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Arts & Entertainment

Free Range Festival

TromaDance refuses to chicken out on opening its doors to everyone.

By Jacob Stringer
Posted // June 11,2007 -

Lloyd Kaufman has zombie chickens on the mind. For most people, that could present a bit of a problem. For Kaufman, it’s par for the course.

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For the uninitiated, we’re talking about the founder of Troma Entertainment and the TromaDance Film Festival'not to mention the father of the Toxic Avenger himself. Still, even Kaufman would love it if the damned zombie chickens could give it a break just long enough for him to ensure that TromaDance 2007'the eighth time his festival has made its way to the snowy slopes of Utah'is indeed going to lift its curtain on another program of truly independent films. B-movie-master Kaufman has been putting the final touches on his latest cinematic masterpiece, Poultrygeist'a chicken-zombie horror fest about a fast-food joint inadvertently built over an ancient Indian burial ground, with music numbers to boot'while simultaneously trying to raise the funds necessary to keep TromaDance free and afloat.

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Of course, you may think TromaDance could start charging entry fees for filmmakers and ticket prices for filmgoers; that could radically help its bottom line. But then why follow the lead of everyone else in the festival world? That manner of lock-step thinking is not what brings films like 13 Ways to Die at Home, Night of the Living Gay, Zombie Prom and Pie Lola Pie to theaters (or more likely DVD players) near you. Besides, Kaufman outright refuses to sell out just to be profitable.

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“The spirit of film festivals is supposed to encourage new talent,” says Kaufman. “So many of the film festivals have become provinces of the elite. We figured at TromaDance we’ll make it all free, and we’re determined to keep it all free. TromaDance can be the conscience of Sundance.?

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And a fairly good one at that. Case in point: No other “-dance” can boast about being quite literally sponsored by the people. Not only have fans started their own festivals under the Troma moniker, others have started music fests called Tromapaloozas, all in the name of raising capital to help TromaDance keep clucking. Individual fans themselves have begun to donate directly to the money pool'over $10,000 to date'to ensure that the festival stays alive and remains free-range. Sundance and other piggybackers might be able to get the theatergoing public to throw down $15 per screening, but could they get those same people to turn red and go all socialist for them?

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“I think that a lot of people feel that the film festivals should be serving the people more, serving the artists more,” says Kaufman. “It gets more and more expensive as the years go on. A lot of it’s because there are perfume companies, jewelry companies and car companies involved, and it gets harder and harder for truly independent artists to compete with all these big companies that have nothing to do with movies.?

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Such critiques of the film festival world might seem a bit bombastic, but TromaDance truly puts its money where its beak is. The filmmakers don’t have to pay a submission fee, and the filmgoers don’t have to pay an admission fee to enjoy their work. For Kaufman, the all-gratis aspect of Troma is key to his vision. It’s what makes an independent film festival truly independent'even if at times that means living in a refrigerator, donating blood, mortgaging your house and/or working a few day jobs to keep the dream alive.

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“The prestige shouldn’t be on eating a big fat meal at Zoom; the prestige should come with making and exhibiting a good movie,” says Kaufman. “A movie that is made from the heart, made from the soul, a movie that is made with nothing more than the flowing of creative juices. I think the whole idea is about giving independent art back to the people.?

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Kaufman’s willing to do just about anything to propagate that objective, even unleashing zombie chickens upon the greater cinematic world. Just remember: It’s all done in good conscience.

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TROMADANCE
nBrewvies Cinema Pub
n677 S. 200 West
nWednesday, Jan. 24
n5 p.m.

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Kristauf’s
n825 Main
nPark City
nThursday, Jan. 25
n10 a.m.
nTromadance.com

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