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Low Budget Legends

13Bit Interview With Lloyd Kaufman Part 3

Part three of 13Bit’s Low Budget Legends Interview series. Here, we speak with Lloyd Kaufman, the head of Troma Films and the Director of such low budget legends as “Toxic Avenger,” “Class of Nuk’em High” and “Poultrygeist.” ” Lloyd has been making classic films for over forty years, and is heavily involved in promoting and protecting the rights of independent filmmakers.

We went out to Troma HQ in Queens last fall and are proud to kick off our series with Lloyd. Here is the third of our three-part chat with him.

13BIT:

Do you buy into the idea that people under 30 don’t want to pay for any media?

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

People under 30, I think, are willing to pay.  I think that they feel that the shit they’re getting in the movie theaters and on television doesn’t deserve to be paid for.  And the fact that they– I think they object– I think for the first time in history there is a generation of young people who are rebelling against television for the first time.  They’re looking at television as kind of a button-down parent type thing, you know, where you have to watch Matt Lauer in the morning with a shit Today Show.

And then it gets broken up and goes on CNBC and then MSNBC and this fat-ass weather man.  And they hate that stuff.  They don’t want to see Jay Leno.  They don’t want to see this shit.  They don’t find it funny or interesting.  And I think that’s the problem.  Why should they pay for that?  And to have to go and everywhere you look, you’re going the see the Transformers on every poster, every t-shirt, every newspaper, you go to the fast food dump and there’s Transformers in the Burger King.

And I think a lot of young people resent it.  And so they– why should they support these people?  You know, they’re– they– at the conventions, they don’t want to take free DVDs from us.  They want to pay.  They– sometimes I try to give stuff away.  They insist on paying.  They want to support Troma.  And these people have nothing.  They have nothing.  Takes them two weeks to get an unemployment check, by the way.  No, in Ohio recently, I understand it took six weeks to get an employment check, to get a check.

Imagine if you’re a family in Ohio and you’re on unemployment.  Apparently, six weeks, two months, to get the first check?  That’s great.  So I don’t blame young people for wanting their crap for free.  In fact, I’m not necessarily against piracy.  I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.  I think in the case of Poultrygeist:  Night of the Chicken Dead, or Troma, I think piracy helps us.  I know it helped us in Russia because I went there to shoot a– I shot a music video over there.

And I did a tour of Master Class only because we became famous through piracy.  And when I went there, people were asking me to sign these pirated– this is a few years ago.  I was signing pirated versions of Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High.  And they were crappy VHS, you know, boxes, with mimeographed labels.  So obviously they were pirated.  And in fact, the two movies were on the same– Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Toxic Avenger were on the same video cassette.  And I’d be signing these things.  But, the point is, Troma became sort of famous by piracy.

And then when the wall came down and when capitalism started to flourish in Russia and when greed took over it, people started saying, “Well, hey, maybe we better put in some copyright laws.”  Suddenly, we’re– we are known.  And we’re getting distribution in Russia.  So as a result, Poultrygeist was actually pre-sold to Russia, just based on the fact– and we don’t– nobody wants to pre-buy any of our movies.

But, apparently this Russian company felt that my movies were profitable enough so they would put money up before we even made the movie, which, having no stars in it, usually you cannot pre-sell a movie that’s got explosive diarrhea and chicken Indian zombies and singing and dancing and hard-bodied lesbians.  That is usually not a movie that gets pre-sold.  People don’t pre-buy that unless it’s got Julia Roberts in it or some major star.

13BIT:

Julia Roberts explosive diarrhea.  That would sell.

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.  It has.  I think Julia Roberts did do a lot of explosive diarrhea, if I’m not mistaken, in Pretty Woman.  I think that’s the reason they like to show it on airplanes.

13BIT:

It’s the director’s cut.

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

So the young children can see it, the young children can learn how to be a whore on Pretty Woman shown on airplanes, right?  Teaches all the young children how to be prostitutes.  I’m all for that.  I love prostitutes.

13BIT:

What’s coming out next?  What are you working on, now, Troma-wise, feature film?

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

Well, I’ve just completed, happy to know, in the series, Make Your Own Damn series, I’ve completed Produce Your Own Damn Movie, thanks to the good graces of Mr. Jerome Rudes, the chairman of the and founder of the Avignon Film Festival.  And next will be I’m going the start writing The Toxic Avenger Part 5.  And there’s so much demand for Toxy, again, it’s been a while.  So it looks like that will be the next project.  I have to figure out the beginning, middle, and end.  And also we have no money.

But other than that, it’s green-lit.  It’s all– it’s a go.  And it will– it will probably concern Toxy’s twins in the fourth movie, Citizen Toxy, which never played U.S. T.V., never been in a Blockbuster. Even though it sold about 200,000 DVDs, Citizen Toxy has never been on any form of American television.  In Citizen Toxy, he and his significant other had twins.  They had little baby Toxies.  So the movie will probably focus on the adolescent Toxic Twins, the problems that occur between the generations.  And Toxy may have some things like E.D.  And maybe his wife will have menopause.

13BIT:

Too much cell phone texting.

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

Whatever, but there will be some of that in it.

13BIT:

I’d like the see that.  Well, think we—

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

I think the key is to appreciate the fact that the fans of Troma are the only reason we’re still around.  And they have to work very hard to find our movies.  The media dismisses Troma as a cult movie company, cult– no, it’s– what does that mean, cult movie company?  It’s– and they– it’s a derogatory.  They use it as if it’s a, like, a low-class, you know, we’re in the league with– the Plan 9 guy, Ed Wood, in cult films.

What the hell does that mean?  Does that mean that I’m like Charles Manson?  I can get a small number of people to do anything I want or David Koresh?  No, the point is, the Troma fans, they go out there and have to search for our movies.  They have to make an effort to see our movies, whereas the people that are going to see Star Trek and Hollywood MuHigh School Musical and the rot that’s in the theaters today, they are brainwashed.  They can’t get away from it.

It’s fast food movies.  They– no matter where they turn, they’re gonna run into that film.  They make no effort.  They just roll out of bed and go in the studio and they go in the movie theater and eat the Raisinets and become obese and there you go.  And it’s all a happy– fast food movies.  They feel good going down.  You know, they taste good, feel good going down.  And you get diarrhea.  But basically, the Troma fans, and we are very grateful to them, they have to make a big effort to find our movies because it isn’t easy.  It’s not an easy thing.  And we are very grateful for the effort that the Troma fans make to find the Troma movies.  And we hope that they will all become rich and give me work.

13BIT:

Where’s the name Troma come from?

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

Troma is– well, Michael Herz and I were– where is Michael Herz, by the way?  He suddenly evaporated.  Did you meet him?

13BIT:

I don’t think so, no.

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

Yeah, he– Michael never goes on camera.  Once we established the company, he hates– he never goes to the Cannes Film Festival.  He never– he does not like to– even though he’s very handsome and he’s in great shape and he’s ac– much more personable than I, he does not– he refuses to have anything to do with publicity.  And he doesn’t even like the movie people.  He never goes out in public.  He likes a certain number of people with whom we work with.  But he does not– he’s the Howard Hughes of Troma.  He and I were Latin students at Yale.  And Troma, in the ancient Latin, it means excellence on celluloid.  So we naturally took that name from book two of the Aeneid.

LLOYD KAUFMAN:

Yeah, book two of the Aeneid.  It was right before Julius Caesar and How– Harriet Tubman had that huge explosive diarrhea event with the elephants in Hannibal’s crossing of the Indian channel.

13BIT:

Cool.  Awesome, thanks.

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