I Lost It At The Video Store

Tom Roston

September 24, 2015

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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 the careful curation of clerks was the fertile, if sometimes fetid, soil from which today’s film world sprung. Video stores were also the financial engine without which the indie film movement wouldn’t have existed.

In I Lost it at the Video Store, Tom Roston interviews the filmmakers–including John Sayles, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell and Allison Anders–who came of age during the reign of video rentals, and constructs a living, personal narrative of an era of cinema history which, though now gone, continues to shape film culture today.

“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, RogerEbert.com

“[Video] 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, film critic and former MTV host

“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

Read an excerpt from the book at Entertainment Weekly.


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.


September 24, BookCourt (Brooklyn, NY), 7:00 PM: Filmmakers including JC Chandor and Tim Blake Nelson and Video Free Brooklyn video store owner Aaron Hillis join author Tom Roston to discuss the vanishing of the video store era in honor of the publication of Roston’s book, I Lost It At The Video Store. The book is an oral history by filmmakers who recall the creative and financial impact of the video store on their careers, and assess the current state of Netflix and streaming. Other filmmakers expected to attend the event and participants subject to change. Popcorn and drinks provided by Boat Bar!

September 26, Vidiots (Santa Monica, CA): 4:00 PM: Vidiots presents a discussion and book signing with author Tom Roston and a panel of special guest filmmakers to be announced soon. Filmmakers will be at Vidiots to talk about the influence of video stores in their life and work.

September 27, Chevalier’s Books (Los Angeles, CA), 4:00 PM: Tom Roston will discuss and sign copies of I Lost It At The Video Store.

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