Interview: Lloyd Kaufman on the 18th annual TROMADANCE Film Festival

The long-running TromaDance festival began as a rebuttal to the fact that Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Cannibal! The Musical submitted to Sundance, and didn’t get so much as a “fuck you, go away” in response. In the intervening years, the festival has moved away from Park City, Utah, but not from its original idea, conceived of back in 1999.

Since then, TromaDance has been committed to the principals of being “free to enter and attend, focusing on independently produced films made without the Hollywood system.”

The 18th Annual TromaDance Film Festival will be held at The Peoples Improv Theater in New York City this Friday, August 11, and Saturday, August 12. We spoke with the directors of two short films which will be screening, as well as Troma prexy, Lloyd Kaufman, about the festival and Troma’s ethos.

Lloyd Kaufman – president, Troma Films

Cinepunx: TromaDance has been going strong for 18 years. What was the start of it?

Lloyd Kaufman: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and I went to Sundance one year, about 19 years ago. Try and Matt had submitted Cannibal! The Musical to Sundance, and paid the fee to submit and they never even got a ‘fuck you’ letter. Troma, we told them, does not submit movies to film festivals. We do not pay to submit movies to film festivals. If they want our movies, they’ll have to come to us and take them: we’re not going for some bureaucrat to go first-class on an airplane. We’re poor, and most filmmakers are poor.

So, Trey and Matt paid whatever it was to Sundance, and they never got a ‘fuck you’ letter, and we figured, ‘Hey, they never said don’t come to Sundance,’ so we all came there, and Matt and Trey had a one-movie film festival at Sundance, and it was the Cannibal! The Musical film festival. They rented a place, they showed the movie, and they had a huge success. People loved it, because it’s a great movie. Sundance was too stupid to play it and to recognize their talent – as was the entire mainstream industry.

Then, next year, we figured: fuck Sundance, fuck Robert Redford, this is not an independent festival. This is a bunch of rejected people from the mainstream who are vassals of the conglomerates, and that’s what Sundance is all about. It’s about sucking the dick of the big conglomerates, and showing movies by the son of Tom Hanks, and showing independent movies that are not independent and cost over $10 million.

So, we decided, let’s set up a really independent festival. We won’t charge anyone to submit their movies, we’ll show the movies for free, and we won’t throw a party where the entire point is to exclude people. They have parties where there’s a party inside the party, where the VIPs hang out. Our closing party is a no-VIP party. Whoever gets in, gets in. If Mickey Rourke is at the back of the line, he can’t get in.

What I find crazy, is that Sundance is supposed to the home of independent cinema, but they’ve rejected Troma, whereas Cannes has embraced Troma.

Not anymore. Cannes has policed us out. They’ve been slowly policing out the independents. You can’t even walk the streets at Cannes: Kabukiman and Toxie, the parades, and our street theater were not allowed this year., because they’re too political. Kabukiman is too political, but they did allow Disney, with the Pirates of Penzance, to walk with guns and swords.

So, the idea is that Sundance and Cannes really don’t want the independents, and they don’t want a festive festival.

That seems to make TromaDance all that more important, right?

We did TromaDance at Sundance for ten years. We rented a bar on Main Street for the week and, then, we also had a very good theater in Salt Lake called Brewvies, and everything was free. We did it for ten years, and we didn’t show our movies. We don’t show Troma movies. The idea is that you can submit your movie, and you don’t have to pay to submit. It’s not about Troma movies, it’s about your movies.

We were the first to show Human Centipede, for example. Most of the mainstream festivals are afraid of anything that’s visionary or a little different. They’re afraid of Poultrygeist, but then they’ll wait two or three years, and then show Zombeaver, which has absolutely nothing to say. Poultrygeist is political satire – and a musical! Zombeaver may be entertaining, but it’s got nothing to say. It’s safe.

That’s the true mark of independence – you have your name on a film festival, but it’s not about you.

Trey Parker suggested the name. He said to call it TromaDance because everybody hates Troma – or, rather, that Troma’s known for being a shit disturber.

Some of this year’s movies are very political – for instance, you have Crude, which is an ecological porno.

By an MIT PhD professor. Very interesting. Do you know Todd Sheets? He has Dreaming Purple Neon. We’ve got some great stuff. It’s true art, it’s made from the heart, and the only reason that people make these movies and get them produced is because these people are artists! It’s not motivated by trying to figure out what the public wants. They’re not trying to make the next Get Out – they’re trying to make the first Attack of the Killer Chickens.


