A recreational van completely covered with painted-on brick is bound to attract a little attention, even on a busy Manhattan street. So it is that within minutes a crowd gathers and listens as the vehicle’s crew—Gerry Cook, 32, Don Moulton, 29, and Peter Hunrichs, 28—sing the praises of Only a Buck, a movie directed by Cook and co-starring his two cohorts. “If you like the van, you’ll love the movie,” declares Cook, a former commercial director from Spokane who devoted three years to filming this comedy about a man who quits his job to make a movie. Passing out leaflets and showing clips on a portable TV, Cook, Moulton and Hunrichs manage to sell 25 copies of Only a Buck (for only 20 bucks per video-cassette) before the security guard from a nearby bank tells them to move along.
So they move along, something they’ve been doing since November. Now in L.A., the Spokane trio has undertaken one of the most unusual distribution ploys in recent moviemaking history. With no other way of selling their film, they have resorted to a coast-to-coast “rest-stop tour,” piloting their “Brick-mobile” to Chicago, New Orleans, New York City and many a gas and comfort station in between. “If people start to see the movie, we’ll be vindicated,” says Cook, who put $75,000 into the film. The first day out, in the middle of a snowstorm, Moulton tried to hawk copies to motorists stuck in a traffic jam. There were no takers. “It wasn’t a good time,” he concedes. His technique has improved. So far he and his compatriots have sold 500 cassettes.
At first, the film’s prospects seemed promising. Only a Buck was accepted by the Seattle film festival and Robert Red-ford’s United States Film Festival. But when a distribution deal failed to materialize, the three bachelors got into their $800 van, painted it brick (“to make it feel like home”) and set out to sell the film “factory direct.” If life on the road isn’t exactly comfortable—two guys have to sleep on plywood planks hung from the van’s ceiling—that’s a sacrifice they are willing to make for their art. Even after months of eating take-out pizza, the three are hungry to make another film, and they’ve already written a script titled The Art of the Mooch. “The script is done,” says Moulton, deadpan, “but we’re doing extra research on the road.”