antisocial children.
To double down on the whole “not having a real job” thing, Kubrick would also collect unemployment while making at least $3 a day fleecing his fellow chess players — back when the minimum wage was only about 40 cents per hour. Kubrick was reportedly an expert at making other players think he wasn’t an expert (which couldn’t have been that hard, considering he was a kid and all), and then kicking their asses. He would also carefully time his matches to switch tables at strategic hours, allowing him to play under the shadow during the day and near the street lamps at night. Even back then, he was obsessed with getting the lighting just right.
Before Jack Nicholson ad-libbed “Here’s Johnny!” he was supposed to yell “Checkmate!”
At first, Kubrick would use the money to buy essential stuff, like food and movie tickets. When he decided to make a feature-length film of his own, though, he financed it in part with chess-hustling cash. The result was Fear And Desire, a psychological wartime thriller which probably mirrored the terror and confusion experienced by numerous chess players who got crushed by a 20-something weirdo artfully positioning his gaming chair in the shadows.
#4. Eli Roth Worked As A “Woman” In Erotic Penthouse Chat Rooms
Eli Roth is best known for the Hostel series and for killing Hitler in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. What he should be known for, though, is for secretly being a pioneer of cybersex this whole time.
To quote Roth himself: “When I was in college, I used to work as an online operator for Penthouse, posing as a woman called Tami. That’s how I paid for my student films. They hired guys because guys know what other guys want to hear.” And it seems that what other guys want to hear is the Bear Jew whispering sensually in their ears.
If he had incriminating photos of a client called QuentinT_FOOTLOVER, that would explain so much.
It’s important to note that this was in the early ’90s, before everyone had tiny computers you can use to go online while pooping, so it’s not like Roth was catering to a broad audience. His main interactions were with scientists, doctors, and real computer nerds, who were probably busy designing the future in mobile technology (with one hand). Today, a whole bunch of middle-aged tech workers probably have no idea that they accidentally masturbated to a torture porn director before the dawn of Google Images and TMZ.
What’s really impressive is that the guys Roth worked with could make some serious bank. He claims that while he was never FedExed money by horny suitors like some of his co-workers, his clients were paying a dollar a minute or more to talk to “Tami.”
Adjusted for inflation, that’s enough to fund five more Hostel movies today.
This at least sheds some light on the time Roth had a cyber-orgy with a bunch of Twitter fans. Either he was feeling nostalgic about his old work, or he needed to raise some quick cash for his next movie.