40 Years of Reel Independence: An Interview with Lloyd Kaufman

I grew up on TROMA films. This could have had a positive or negative effect on my upbringing depending on how you look at it. I like to think that they were my education away from the banality of the public school system. TOXIC CRUSADERS taught me exactly what CAPTAIN AMERICA attempted to, only it utilized bodily fluids instead of a fabricated sense of pride. What better way to reach an adolescent boy who clearly could not comprehend any potential impact of pollution? THE TOXIC AVENGER was my childhood hero, where other kids were worshiping INDIANA JONES, LUKE SYWALKER or HOWARD THE DUCK (well, maybe not him) I was a proud, young citizen of Tromaville. Where most of my early film obsessions fell by the wayside as I got older, TROMA has stuck with me. The films may appear juvenile on the surface but they are a celebration of independent filmmaking sensibility. And bodily fluids, naturally. I fortunately got a chance to interview the man behind it all, Lloyd Kaufman, what follows is that interview:

In the documentary ALL THE LOVE YOU CANNES, the Troma team storm the Cannes film festival and plenty of carnage ensues. What sets Tromadance apart from a prestigious international film festival like Cannes or a highly funded “indie” American festival like Sundance?

-Tromadance is free! Every time some new free-spirited film festival emerges, it seems like the Hollywood elite find new ways to warp it so they can make a buck rather than celebrate art and independent film making.  Tromadance does not discriminate or give VIP treatment to anyone, we select all types of films, from family films to Manson Family films.

When films are submitted to Tromadance are you ever looking for future Troma talent? Does the festival application process ever function as a sort of audition for the company?

-We definitely look to submissions for possible acquisitions.  I wouldn’t say the application process functions as an audition for Troma- but moreso just a great opportunity to get your film seen!

Though you probably get asked similar questions consistently, you’ve been working in the independent film industry for decades and far longer than most, at that. How have you seen the American independent film industry change in that time, for better or worse?

- I think being an independent filmmaker is easier now than it has ever been, even in these poor economic times.  You don’t need money- anyone can literally be a filmmaker- just open up your cell phone and start recording! There are so many different mediums and outlets now that are free.

In addition to creating your own content through Troma, the company also tends to distribute the works of other filmmakers from throughout the world. Do you have any policies regarding what you will and will not distribute? Do you tend to seek these films out are do filmmakers tend to approach you instead?

- We both seek out and are seeked out. Many filmmakers send us their films, we watch them, and if we like them, we’ll give them a call.
Your MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE book/dvd-set is a great tool for new filmmakers (and even established ones at that) to understand what goes into producing an independent film. Have you ever had an interest in teaching courses or starting some sort of Troma school for film production?

- I do make appearances with my “Make Your Own Damn Movie Master Class,” which is an informative, interactive and highly entertaining (if I do say so myself) crash course on filmmaking. I’ve presented at Yale University and University of Southern California, as well as overseas at institutions like the St. Petersburg Film Museum in Russia, Perth Film Festival in Australia and Norwegian Film Development.  You can learn more about it here: http://www.lloydkaufman.com/masterclass/

With the recent surge in mainstream interest in exploitation fare, from GRINDHOUSE to the upcomming HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, do you see Troma gaining any increasing popularity and reaching an audience that it did not prior to this recent trend?

-Yes, but it’s normal for film studios to gain popularity only after 35+ years right? ….Right?

Do you have any additional advice for filmmakers who wish to submit work to Tromadance or who aspire to make films regardless of distribution/screening intentions?

-If you truly believe in your work- persevere!

Much like yourself, we’re strong proponents of Net Neutrality here at The Liberal Dead. I’ve noticed that news outlets that specialize in misinformation(Fox News) have successfully convinced a good chunk of the public that Net Neutrality is actually the censorship of content on the internet. I know from the press releases that hit my mailbox that this is something that is very important to you. Could you take just a moment to explain to our readers what Net Neutrality really is? And, can you share your thoughts on organizations like Fox News  that purposefully spread lies to push a corporate, right- wing agenda?

- Net Neutrality, which provides that no content is favored over any other, and that content creators have an equal opportunity to freely disseminate their information, is being imminently threatened by greedy media megaconglomerates and their vassals. It is urgent that we fight those who would sacrifice our freedom for a profit. Net Neutrality will be the savior of independent art and commerce if we preserve it.

We’re also big fans of Ryan Nicholson’s work, could you tell us what it was like to be involved in one of his effects gags when you did your cameo in “Hanger”?

-I could barely keep my hands off him!

 

There you have it. If you want to support TROMA in any way, you can head on over to their official website and read up on new films and buy all sorts of swag that you know you need. You can also head on over to the Tromadance website and enter your films and/or support the festival. This year’s has already happened but there is always next year!

About Justin

Student of the Selznick School of Film Preservation in Rochester, NY. I spend too much time on social networking websites, watching sexploitation flicks and reading (and re-reading) anything Garth Ennis has put his name on.
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  • Kurt

    I love the work Troma does! It’s been a huge inspiration to me as a lowly student filmmaker. Lloyd is quite a character in all the right ways.

  • Ari Sandburg

    yes, he definitely is. I’m glad the interviewer–Justin?–brought up net neutrality. Such an important issue these days…I actually ran into an excerpt from Kaufman’s new book Sell Your Own Damn Movie on IndieWire about copyright laws recently. Similar-ish reasoning. Saved the link, check it out here: http://www.indiewire.com/article/why_piracy_is_good_and_copyright_sucks_an_excerpt_from_sell_your_own_damn_m#