1st October 2008

Interview in NUVO

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If you haven’t heard of Lloyd Kaufman, you’re not alone. The unconventional film director and his production company, Troma Entertainment, have existed outside the Hollywood system for a remarkable 35 years. Surviving thanks to a devoted fan base, Troma has mentored or inspired many of today’s great talents, including Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park), Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction) and Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings). A great supporter of independent cinema, Kaufman serves as chairman of the Independent Film and Television Alliance, teaches a master class in low-budget film-Celebration), Kaufman sat down with NUVO to talk about zombie chickens, limousine liberals and the challenges facing independent cinema today.

NUVO: For people who aren’t familiar with Troma, could you give us a little background?

KAUFMAN: Well, I would say that Troma Entertainment is the NUVO magazine of independent cinema. Troma was created in 1974 by my Yale University buddy, Michael Herz, and I. A place where I could write and direct movies, and a place where other independent-minded visionaries could perfect their art.
Over the years, we have introduc the talents of Trey Parker and Matt Stone who made Cannibal: The Musical, and Oliver
Stone, whose first movie experience was Battle of Love’s Return. Other interesting people who’ve begun with Troma are James Gunn, with whom I wrote Tromeo & Juliet, and he went on to write Scooby Doo. Tromeo & Juliet is a movie that promotes incest, and James Gunn’s next career move after that was to write the children’s classic Scooby Doo. He then directed a movie called Slither and now he’s a major, major, major Hollywoodwriter and director. And of course, Eli Roth who brought you the
beautiful, passionate, religious movie Hostel … Kevin Costner’s first film was Sizzle Beach, USA … The Troma history is amazing: 35 years of independent movies.

NUVO: In all of your films, you tackle social issues. With The Toxic Avenger it was pollution, with Terror Firmer the state of independent films and now with Poultrygeist the fast food industry. What attracts you to this kind of social justice subject matter?

KAUFMAN: My films are very much founded and inspired by the events of the day. The current events in the newspapers are far sicker and more perverted than anything I could think of. As a result, political and sociological themes are what interest me. I read as a young boy. I had a Commie grandmother who fed me things like The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills, which propounds the military industrial complex. From that and I.F. Stone, and other sort of socialist readings, I’ve come up with the three elites: the bureaucratic elite, namely the Congress and the Senate; the labor elite, the labor leaders who are making millions of dollars while their constituents are eating dog food; and the corporate elite. These three elites suck dry the little people of Tromaville, the location for all of my films, their economic and spiritual capital. The little people of Tromaville are perfectly able to run their own lives, they don’t need any left-wing limousine liberals like the Clintons or Al Gore to phony up their lives and tell them how to live their lives and condescend to them; they know how to live their lives. Unfortunately, the little people of Tromaville are victims of these three elites, and they must call upon the Toxic Avenger to save them, or sometimes call upon Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD who lives on the waterfront, or in the case of Troma’s War, the little people of Tromaville take matters into their own handsand have to save the free world.

NUVO: Your most famous movie, The Toxic Avenger, is being turned into a musical. What is your involvement in that project?

KAUFMAN: The Toxic Avenger is a historic movie. It’s the first film where a young boy’s head is squashed by the wheel of an automobile that was made into a politically correct, environmental, Saturday morning children’s cartoon show. And if you think that’s surprising, the big time Broadway producers of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels boughtthe theatrical rights to make The Toxic Avenger musical. And they’ve hired none other than David Bryan, the keyboard guy for Bon Jovi. They’ve got the TonyAward winning director of Urinetown, and a guy that wrote a big big hit called I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. They have a great team, and Toxic Avenger: The Musical will open Sept. 28. It looks like it’s going to be pretty successful, primarily because I’vehad nothing to do with it.

NUVO: What’s next for Troma?

KAUFMAN: Well, what’s next for Troma is survival. Basically, Troma has never been more famous, but it’s never been more difficult. The major conglomerates have literally blacklisted, there is economic blacklisting going on, not just in the television industry, which has totally blacklisted independent content, but it’s worldwide. The giant media conglomerates pretty much have their thumb on the entire industry and the media you know — the newspapers, magazines and news world — is owned by Rupert Murdoch and his cronies and this is something that we’ve got to fight against. So it’s a very, very challenging time for Troma and all of the independent movie companies. Right now, as I said, I’m looking for my next script. Maybe there’s somebody in the NUVO magazine world that’s got an interesting character-driven script that’s out there that is intense and controversial that Lloyd Kaufman might be able to direct. I’m writing a book called Direct Your Own Damned Movie, my fourth book, and after that I’m contracted to write Produce Your Own Damned Movie. We’ve got the musical opening, and every month there’s a new Troma DVD that comes out. So, Troma’s still very active, but the times have never been more challenging. We depend on NUVO magazine to fight for the rights of independent filmmakers and independent artists. •

For more on Troma Entertainment, go to: www.troma.com.

There is currently one response to “Interview in NUVO”

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  1. 1 On October 8th, 2008, Anton Blender said:

    Lloyd, it was an honour to meet you and a pleasure to interview you.

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