How excited are you to be part of Tromadance?

Genoveva Rossi: I am incredibly honored to have my film Attack of the Killer Chickens in Tromadance. I have known of Troma since I was a kid and I have acted in over 10 films with Lloyd Kaufman. It’s always great to see Lloyd whether it’s on a film set, at a convention, a film festival, and especially at Tromadance!

What do you feel the festival offers in terms of the film community?

I love that it’s free to enter and free to attend. Most film festivals are expensive for filmmakers, but Tromadance is about the films, not the money and I respect that a great deal. I have attended in the past and the festival has a great variety of films and there is an amazing group of people in attendance. You can feel the good vibes and positive energy in the room.

Why does Attack of the Killer Chickens fit into the Troma mold – is it the casual disrobing and murderous puppets?

I think my film and Troma’s films definitely pay homage to the earliest b-rated films and carry on their wonderful tradition of making films so-bad-they’re-good! I honestly find such charm in this ultra low budget genre.

Where did you get the idea for Attack of the Killer Chickens?

I wrote the film based on the fact that there are actually more chickens now in the world than humans. Also, I was inspired by Night of the Living Dead, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Pink Flamingos, The Birds, Kingdom of the Spiders, and Planet of the Apes.

I had been acting in horror since 2012 and had accumulated like 90 film credits, so I thought it was time to direct. In fact, the horror fans requested it. A friend of mine said there would be this pressure upon me to make a really good film and that’s when I knew I had to make a really bad, but fun film! Something that represents why I ended up acting in the horror genre and the kind of films I grew up loving. I wanted this to be a fun film to make and a fun film to watch.

What was the process of putting the short together?

I cast it with my actor friends, wrote it, and then shot it. I think that I cast then wrote it was a bit different of a process, but I will write a good role for the right actor in a film. I like to be flexible in my writing. I actually wrote, directed, starred in the film, and it was my first time directing a film. So far, it’s screened at 16 film festivals and conventions.

I knew I wanted Edward X. Young in the film and I knew he was a perfect match for his character. We’ve acted in over 20 films together and I knew what he could do. Rocco George was chosen for his acting and puppet skills. Nick Petito is a great cinematographer, editor, and actor. Pamela Martin is a veteran New York City actress with a lot of experience working her craft. K.J. Hopkins is a great actor and special effects artist. James Hostomsky provided our amazing score. Madame X and Rocco George designed the DVD cover.

Who designed the special effects (specifically, the puppets, because they’re absolutely amazing)?

The special effects were Rocco George and K.J. Hopkins. I was familiar with both of their work and knew their effects would fit the mood of the film. K. J. and I have been in over 8 films together and I knew he was going to do a great job. Rocco George created our puppets. I have also worked with him of Neptune’s Song of Horror and Bernard T. Ward’s Popcorn Bag of Terror. I loved Rocco’s puppet work immediately and knew I needed him in the film.


How excited are you to be part of Tromadance?

Drew Bolduc (Director of Crude): We are definitely excited. I’ve been to a few Tromadances before and they are always extremely fun.

What do you feel the festival offers in terms of the film community?

Tromadance screens a lot of low-budget films that may not get a chance to play at other festivals. There are many films that push the boundaries of art and taste. It is also a great place to meet other filmmakers and crazy people.

Why does Crude fit into the Troma mold?

It really pushes the limit content-wise. We shot it on the cheap. It also has a lot of bodily fluids.

Where did you get the idea for Crude?

Ira and Martin, who came up with the idea, thought of it while trying to think of the worst idea ever. The worst ideas are always the best stuff because you know no one else is going to do it. The idea started as trying to making an environmentalist porn where Big Oil screws the Earth. I really just wanted to make something for the times we are living in. All the greatest directors did porn.

What was the process of putting the short together?

There was a lot of pre-production where Ira and I made the costumes and props. We raised a little bit of money for it. We got some friends together and filmed it in a day. It is pretty shocking how many people actually helped us given what we were doing. It is a really weird one.

TromaDance is Friday, August 11, and Saturday, August 12, at the People’s Improv Theater in New York City. You can find all the details about it here.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek

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