Tom Roston

September 2015
Hardback, 160 pages
The Critical Press
Hardcover: 978-1-941629
Ebook: 978-1-941629-16-1



Tom Roston (New York, NY)

Journalist, PBS POV writer and author of I Lost It At The Video Store


Alessandra Wike | | 512-501-4399 ext 710 | @alessandrawike


For a generation, video stores were to filmmakers what bookstores were to writers. They were the salons where many of today’s best directors first learned their craft. The art of discovery that video stores encouraged through varied, stocked shelves and the careful curation of clerks was the fertile, if sometimes fetid, soil from which today’s film world sprung.

Video stores were also one of the last vestiges of media’s analog world. In today’s digital era of online distributors like Netflix, iTunes and Amazon, convenience has trumped the trip to the store. But the quality of movie-watching experience has, arguably, improved. And access has been democratized. It’s time to look at what’s lost, gained and what the future holds.

In I Lost It at the Video Store: A Filmmakers’ Oral History of a Vanished Era, Tom Roston interviews the filmmakers who came of age in the era of video rentals—including Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell, Allison Anders, James Franco, and Doug Liman—and constructs a living, personal history of an era of cinema history which, though now disappearing, continues to shape film culture today.


  • The vital impact, financially and creatively, video stores have had on the film industry and some of the most important filmmakers working today, such as Quentin Tarantino, Doug Liman, Darren Aronofsky David O. Russell, Kevin Smith and more.
  • The good, the bad and the ugly state of home movie streaming on providers such as Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. Here, top filmmakers discuss what they like and don’t like about film distribution and exhibition at home. And it’s not all bad!
  • How video stores were the film schools for many of today’s film directors, whether it was David O. Russell memorizing Chinatown on a VHS tape or Kevin Smith learning dialogue by listening to Blue Velvet on a constant loop while he worked as a clerk.
  • The clash between directors over whether to make films with the home theater audiences in mind, with Aronofsky trying to accommodate them with appropriate sound design and Tarantino crying foul.
  • How shifts in film technology have impacted the creative visions of Generations X, Y and the millennials.
  • The business of film financing and how the video store provided a reliable revenue stream for production that no longer exists.
  • Every week, it seems like another beloved neighborhood video store shutters its doors. As this era disappears, here’s a sharp-eyed look back while the memories are still clear.
  • The importance of horror and genre films on the independent film movement.
  • How the analog world of brick and mortar stores and clunky tapes is giving way to the digital era when we never have to leave our apartments.
  • Behind-the-scenes peek with Kevin Smith and Nicole Holofcener at what was really happening in the porn room of video stores
  • The making-of back stories of some of the most revered American independent films, including Reservoir Dogs, Swingers, Clerks and Gas, Food, Lodging.


Tom Roston is a journalist whose work appears in The New York Times, The Guardian, Spin, The Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter, among other publications. A former senior editor at Premiere magazine, he also writes a weekly blog about documentaries for PBS’ award-winning POV website. He lives in Brooklyn.


“This is a book that was waiting to happen, and fortunately it was Tom Roston who wrote it. After we lost it at the movies, a later era of cinephiles lost it at the video store, and this is their story in their words—nostalgic, vivid, and important, because video germinated a new generation of great filmmakers.”
Peter Biskind, author of Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film

“Informative, hilarious, a little sad, but mostly just exuberant: This chronicle of a lost era details not just how the video-rental revolution shaped a generation of filmmakers, but how it changed the ways we watch and talk about film. It may even make you nostalgic for rewinding.” —Stephanie Zacharek, Chief Film Critic, The Village Voice

“A Proustian madeleine of a book, I LOST IT AT THE VIDEO STORE celebrates the images and textures of a nearly-gone era, as well as examining its importance to a generation of artists.”—Matt Zoller Seitz, editor-in-chief,

“What a terrific read. It’s a blast to revisit those (delightful, maddening) hours I spent trying to pick a movie, from the perspective of Tarantino, Sayles, and the rest of the all-star cast Tom Roston has assembled. These smart, funny, and sometimes-clashing voices from the other side of the VHS box reveal how video-store culture worked, how it influenced filmmaking, and what’s lost and gained in the streaming world that’s replacing it. The result is an entertaining story that goes way beyond nostalgia: It will make you appreciate why the video-shop era mattered, whether you lived through it or not.”  — Rob Walker, author of Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are

Over the course of 20-some years, the great American video store transformed the way that movies got made. It also spawned a generation of independent filmmakers – the movie geeks who haunted these “shrines to cinema” and the know-it-all clerks who helped school them. The stores themselves have faded into history, but their now-famous onetime inhabitants – Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Doug Liman and Darren Aronofsky, among others – remember them well. Their stories, assembled here, provide a memorable chronicle of a golden age of pure movie love. —Kurt Loder


“There wouldn’t be an American independent film business unless there had been a scarcity of content available for the American video shelf. Period.”—Ted Hope, film producer and Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society

“We are losing a place where people can go and meet face-to-face and know that there is some sort of central meeting place for people who love film.”—James Franco; actor and filmmaker

“For me, it was the about breadth and width. The Internet has made everything a straight line. You have something you are interested in, you Google it, you go right there. The video store was walking down the aisle and looking at shelves and turning over a hundred and fifty different boxes and stumbling upon stuff you didn’t know existed. A big part was about discovery.”—Joe Swanberg; independent director, producer, writer and actor

“It’s weird to think that because of our flicks, a lot of people started to work at video stores hoping to get into the movie business. But I guess the world corrected that.”—Kevin Smith; screenwriter, actor, film producer, public speaker and director

“I don’t know why it was lost. Is it just leaving the house? People don’t want to leave the house any more? Is that it? I’m asking you.”—Quentin Tarantino; film director, screenwriter, cinematographer, producer and actor

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