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Lloyd Kaufman will be touring with Troma films throughout the month of April and if you’ve been very good, maybe he’ll be coming to a theater near you. SXSW 2002 featured a retrospective of nearly 30 years of Troma-mania, showing The Toxic Avenger, Class Of Nuke ’Em High, Tromeo And Juliet, and 1999’s Citizen Toxie. Staffer Clint Davis spent a very busy post-panel half-hour with Troma Entertainment founder, director Lloyd Kaufman.

CD: I guess the first question would be, how is life for Lloyd Kaufman?

LK: Well, life in Tromaville has been interesting and extremely emotional. Very intense. We’re always running on three flat tires. Troma has never been more successful from the point of view of fame, but it is harder and harder to get our movies to our fans, due to the fact that the media industry has become such a cartel of five or six devil-worshipping international conglomerates. But having said that, the fact that I who clearly am not 22 years old anymore, the fact that I have been able to direct 30-some-odd movies, and that Troma now owns 950 negatives, can’t be that, you know. That’s pretty cool. And that a movie like Citizen Toxie gets made, a movie that has abortion. A movie that has school shootings been satirized, satire of the Columbine shootings. A movie that satirizes the dragging of a Afro-American behind a pickup truck on a chain. The fact that that movie got made, that makes me very happy. It’s a miracle that a film, in a day, in an age of homogenization, in an age of What Women Want, of $60 million boring pablum baby food movies, the fact that Troma is still able to make the kind of movies that we want to make, that’s a miracle.

CD: You mention Citizen Toxie. A lot of people have said that Terror Firmer, your last movie, was the definitive Troma masterpiece. How do you personally feel that Citizen Toxie holds up to that?

LK: Well certainly Terror Firmer, which was based– Terror Firmer was inspired by my book, All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic AvengerTerror Firmer was probably my most personal film. But I think Citizen Toxie is a better film–

CD: Really?

LK: –I think the script is, well you will judge. But the script is a lot better I believe. And by the way, do you need photos or slides?

CD: We got tons in our press kit actually. Thank you.

LK: It’s all the movies that we make we feel very fervent about and we love them. And obviously Citizen Toxie is two years of my life, or three years of my life, and right now, I think it’s the best film that Troma has made thus far.

CD: Well all right. That’s great.

LK: In fact I get upset because people keep calling in Toxic Avenger Part Four, and really I’d rather it be called Citizen Toxie because when you hear about sequels very often you feel "well it’s not going to be as good as the original." Citizen Toxie is really, I think, better than the first Toxic Avenger,and it takes more chances. It has more social issues. It definitely has more sex and violence. And I think it’s more of a personal statement about American society.

CD: Would you say that this is the film that really represents you as a filmmaker? Would you want this to be the one that, if someone said "I’d like to see a Lloyd Kaufman film," do you think this would be the one that you would pick?

LK: Well I think if someone wants to see a Lloyd Kaufman movie I would take the most recent film that I’ve made. I would always do that.

CD: Really?

LK: Well, just if someone is interested in seeing where I am now, in my so-called artistic career. I hate to use that word, but I think Citizen Toxie probably reflects, I mean my movies are, the quote in, like Claude Chabrol and the American Cinematheque and the American Film Institute, they refer to me as one of the very few genuine American auteur film directors.

CD: I’d certainly say that was true.

LK: And if that is true, the most recent work would reflect my current emotional state or current state of my soul, whatever. So I think Citizen Toxie–all my movies are very personal. Tromeo and Juliet is extremely personal. I mean they all are as a body of work, they all give you a pretty good eye into my soul. My wife now says that Toxie is actually me, that she sees the Toxic Avenger... you know Toxie gets older in each movie and she feels that that’s basically my autobiography, is the Toxic Avenger story. And I think she’s correct.

CD: You have very strong feelings against what you call the devil-worshipping multinational conglomerates. Do you feel that there’s any benefit to making a movie within the studio system or do you feel that your way is the way?

