back when film festivals used to be cheap and featured talent that
wasn’t already employed by major studios? Reminisce no longer, the
Ninth Annual Tromadance has hit Salt Lake City hard with a double
bladed axe, gushing out indie film talent across the few small
theaters and venues who aren’t wrapped up in the hype of the other
heavily sponsored festivals. I myself will be headed in to interview
many of the organizers and guests involved with the festival during
it’s four day stay. But to kick things off, we have an exclusive. With
many thanks to Mimi Cruz of Night Flight Comics, we bring you an
interview unlike any other.
Lloyd Kaufman has been the epitome of independent film making since the early 70’s, bringing us countless cult classics and making Troma Entertainment an institution. Anyone trying to break into film making must take a look at how films like “The Toxic Avenger” and “Terror Firmer” were produced and directed. Batton Lash is a comic artist and creator with a style all his own, creating the popular “Supernatural Law”, and writer for Simpson’s comic original “Radioactive Man.” With a drawing style reminding readers of classic Ditko designs, he’s made some of the most innovative books of modern age comics. So what are these two incredibly talented men doing in their spare time? Interviewing each other. We present to you, 13 (and) questions Batton Lash always wanted to ask Lloyd Kaufman.
Alana Wolff, Batton Lash & Lloyd Kaufman
Batton: 1. When I met you, Lloyd, you were a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City (I believe the course was film editing.). Since then, I've seen you become THE Lloyd Kaufman, founder and front man of Troma Films, the longest running independent film studio in America. But a few things always puzzled me about you. Since I've been given the opportunity to ask you a few questions, I'm going to get to learn a few things about THE Lloyd Kaufman. Let's start with an easy one: Where were you born and raised?
Lloyd: I was born in New York City and raised there. I was born in a trunk and worked for peanuts... an elephant's trunk. I was born a beautiful blue eyed baby girl named Lois; but I was stolen out of my pram by gypsies and replaced with an ugly boy baby, named Lloyd.
Batton: 2. What were your early career ambitions?
Lloyd: It was the sixties and I wanted to be a teacher or social worker. Make the world a better place. Teach people with hooks for hands how to finger paint.
Batton: 3. Is it true that a certain lame-duck president was a classmate of yours? Bonus Question: Anything about Skull & Bones you'd like to tell us, Lloyd?
Lloyd: Yes. George Bush was a Yale classmate of mine. Freshman year he was always running around the Yale campus looking for weapons of mass destruction... we could never figure out why. President Bush however is featured in my recently completed documentary about Rev William Sloan Coffin, SPLENDOR and WISDOM... produced pro bono (not to be confused with Cher's late bad skiing congressman husband) for Yale class of 1968. Boolah Boolah Skull and Bones approached me to join but I did not want to be guaranteed millions of dollars for life. I was much too clever... living in a refrigerator box is way more better.
Batton: 4. Speaking of W, when people hear the word "chad", they might think of the year 2000 election. What do you think of when you hear the word "chad", Lloyd?
Lloyd: I love to eat Chad roe, is that what you mean? ...And of course Chad is my favorite dancer down at the Manhole. Chad is also a country where, at the age of 19, I spent a year in the bush (see, I can make goofy W puns too!) No water no electricity, no M-TV!!! Buuuut... lots of naked melon-heavy ladies running around.
Batton: 5. What made you decide to make filmmaking a career? Boner Question: Did you get your chops in the "Adult Films" industry?
Lloyd: It was Kismet... and not the Broadway musical (I love Broadway musicals... the curtains, pulleys, set design, the hot dancing boys) show starring Alfred Drake, but kismet as in FATE that placed me in the same room freshman year at Yale with a movie nut named Robert Edelstein. Our bedroom was tiny and our beds were head to toe. At night I'd inhale his Goddard stinking feet and, my life was messed up. I became an auteur film director and I don't even know what "auteur" means!! Regarding your question about adult films: I played the role of Georgina Spelvin in the Devil and Miss Jones... but don't tell anyone... it was before I had the sex change.
