An Interview with Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma Entertainment (part 2 of 2)
Also, how is morale in the B-movie scene in this era of corporately-owned studios where everything has to be big?
I’m not in it, I’m in the underground. As you can tell by my tone, I’m not in the best state of mind, but it’s very tough on these young people today; on the one hand, anyone can make a movie. In my two most recent books, Direct Your Own Damn Movie, and Produce Your Own Damn Movie, they talk about the good news, because of the digital technology, everyone can indeed make their own movie, so that’s rather joyful, that’s great, there’s thousands of independent movies being made, out of which there are some really great films. The problem is: how do you get them to the public? How do you make a living? And as long as the major gatekeepers are keeping us from getting the movies like Poultrygeist, as long as Poultrygeist is blacklisted and can’t get shown on TV, as long as Cannibal: The Musical by Trey Parker and Matt Stone is economically blacklisted and is never going to get on TV because Troma’s the distributor, as long as the public is denied seeing these independent movies, as long as we who go out and finance these movies can’t go out and make a living, how are you young whippersnappers of tomorrow gonna do it? How are you gonna make a living?
It’d be great if you could have another job that has nothing to do with movies and make your own damn movie, and make a pretty good movie. You don’t need money anymore. It’s pretty discouraging when you spend three years making Poultrygeist and can’t get it shown on TV, even though we sold a shitload of DVDs. And it’s even more disturbing that Blockbuster has never carried a Troma movie in our entire history, and the so-called Independent Film Channel has never played a Troma movie, and HBO and Showtime don’t buy independent films, period, unless they come from Sony Classics or something.
That is why I am the elected chairman of the Independent Film and Television Alliance. We are also lobbying in Washington to try to fight the consolidation in the media industry, to make sure that we don’t lose Net Neutrality. I recently met with the chairman of the FCC and tried to explain to them that they were losing a lot of good revenue and jobs by allowing the major media to strangle the independent arts and commerce. They don’t get it. They think Sundance is an independent film festival, they think that Miramax is an independent company. Congress and the FCC don’t know that Miramax is part of Disney. They don’t understand that the independent film industry is responsible for most of the Oscars in the last ten years, they don’t understand that it’s responsible for billions of dollars in revenue and jobs, and discovering new talent. If the independent movie companies can’t make it, the American economy loses a shitload of jobs. If Congress and the FCC don’t get it, they’re gonna wake up one morning and we’re all gonna be gone.
We do make money, we are economically viable if a level playing field exists, but the playing field is totally benefiting the giant, devil-worshipping conglomerates. And the proof of the pudding is that Troma is 35 years old, we’re the only independent movie studio a) that’s been around that long, and b) if you go and check out other independent companies, there are very few that have lasted more than five years. And it’s not that they’re making bad movies, it’s that they cannot make a living.
Do you ever feel that Troma isn’t appreciated as much as you might like, compared to other low-budget companies? After all, Ed Wood has his own religion these days…
Well, Ed Wood is appreciated because he sucks. He sucks ass. In fact, he probably did suck ass, literally. People like him because it’s a way for people to feel better, it’s kind of an exploitation, it’s like porno. It’s like Schindler’s List, it’s an exploitation movie, it has nothing to do with fighting anti-Semitism or anything like that, it’s only a way for the audience to feel better than the bad guys in the movie. Ed Wood is a way for the audiences to feel better than the filmmaker. That’s bullshit. Yes, Troma’s very underappreciated because nobody knows about us. If after 40 years the New York Times reviews my movie in the shit column, even though they gave it a good review, but they put it in the column where they put all the bullshit documentaries; if that’s how they see me after 40 years, I who have influenced Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino, and directors all over the fucking world, if that’s where they put me, of course I’m underappreciated. Fuck that. Absolutely. The major media is living off the needle of advertising, the New York Times is a total whore to the advertising.
The Toxic Avenger opened in 1983, and the main critic for the New York Times chose to review it as his number one review that weekend, instead of the obvious Avatar of its day, whatever it was. He reviewed The Toxic Avenger because he was interested in my work. The New York Times now is so on the needle, so addicted to advertising, and got that tongue so far up the ass of the conglomerates, that I’m ignored.
A lot was pinned on the success of Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD. Are there any cool stories from that stressful time?
Hold on a second, I’m signing something here, this is a moment of history: I’m signing the Blu-Ray contract for Poultrygeist. It includes all sorts of cool features, including a new process called Brown-Ray. Can’t talk too much about it… What was the question?
(I repeat the question.)
I don’t think a lot was riding on it, those were the days the marketplace was a little fairer, Kabukiman was quite successful, we did okay. I don’t think there are any major stories, the most horrendous story was the night we had the lion and the monkey, and the monkey was permitted to stay out of its cage because it had to act. It was trained for six months prior to filming. The animal trainer trained the monkey to pray, to load a gun, to stalk somebody with a gun. There were lots of things that the monkey was trained to do, it was a macaque monkey, but it wasn’t Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t around back then. The monkey stank, and it was very mischievous. Whenever I was filming it, it would jump on me, and it would hug me, and my sweater would just stink. My clothes had to be washed several times to get rid of the stench.
It was kind of an evil monkey, it would run around and tease the lion in the cage; one of the final nights of filming, the lion, which had been in many movies and was very docile, was out walking and one of the girls was in a red dress, very tempting for the lion to eat, but the scene called for the actor playing Kabukiman and the monkey, and the lion decided to get revenge on the monkey, and he ate… the monkey was literally in his mouth, and the monkey was attached to the actor, the lion was kinda eating his way up to him. Luckily, the trainers pried open the lion’s mouth and freed the monkey. The monkey, from then on, was unable to do any of his tricks. It knew how to pray, that was the only thing it knew how to do.
Actually, the monkey did not learn its lesson, because the AFI had a Troma retrospective where they had the world premiere of Sgt. Kabukiman, and they’d set up a panel, and the monkey was on the panel, and when the moderator went down to shake everyone’s hand, the monkey hauled off and punched him right in the face!
As someone who’s been in the film industry for a long time, what would you say is the worst movie ever made?
Well, I don’t know the worst movie ever made, and I hate to even talk about those things, but there are two very popular movies that have been praised and extolled; one of them is Forrest Gump, and I think that’s a very evil movie, because it teaches you to behave like a retard and follow orders like a Nazi clone, and then you will become a billionaire. But if you are a female and you want to work for peace and change the world, you will be punished and get AIDS. I thought that was a very evil, reprehensible movie.
Also, another one that my little children, when they were growing up, my five and six year old gynos—we don’t say “girl” at Troma, we say Gyno-American, because “woman” has “man” in it, and “girl” isn’t politically correct—they were on an airplane watching Pretty Woman, which is a movie that glamorizes streetwalking, and how marvelous that Richard Gere could find true love with a streetwalker and she could find her Cinderella prince. The only thing I ever got from a streetwalker is syphilis. I found Pretty Woman to be a disgustingly evil movie. How dare they show it on a plane where little children could watch it and think that a streetwalker is not such a bad thing to be?
And there you are.
I’d like to take some time out to thank someone who, incidentally, was in a Troma movie.
Originally, this interview was to be with Lower East Side performer and author Reverend Jen, to promote her new book Live Nude Elf. Unfortunately, while very pleasant, she wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so instead I’d like to dedicate this interview to her, and ask that you buy her book on Amazon.
And that’s our show! If you’d like to be one of Mendo’s Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet, feel free to contact me, and then go out and do something… rather interesting!