LK: I have nothing against making movies within the mainstream. In fact, there are people like Trey Parker whose Cannibal: The Musical was distributed as a Troma movie. Cannibal: The Musical is a wonderful movie. Trey Parker is a wonderful person. Trey Parker wants to be mainstream, he wants to make a lot of money, he wants to be famous. But he’s going to be a good influence on the mainstream because he’s a decent person, he’s a true artist, he’s a genius. And he knows how to manipulate the system for himself. I can’t do that. I am no good at it. I’ve tried. It’s not that I haven’t tried to work with the big boys, and they usually are big white boys, but I can’t do it. James Gunn, with whom I wrote Tromeo and Juliet and who was in large part responsible for the success of All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger, he’s a great guy. He’s writing Scooby Doo now. I think Scooby Doo will be a good movie because James, if Scooby Doo is a good movie, which is kind of a miracle, you know–it’s a sixty, eighty million dollar Hollywood movie–it’s because of James Gunn. I think he’s a good guy, he’s a decent artist, and he will have a good influence on the mainstream. He’s not going to fuck anybody. He will not name names the Elia Kazan did. He will not copy, plagiarize. He will play by the rules of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is really, if you can do that and if you become a success in the mainstream, God bless you. Why not? Make a hundred million bucks. I mean hey, I’m all for it, I just couldn’t do it. What I object to is people selling their souls. That’s their business but I see too many filmmakers who have sold their souls and then have been discarded like an old glove. They make one movie, two movies, even the ones who’ve been successful, five years later they’re pounding a beat in Brooklyn somewhere. They’ve been taken off the force. [sees a passerby] Hey thanks! Hey, how’re you doing, Carla? This is Carla. Carla this is Clint.

+++++

conversation with Carla about Kaufman’s interest in meeting Peter Bogdanovich

+++++

LK: I did a movie, I acted in a movie called Waiting. There’re lots of directors who’re obviously introduced by Troma. Now they’re starting to make it so they stick me in their movie. Trey’s done it a couple of times. And a number of these younger directors–

CD: Mann, I believe you wrote–

LK: Yeah, that’s right. Troma has influenced a lot of these directors around the world. In fact these guys who did, big Japanese film, I can’t remember the title, but they wanted me to come to Japan in April to be in a movie there. So that’s nice.

CD: That’s great. You’ve got a new book coming out. Your first one was a fantastic book, I thought. As you mentioned, a lot of that was due to James Gunn, but yourself as well, and would you tell us a little bit about the new one?

LK: The new book is called Make Your Own Damn Movie, and it will be, I’ve turned it in. It’s going to come out at Christmas through St. Martin’s Press. I think you guys are probably the first, I don’t think too many people know about it.

CD: I hadn’t heard about it until just the other day.

LK: Well they haven’t started publicizing. I just turned it in. And Make Your Own Damn Movie will be a soup-to-nuts exposition of how Troma has raised the money, you know, all the questions that those people in the panel are asking about filmmaking–how to do it–are answered in my book, in detail. Great detail. And also Make Your Own Damn Movie will detail how to sell your own damn movie too, will talk about what we do at the Cannes Film Festival. And we will show that anybody can do what we do. If you read Make Your Own Damn Movie, you should be motivated and inspired to at least think about making your own independent movie and distributing your own independent movie. And too many of these how-to-make-your-own-movie books are made by people who have never made a movie. They’re by people who are teaching, whatever, and this... You cannot write about it. You have to actually make a movie. The stuff that goes on on location filming, pre-production, post-production, editing. I had prepared a lot, three tapes for that seminar. I wish I could’ve shown them because I think it would’ve sparked some inspiration. How Troma solves problems. Let’s say you have to dub. They mentioned sound in there. Sound is very very important. Mark is absolutely right, or Chris Gore, he said that sound is maybe 50 percent of your movie? He’s right. But if you have bad dialogue and you want to dub new dialogue, you don’t have to go to a expensive dubbing studio where they charge you three or four, how much hundreds of dollars an hour? Troma–

Woman, passing: Great talk!