Batton: 6. You've had cameos in such films as "Cry Uncle" and "Rocky"- - have you ever thought of a career as a character actor?
Lloyd: My "acting"... er... my "appearing" in movies taught me a lot. On our early movies like “Squeeze Play” and “Waitress” and “Stuck On You”, I used to fight with the actors. But when I started playing small roles I learned to appreciate how difficult movie acting is with filming out of sequence and having to hit one's marks etc etc. I experienced the stress actors are under, so instead of yelling at them I use the more humane method of water boarding to get them to do what I want on the set!!! I played the part of Old Arby in “POULTRYGEIST” mainly because I sucked less that the "mature" actors who were auditioning... and I did not have to pay myself... that's why I am on strike now against myself.
Batton: 7. You were a location scout for "Saturday Night Fever". It's regarded as a classic today; what did you think about it as it was being made?
Lloyd: I knew from the start that this John Travolta-starring film was going to be a huge hit. The Scientology men's room had the writing on the wall. Both John G. Avildsen (who left the production) and John Badham are brilliant directors. By definition great directors make great movies; that's what the auteur theory is all about. Norman Wexler wrote the screenplay for SNF and I had met him when I worked on "Joe", which Norman also wrote. He also was a genius. After Saturday Night Fever, I was supposed to grow a beard and take over the lead in the sequel Friday Night Seder, where I was to play the dancing Rabbi... but Ingmar Bergman was working on the same project, so I was dropped and that's how Bergman's "Virgin Spring" evolved. Regarding my work on ROCKY, it was my mother-in-law Lillian Swinney who read the script before the movie was even financed and predicted it would be the next MARTY!!!
Batton: 8. Troma is the longest-surviving independent studio in the USA. Why eschew Hollywood and go indie?
Lloyd: I have had 40 years of total freedom, as a filmmaker... would MGM have permitted the explosive diarrhea (sorry I can not spell; blame Skull and Bones) scene from “POULTRYGEIST”? Would Warner have allowed me to make a movie promoting incest as "Tromeo & Juliet" does? I am one of the few American film directors who has a long list of titles that are totally unblemished by having to conform to the baby food formulas of the mainstream. Unfortunately all I have is a long list of titles. I wish I had a long list of movies! But “Toxic Avenger” is revered more than ever after 25 years and most of the garbage coming from Bay, Haggis, and the other flavors of the week are forgotten... after the $70,000,000 dollar advertising campaigns are over. No money has ever been spent advertising Troma movies yet “Terror Firmer”, “Tromeo & Juliet” and “Cannibal: The Musical” not to mention Mother's Day, but I am mentioning it, and many other Troma classics are constantly being re-released and invited to film festivals and retrospectives. These films have become classics... but the media dismisses me as a "cult" film director... what am I a Charles Manson who can get a small amount of folks to do anything he wants? Will anybody give a wet fart about Crash or five year's from now? Take away the C and substitute a T!
Batton: 9. The freewheeling, maverick sensibilities of Troma have attracted some talents who have since gone on to establish their own freewheeling maverick careers. Do you recognize talent right away as it comes through the door or do you nurture the potential in your young charges?
Lloyd: If I could recognize talent, do you think that I would hire ME as a writer director? No, I should have stayed with the “South Park” guys who made Troma's “Cannibal: The Musical”; I should have glommed off their genius... or Oliver Stone who started with me... or James Gunn or Eli Roth... or D.W. Griffith, I let them all slip away. Not to mention we turned down Madonna for “The First Turn On” six months before she became a household word. Boy am I stupid!
Batton: 10. Have you been in contact with early associates, Louis Su and Sam Weil? Do you know what their current activities are? Bonus Question: Speaking of people who fell off the map, whatever happened to Andree Maranda? She was hilarious in the first Toxic Avenger movie as Toxie's blind sweetheart Sarah. I thought she was a natural comic actress who had a promising career ahead of her. Apparently, “Toxic Avenger” was her only film role. Do you know what happened?
