In his new book, Everything I know about Business and Marketing I learned from ‘The Toxic Avenger’, Jeffrey Sass recounts his experiences working for the indie B-Movie studio, Troma. Every chapter guiding us through his ‘Tromaville’ journey is teeming with anecdotal gems of guidance regarding business and marketing. For those of you who don’t know (as was certainly the case for me), Troma is the studio responsible for cult classics such as The Toxic Avenger (as per the title) and Redneck Zombies.
Throughout the book, Sass compares the film industry and the process of movie-making with the world of business, using Troma’s personal methods and specific ideals as an example for how any business should handle itself, its employees and its exchanges. Some key examples of the advice given include maintaining consistency within a business (e.g. Troma’s reputation for craziness and gore) and being open to opportunities from even the most unexpected sources.
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Clearly somewhat aimed towards an older audience, the book is riddled with references to pre-2000s pop culture. That being said, Sass never fails to frame Troma in an easy-to-understand manner to a potentially otherwise clueless audience with no prior knowledge of the company. His presentation of ‘Tromaville’ gives the impression that it is almost an entirely separate entity, as though it were its own country with well-established principals and laws. This gives us a glimpse into Sass’ undeniable connection to the studio, resulting from his years of working closely with its founders.
As far as length is concerned, after fewer than 150 pages of narrative, I feel like I personally know the studio and its workings inside-out. This is, in fact, one of the book’s best assets; being able to condense a wealth of legitimate advice into a small number of easily digestible chapters. As a result, it is an ideal read for its main intended audience, serving as a quick read for those with a busy professional life.
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Each chapter is concluded by a few short statements encouraging the reader to reflect on his or her own professional life, particularly regarding their role within and/or impact on a business, alongside a brief summary of the core principles explored throughout the chapter. Furthermore, should the reader forget any of the book’s earlier messages and lessons, or would simply prefer to have them all collected together, Sass has it covered – his penultimate chapter is dedicated entirely to reiterating all of the previous guidance.
In regards to the narrative, the language is pleasant, humorous and welcoming and feels almost as natural as if it were a real, direct dialogue with the reader. Sass’ regular use of entertaining metaphors and analogies make his writing even richer, while also helping to avoid the potential monotony of both a biography and self-help book. However, his writing can also on occasion be somewhat disjointed, often as he attempts to adopt more offbeat narrative styles, slightly breaking the otherwise seamless flow of the narrative.
Despite having absolutely no personal background in or knowledge of business and marketing, as a reader, I rarely ever felt lost or overwhelmed by the business jargon, which was often broken down into much more simple terms. The advice given throughout each chapter is not exclusive to management positions, but instead encourages the reflection and involvement of every person involved in a business at every level. In this way, Sass makes his book accessible to all and universally inclusive.
The great flow and enjoyable narrative lend themselves to the generally biographical nature of the book. Instead of being simply a barrage of information, the key points of advice are woven into the story, making the overall experience more enjoyable than if it was solely information-based. As a format, this could be a very good template for future authors hoping to dispense their wisdom among readers.
Overall, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable and educational read. Regardless of whether or not you’re looking for guidance on improving and building up a business, readers will doubtless come out with a wealth of business-related knowledge previously unknown to them (in addition to a lot of Troma trivia). Those without a business to speak of, like myself, may also find themselves inspired to pursue a business career in the hopes of having such rich experiences as those depicted throughout the book. Furthermore, Sass’ humorous narrative and portrayal of Troma allow the reader to feel connected to the character and ideals of both himself and the studio as a whole.
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