For 35 years, Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team have created many genre inspired cult classics that have pushed the envelope of independent film; and their new release “Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead” proves to be no different. Using the punk ethos of design and the independent heart of the Do-It-Yourself culture, Kaufman and his gang of Tromatic misfits have broken a lot of rules, and created some new ones. As The Onion A.V. Club has stated, “The impact of Troma can be seen in nearly every independent filmmaker who cut his teeth in the video era, from Peter Jackson and Quentin Tarantino to “South Park’s” Trey Parker (who’s debut,” Cannibal! The Musical” was a Troma production), and the Troma universe has a devoted worldwide fan base to rival that of any comic book.” But if you don’t agree with them, then maybe you should just go rent the latest mainstream blockbuster…like “Transformers”… a*****e…
I dial the number and hope for the best. After a few rings, the voice of Kiel Walker, Troma’s Head of Production and Producer of their new film Poultrygeist, hits the line that travels from New York to Ohio:
“Hey man, he’s in the editing bay. Can you call back in an hour?”
“Sure,” I say, as I try to hide my disappointment.
I hang up the phone.
After a few cigarettes and a cup of coffee I try again, letting five minutes fall past the hour to hide my anticipation. I dial the number one more time, and Kiel answers again:
“Hold on one second, man.”
He puts me on hold which seems like an eternity, but in all actuality was probably only a few minutes. The theme song of their new film plays over the intercom, and speaks volumes of the insane lunacy that we should all expect from a movie that promises you’ll be eaten alive by zombie chickens tonight.
Without warning, a high pitched cartoon voice breaks the music and hits my eardrum:
Troma is known for hiring young college students to work in their internship department, and I’m sure that this is one of them f*****g with me.
“Hi, can I speak to Lloyd please?” I say.
The high pitched voice suddenly changes to the gruff, hard spoken tone of a 62 year old Jewish man from New York City:
“You got him, buddy. How are you?”
The interview begins.
For all intents and purposes, Lloyd Kaufman is a genuine inspiration for all young filmmakers and artists across the globe. An independent film producer and director for the past 40 odd years, Kaufman and partner Michael Herz started Troma Entertainment about 35 years ago, marketing themselves as the worlds only “True” Independent Film Studio … a moniker that is rightly deserved. “Toxic Avenger,” “Class of Nuke’em High” and “Tromeo and Juliet” are only some of the films that have garnered cult status since the inception of the studio, and by taking a grass roots approach to selling and distribution that hasn’t been seen since the heyday of Kroger Babb, Troma pioneered a philosophy that would make any punk do-it-yourselfer happy as s**t… if the marketplace changes, change with it!
Troma had one of the very first websites to ever appear on the world wide web at it’s inception back in the early nineties, and had the foresight to digitally transfer their movies to DVD long before the mega conglomerates got a hard on for the format and pile drived it’s a*s into a money making venture. But with all of its innovations and risk taking attitude, the genius of Lloyd Kaufman and Troma have relatively been ignored. Which is a f*****g shame…
“It is a f*****g shame!” he says into the phone followed by a cough. “The New York Times won’t even review my first two books.”
I pull hard on my smoke. The two books he is referring to are “Everything I Know about Filmmaking I Learned From the Toxic Avenger” and “How to Make Your Own Damn Movie,” the former being his autobiography and the latter being a self-explanatory “how to” on becoming a filmmaker.
“You would think that for as many kids who are out there trying to make their own movie, and hold those books in such high regard, that it would be a worthwhile experience for them to review ‘Make Your Own Damn Movie.’ I honestly don’t understand how they couldn’t have reviewed it.”
But with all the angst and venom Lloyd has towards the establishment that he has encountered in his 40 plus years in the movie business, he has nothing but love and admiration for the legions of Troma fans that have supported the company all these years.
“As you know, we have a very strong, modest following, but the following we do have has kept us alive for decades. Without our fans we would be nothing, and it is our fans that will be the ones that change the world. If we want to be independent artists, we have to take the playground back from the major corporate conglomerates, and we can only do this by leveling the playing field… so everyone can have a chance to play.”
After a gracious and thankful good-bye, I hang up the phone… feeling enlightened. It’s not everyday that a filmmaker with the esteem that someone like Lloyd Kaufman has would sit down and bullshit with a schmuck like me, and I think that says something. This world has become too ego-driven, too elitist, and maybe we should take a cue from Lloyd and Troma and do the art not for the money… but for the love.