LK: Hey, thanks a lot. Thank you! [aside] Nice ass. I had a scene, we went to a lot of trouble to create this little how-to-do-your-own-dubbing thing and what we do at Troma. But what’re you going to do? I had a scene about location filming. I don’t know why he wouldn’t let me show it. It was two minutes. We had a scene where, from Terror Firmer,where a kid’s head is covered in special effects mold so he cannot see, hear, smell, talk, and he’s totally naked. A fat kid with a small penis, totally naked he has to run through Times Square. On the surface that would look like an impossible feat. Times Square is the most populous and densely trafficked place in the world, perhaps, at least in the Americas. And we did it. I wanted to illustrate that. I have a short piece that explains how to do that. I had another short piece that explains how to do a certain special effect that I think would have opened up a lot of doors for people, but instead they wanted to go with these long-winded [untelligible], and I’m sorry about that.

CD: I hope at some point we can get to see something like that.

LK: Well, maybe at the next panel. Maybe at the Lloyd Kaufman panel, I can show some of this stuff. [Note: He did, and it was fab.]

CD: Also you’ve got TromaDance is coming up. I believe the deadline for submissions is in December. Do you want to talk about that a little?

LK: The TromaDance film festival, the best of TromaDance. Let me just pee for a second... Hey, how’re you doing? Let me pee. [to newcomers] Could you guys talk a bit about TromaDance? [to Clint] He made Cornman, among other things. These guys are Texas Troma proteges. And maybe you guys could talk a little bit about Troma and you guys, and also TromaDance and what went on there, and let me just run and pee, okay?

CD: Knock yourself out.

+++++

Kaufman goes off to pee. The Texas Troma proteges turn out not to have played TromaDance Film Festival, but describe their upcoming project, Caged She-Bitch Cage at length. Lloyd returns.

+++++

LK: There’s a full-length documentary. On the Terror Firmer DVD there’s a 95-minute documentary called Farts Of Darkness: The Making Of Terror Firmer. And it’s a very unvarnished look at how a Troma movie–the pain and suffering that goes into an independent, low-budget movie.

CD: I have not watched that. I own the Terror Firmer DVD but I have not watched that part of it yet.

LK: I should have recommended it. Again, that fucking panel, I thought that was really, it was impossible to say anything useful because one guy just kept rambling on and on and on and on. Maybe it was useful, I don’t know.

CD: I guess the last question I would ask is, what is next for Lloyd Kaufman and Troma? Other than the book that you’ve already mentioned.

LK: Well right now I will probably go back to my hotel room. They have porno films there.

CD: I understand.

LK: And they’ve got one that’s called Four-Finger something-or-other that apparently is only...

CD: I hear four is better than, say, three...

LK: Well, I don’t know. It’s a lesbian one and four-fingers, apparently–The Four-Finger Club it’s called. It looks real good. So I’ll probably go masturbate and that’s what’s next for Lloyd Kaufman.

CD: And cinematically speaking, what would be next?

LK: [whistles at passing femme]Tromette! Well, we’re developing a new script which will deal with the fast-food industry, be kind of an anti-globalization movie. It will also involve the environmental phonies. The Native Americans and in a nutshell it will be a zombie movie that harkens back to the classic Romero, 1970s, and D’Argento kind of feel rather than this glib crap that Disney’s putting out, like Scary Movie and that stuff. So we’re going to have a movie that will be in a nutshell in a fast-food chicken restaurant built on the site of a sacred Indian burial ground. And the Indian ghosts go into the chickens and the chickens become zombies.

CD: Certainly breaking new ground I think.

LK: Well it will be zombie chickens, and we’re going to try to use a lot of puppets, too so that we might not have to use too many actors. And the chickens and the zombies, we will call the movie Poultrygeist.

CD: Poultrygeist. Sounds like a classy affair.

LK: It will be. It should be a good Troma movie. We’ll have a lot of, as all our movies the theme will [unintelligible] and what you in the media would call "sex and violence."

CD: All right well Mr. Kaufman, I appreciate you sitting down with us. Again, it’s an honor for us and our magazine, and for me as well.

LK: Well thank you very much.

CD: And I appreciate it.


Mike Doughty



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