Lloyd: I believe Louis Su and Samuel Weil are officers of the Directors Guild of America; they dropped me long ago. Andree Miranda and her sister Carmen won the Nobel Peace prize for their work concerning the dancing career of Harriet Tubman.
Batton: 11. What led to the founding of Tromadance in Park City, Utah? Bonus Question: Are you aware that another independent festival (albeit less-prestigious) called Sundance, occurs the same weekend?
Lloyd: Tromadance is being called the "conscience of Sundance"...by me. Trey Parker and Matt Stone took me to Sundance about twelve Years ago after I acted in “Orgasmo”. We felt that Sundance had lost it's idealism and was a promotional tool for Disney Miramax, Sony Classics and HBO films—not truly a celebration of independent movies. I believe Sundance, should not charge filmmakers entry fees to submit films. The Tromadance Film Festival mission statement is at www.tromadance.com. Sundance treats filmmakers as if they actually hate the true independent filmmaker. They have a great situation to promote and celebrate new filmmaker talent! The Sundance bureaucracy, as well as the cartel that runs the art world want to keep their ass in a tub of butter. Tromadance is totally free; there are no entry fees to submit movie; you can watch the selections for free; and there is no VIP policy. It is not a great business model, however! Next Year will be Tromadance Film Festival's tenth year and Park City Utah is very expensive. We have been lucky to get sponsors who believe in artistic freedom and true independence. Also Troma fans contribute a good piece of the Tromadance budget. Most of our fans contribute under $100 but it all adds up. Nobody gets paid at Tromadance, it is staffed and run by volunteers. We always need sponsors, so dear reader, please help us, go to www.tromadance.com and make a contribution. GIVE INDEPENDENT ART BACK TO THE PEOPLE!
Batton: 12. You (and co-writer Adam Jahnke) wrote a Toxic Avenger novelization; any more novelizations of Troma films in the works, maybe an original novel that can be adapted into a movie by Troma?
Lloyd: I have been signed by Reed Elsevere to write “Direct Your Own Damn Movie” and “Produce Your Own Damn Movie”. The two books should be out in 2009. Devil's Due Comics have recently published a great graphic novel called Toxic Avenger and Other Tromatic Tales, which of course makes it NOT a novel, but a collection of comic book short stories... a graphic anthology. I will call it a graphic novel until I learn what "anthology" means.
Batton: 13. Will Troma ever venture into short films made especially for the Internet, perhaps webisodes featuring characters from the "Troma universe"?
Lloyd: We have filmed many shorts which can be viewed on our DVDs and on www.troma.com. If anyone out there wants to produce a tromatic short film, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. BTW—There is a POULTRYGEIST Kara-yoke-ee contest now at www.troma.com and www.poultrygeistmovie.com. You can win prizes and have your filmed kara-yoke-ee included on the POULTRYGEIST DVD!!!
Batton: 13 1/2. Reviewing your career, Lloyd, it occurs to me that with your book ("Make Your Own Damn Movie") and establishing Tromadance, you still are very much the teacher! You instruct budding filmmakers, advise the young, and pass along everything you've learned to a new generation of Lloyd Kaufmans. What do you have to say for yourself, Lloyd?
Lloyd: We live in an age of giant devil worshiping international conglomerates that killed off most of the true independent film studios. Business for us sucks!!! Buuut... as Chester A. Arthur used to say, "Troma is the herpes of the movie business, we won't go away." I am very proud of POULTRYGEIST, because even though I am becoming the old man of independent movies, my fowl movement is more daring more risk taking and more profound than the excellent "No Country for Old Men." So there is a country for this old man!!! Who played one; he played knick-knack on cinema's thumb I am proudest however for having the same beautiful wife, Pat (N.Y. State Film Commissioner) for 35 years and for having the same beautiful partner, Michael Herz for 35 years. The one thing above all that I have learned is that Batton Lash is the greatest writer in the world and that Night Flight Comics in Salt lake City if the greatest repository for truth and justice in the universe!!! The most important lesson, above all is what the Bard said..."To thine ownself be true."