I had the opportunity to interview Lloyd Kaufman last year when he came to Seattle to participate in a Horror convention. That interview is now up at Parallax View. Best known as the face of Troma and the director of The Toxic Avenger, he’s also very active in supporting independent filmmaking and fighting the studio stranglehold on distribution and exhibition. We talk about it all…
You have a very interesting set of credits. You worked on Rocky and you were production manager on My Dinner With Andre.
Yes, I was indeed. Those movies, Rocky and Saturday Night Fever, those were my film school.
How did you move from working on those industry productions to creating the outsider studio Troma?
I was making my own movies constantly, I was always making my own damn movies and I was interested in long form, so at the one time we were trying to figure out… I did Sugar Cookies in 1970, I didn’t direct it, I made the mistake of just raising money and writing and producing, and then the distribution didn’t work out too well. And then we made a movie in Israel that’s probably the worst movie in history, called Big Gus, What’s the Fuss (1971), it’s the only movie I’m embarrassed to show and we got screwed on that one, and then Michael Herz and I decided that we had better learn distribution, and that’s when we started Troma in 1974 to both produce and distribute ourselves. Of course in those days there was just theatrical.
But while we were trying to get Troma going, I would take jobs which would help pay the rent and also I’d learn. And I think in the seventies and into the eighties, we still entertained the notion that maybe we could work with one of these companies and they could distribute our films. We made a film called Stuck On You (1983), and we’d send the 35mm print, or I’d actually hand carry it to the West Coast to bring it to Warner Bros. acquisition department, or to Paramount in hopes that maybe Paramount would pick up and distribute it, but usually I’d get to the gate and they wouldn’t have my pass and it would be 180 degrees and I’d be in my little Bar Mitzvah suit and sweating like a pig and I’d have to then run to a phone book, the cars would be backed up behind me because the studio exec forget to leave the pass, and they’d be honking and then I’d get out of line and go to a pay phone and call and then they’d tell me to park in Guam, then I’d have to carry the 35mm print ten miles to people that had absolutely no interest in distributing it. So it didn’t take too long to realize that (laughs) I’d better stick with being an auteur film director and do it ourselves.