Iconoclast indie mogul Lloyd Kaufman talks candidly about his Troma flicks

Reveling in a sleazy, DIY iconoclasm, for 30 years Lloyd Kaufman has presided over the oldest continuously operating independent production company and distributor: Troma Pictures.

As more respectable cousins have been gobbled up by the major studios or packed it in, Troma has survived and thrived completely outside the mainstream theatrical market.

Troma’s marquis monster The Toxic Avenger

Best known for Kaufman’s own “Toxic Avenger” series, with four installments since 1985, Troma’s extensive library of low-budget video releases is full of gore, cheesecake, and subversive, often environmentalist messages.

ReelChicago spoke with Kaufman in advance of his June 18-19 appearance at Movieside’s Tromathon at the Biograph Theater.

REELCHICAGO: What do you see as the place of Troma and yourself in the larger film industry?
LLOYD KAUFMAN: We are the Disney of Independent Film, only our films don’t suck and the only talking animal we have is the penis monster (and of course Mad Cow Boy)! This year marks our thirtieth year of reel independence, and I think we’re poised to go 30 more. People need something different from the typical Hollywood bullshit and we’re more than happy to provide it.

RC: What makes a movie Troma-esque?
KAUFMAN: Troma movies are art in the truest sense of the word. We make movies without the restraints of the Hollywood system or big corporate backers, so we have no one to answer to but ourselves, and that’s what makes it art, and that’s what makes it a Troma movie. That and large boobs, explosions, gore, and fart jokes.

RC: Briefly describe the Troma production/ distribution model.
KAUFMAN: Troma gives independent filmmakers the vehicle to get their movie seen. Along with our own movies, which we make ourselves and distribute through Troma Team Video, we help others get their movies into stores using the Troma brand. To learn the whole scoop, check out my new book “Make Your Own Damn Movie” published by St. Martin’s Press.

RC: How has your working method changed over the years, and how has this paralleled larger industry trends?
KAUFMAN: We’ve been blacklisted for so many years, we can hardly get hookers. But despite that we’ve managed to stay exactly the same, making movies of the future by any means necessary.

RC: What are the biggest misconceptions held by beginning filmmakers?
KAUFMAN: That they can forget about lighting and sound, especially in the digital age. I can’t even count how many movies have been ruined because they ignored the importance of lighting and sound. And they also seem to forget that they’re responsible for getting out there and selling their movie in stores like Virgin where, by the way, I’ll be appearing Saturday, June 19.

RC: What’s exciting to you in movies today?
KAUFMAN: Definitely the work of Vin Diesel, like “XXX” and “The Chronicles of Riddick.” Oh wait, that’s what makes me puke about movies today. Actually there really are some good movies today, like “The Corporation,” “Saved,” and, of course, “Campus Invasion 3.”

RC: What projects do you have in the works? How about long-term goals?
KAUFMAN: Look for “Tales From the Crapper,” coming this fall to DVD! Shot over four years, this is Troma’s first entry into Dogpile 95, our doctrine of digital filmmaking and stars greats like New Found Glory, Julie Strain, Ron Jeremy, Trey Parker, and many more.

You can also check out www.troma.com to find out news on our future productions, like “Poultrygeist,” the tale of zombie chickens!

Tromathon runs June 18-19 at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln; $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Kaufman appears along with “American Movie” subject Mark Borchardt (“Coven.”) Friday, “Toxic Avenger” at 8 p.m., “Toxic Avenger 2” at 10 p.m., “Coven” and “Toxic Avenger” at Midnight, performance by Spare Change. Saturday, “Coven” at 8 p.m., “Tromeo & Juliet” at 8:30 p.m. and Midnight, “Class of Nuke ’em High” at 10 p.m. Performance by Love Rich. See www.movieside.com.

? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com