DVDTalk Interview: Lloyd Kaufman
Greetings From Tromaville!
Lloyd Kaufman and Troma have been making independent films for well over three decades now and they're still going strong. This month sees Troma's three-disc special edition release of their latest effort, Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead hit shelves across the land and director/co-writer/counter girl Lloyd took a few moments out of his busy schedule for an interview with DVD Talk columnist Ian Jane. The results just sort of speak for themselves, really...
Ian: You've made plenty of films through Troma over the years, what makes your latest, Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead, different from the rest?
Lloyd: It's good!
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is also our first film with singing and dancing, and features the first hardcore man-on-chicken scene in the history of 35mm film!
Ian: Where did the inspiration for the film come from? Did you just wake up on morning and decide that you had to make a satire on the fast food industry in the form of zombie chicken movie or did you get some bad McNuggets for lunch one day and decide to fire back?
Lloyd: Poultrygeist was inspired by a number of things. It was kismet really. Troma employee Gabe Friedman had worked at a fast-food restaurant, where incidentally, he earned more money that he did working at Troma, and wanted to make a movie about the industry. Then a McDonalds moved in next door to our offices in Manhattan and our basement was suddenly and coincidentally overtaken by giant raccoon-sized rats. Because my employees and interns all flat-out refused to go down there and clean up the mountainous piles of rat shit, the job was left up to me. And then, to top everything off, I read the book "Fast Food Nation," which left me in tears, much like last week's TV Guide. But really, more than anything, I had come up with all of these great chicken puns, like "Omeletting you know," "de-clux," "winging it," "boot(chicken)leg," and too many others to list. I had to think of some way to use them, so I went to the Troma team and said, "Let's make a chicken movie!" And because I pay some of them, they kind of had to agree.
Ian: The film played a couple of festivals and had a limited theatrical release - what's the reception been like so far?
Lloyd: Actually, the film has played in a (chicken) shit load of festivals, from San Sebastian to Korea. It has also played in over 300 cinemas across the US, where it is always the highest grossing screen in town. If Indiana Jones: Curse of the Skull Fucker didn't need to play in every single screen in a multiplex, we'd be held over everywhere. As far as critical reception, Poultrygeist is possibly the best reviewed independent film since Blood Simple (See Louisa May Alcott's recent article in Maxim).
Ian:Poultrygeist seemed to take a long time to make - didn't you start it in 2005? Why did it take so long to get to DVD?
Lloyd: Yes, it did take a long time to make. Good art isn't made in an assembly plant. To make an omelette, you have to break some eggs... and then heat up your pan... and then take the butter out of the refrigerator... and then slice some mushrooms... You get my drift? We also needed to wait for the baby chicks on set to mature into egg-laying chicken zombies, and then mate those chicken zombies with displaced Native American zombie spirits. It was a very complicated process, but I think the authenticity we brought to the screen was more than worth it. The film took a while to reach DVD because it's been playing in theaters across the country for the last year. Our films are made on 35mm to be enjoyed in a communal environment. We want our fans to be able to come together in a darkened theater. And that's not as dirty as it sounds.
Ian: There's a lot of guest stars in the film - Lemmy, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Ron Jeremy to name a few - do you go after people to get them to appear in your films or they come to you?
Lloyd: You forgot Angelina Jolie and the Jonas Brothers! Stars come to us because they have been influenced by and love Troma. But I don't care about stars. I prefer talented unknowns--they have better table manners.
Ian: Troma is giving Poultrygeist a massive three-disc special edition DVD debut - what kind of extra features can Troma fans look for in this set aside from the film itself?
Lloyd: On October 28th, we will be releasing a 3-disc signed and limited edition of only 15,000 sets. This fowl movement will have a 90-minute behind-the-scenes edumentary called Poultry In Motion: The Truth is Stranger Than Chicken. We have an audio commentary with co-writer/John James Audubon Society expert Gabe Friedman, and me. We have eggs-clusive deleted scenes and an att-HEN-tion getting alternate ending with Ron Jeremy, and a Kara-yolk-e sing-a-long DVD. We are also including several brand new Make Your Own Damn Movie lessons on topics such as creating explosions on film and a very informative lesson on sound design, where I cluck like an angry chicken for 10 minutes. And buckets and buckets more!
As a special feature for our devoted fans, when you play the DVD backwards, you can hear Paul McCartney saying that Heather Mills is dead.
Ian: Your films are famous for pushing the boundaries and eschewing good taste. Have you ever felt like one or your films has gone too far?
Lloyd: Yes, we sent a 35mm Poultrygeist print to Japan last month, and the shipping costs were enormous. That was definitely too far! As far as our content, I don't think we've gone too far at all. According to the critics, many of today's mainstream films are influenced by movies that we made twenty years ago. Just look at the headcrush scene in High School Musical 3! Twenty years from now, Steven Spielberg will probably make an homage to Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, but with singing and dancing turtles instead of chickens. And then he'll win an Oscar!
Ian: A lot of independent studios and DVD companies have closed up shop over the last couple of years. Has the economic slump affected Troma's output at all?
Lloyd: Troma is arguably the longest running independent film company in the world. 2009 will be our 35th year. I would say this current economic slump has certainly affected our output in a few ways. Most notably, it has forced our employees to eat lesser quality food, which has definitely affected their bathroom output. Regarding our films, since we have never had a hit or made any money, there is very little to affect.
Ian: Troma has a reputation for loud and obnoxious behavior on the convention circuit - the costumes and the insanity definitely get our attention but have you guys ever experienced a backlash or run into any problems because of this?
Lloyd: Our loud an obnoxious behavior at the Cannes Film Festival can be seen in all its glory in All the Love You Cannes, available for purchase from buy.tromamovies.com. In my opinion, Troma's loud and obnoxious behavior is nothing compared to what one might see on "The View" each morning. Furthermore, I'd like to personally invite the most obnoxious of them all, Joy Behar, to accompany the Troma Team to Cannes next year!
Ian: Speaking of conventions, you personally do a lot of them - what's the craziest thing you've ever seen at a movie convention?
Lloyd: During the height of the Democratic primary season, I saw Hilary Clinton moon Michelle Obama when they both appeared at Monster Mania in New Jersey. It's something I will never forget...
Ian: Troma has long been a breeding ground for up and coming filmmakers - why do you think this is and do you have any tips/hints for aspiring filmmakers?
Lloyd: Speaking of up-and-coming filmmakers, we certainly have given Ron Jeremy several opportunities to appear on film. I completely agree with you. I think we have at knack at Troma for recognizing great talent. When nobody in Hollywood understood the humor of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, we did, and distributed their first movie, Cannibal! The Musical (available for purchase from buy.tromamovies.com). They went on to create South Park. We took a risk and financed Samuel L. Jackson's first film, Def By Temptation (available for purchase from buy.tromamovies.com) and he went on to fight snakes on planes!
I actually have three tips for aspiring filmmakers.
Ian: So Poultrygeist is finished and the Toxic Avenger has been turned into a musical... what's next for Troma? Will there be another Toxie film?
Lloyd: The Toxic Avenger Musical, with music by Bon Jovi's David Bryan, will be opening in New York City on December 10. As a result of the success we've had with the musical, we are currently developing The Toxic Avenger V: The Toxic Twins, which you will soon see is heavily influenced by Proust's "In Search of Lost Time." I also have a brand new book coming out in January, entitled "Direct Your Own Damn Movie!"
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