It is a perfect late summer evening in Franklin, Indiana and a crowd is gathering at the Artcraft Theater, the small town’s historic cinema. This isn’t the normal crowd for this classic cinema, but then this isn’t a normal night. We’re in the middle of the first annual B-Movie Celebration. It’s a film festival that celebrates the fun side of movies by showing films that are considered a different kind of classic. From black and white sci-fi and horror of the 1950’s to contemporary films, the festival embraces independent cinema and the people behind it.
Appropriately enough at a festival celebrating independent cinema, the Artcraft has played host to the festival’s Troma Films retrospective. Described as “the last truly independent film studio”, Troma has been making films for almost 35 years. Classic Troma films such as The Toxic Avenger, Terror Firmer, The Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie, and Tromeo and Juliet have all played during the day, and now it is time for the main event. Lloyd Kaufman, the man behind Troma studios, is being honored tonight with a lifetime achievement award from The B-Movie Celebration and its founding organization, the Indy Film Co-op. A screening of his newest film: Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is set to immediately follow the event.
The theater is crowded with fans and other guests, including FX legend Tom Savini and B-movie director extraordinaire Jim Wynorski all waiting for the show to begin. The wait isn’t a long one as the festival’s MC Steve “Papaw” Payatte takes the stage. After a brief introduction, a montage of Troma clips is played and Papaw welcomes Lloyd.
Of course Lloyd is not alone; a whole procession of Troma characters joins him. Troma’s Mickey Mouse: the Toxic Avenger, Sgt. Kabuki Man, and the newest of the Tromettes, Asphyxia, are just a few of the colorful characters who precede Lloyd onto the stage. When he finally steps out onto the stage the crowd goes wild with cheers and applause which quickly settle down at Papaw Payette’s encouragement.
Lloyd has a treat for the crowd. He’s brought the music video for the Poultrygeist theme and he informs everyone that they’re showing it now. Of course when the show starts the theater’s huge screen is filled with the image of Lloyd dressed in women’s underwear singing a raunchy number in a storage closet! The audience is in stitches laughing as Kaufman runs onto the stage yelling “Stop! Stop! That’s the wrong DVD!” and he then explains that he’s been trying to get jobs in alternative porn to finance Troma during these troubled times and that was his demo tape.
This is the kind of thing that people expect from the man behind Troma studios and he doesn’t disappoint. He also isn’t about to be outdone so before Papaw can present his award, Lloyd calls Bill Dever, the man behind the Indy Film Co-op and the festival, to come on stage and he gives both Papaw and Bill awards of their own: official Troma-Diplomas honoring their work for independent cinema.
Only after this is done does Lloyd accept the lifetime achievement award that the Indy Film Co-op has for him. Lloyd keeps the ceremony short, graciously accepting the award with a few more jokes. Finally he introduces the film that he considers Troma’s finest work to date: Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.
Before all the awards and screenings started, I had a chance to speak with Lloyd to discuss Poultrygeist, the B Movie Celebration film festival, and the film industry in general.
Nic: Lloyd, it’s a pleasure to talk to you today, I understand that a little film you worked on is going to be having its Indiana premiere tonight here at the B-Movie Celebration, is that correct?
Lloyd: I’m here with Super-Tromette Asphyxia [he says gesturing to the attractive and “Tromatically” attired young woman next to him]. and…wait a minute, wait here’s a Troma fan, Joey! [Lloyd then jumps to the other side of me and begins speaking in a high-pitched voice]
Lloyd as “Joey”: Hi Lloyd Kaufman, I love you! You’re so great!
Lloyd: Now just a minute Joey.
Lloyd as “Joey”: I’m a big fan, I love The Toxic Avenger and I love Poultrygeist, when is the next Toxic Avenger going to come out?
Lloyd; Well we’re working on that right now and… Hey keep those crowds back! Security! Keep this mob of fans back. [Lloyd and Asphyxia begin making crowd noises] Security, I’m doing an interview here!
Lloyd as “Joey”: Oh but Lloyd you’re the best, you’re the greatest!!
Lloyd: Alright, alright, let me do this interview! Now where were we?
Nic: You were about to tell me about Poultrygeist… before that mob showed up anyway…
Lloyd: We’ll this is the Indiana premiere so we’re going to dedicate this to Indiana’s own Jane Pauly. Oh, and I think David Letterman is also going to be showing up here tonight as well. You know that Poultrygeist is a shot-by-shot exact remake of the slap stick comedy Schindler’s List.
Nic: I did not know that….
Lloyd: Yes it is! Well except that instead of the Jews, we have chosen to use Chicken/Indian zombies and instead of the concentration camps, we have a fast food chicken establishment. Let’s see, who did we choose instead of Liam Neeson? Oh yeah that really famous Shakespearian actor, Ron Jeremy.
Nic: That was an interesting bit of casting there Lloyd. I actually thought Ron was known for his Longfellow, not his Shakespeare.
Lloyd: [Laughing] Well I’m hoping that Poultrygeist will please the B Movie Celebration and that we’ll get a lot of coverage for the big opening!
Nic: I don’t see how it can fail to please, this film festival is the talk of the town here in Franklin. Speaking of which, don’t you have something to do with a film festival of your own? I think it happens out in Utah somewhere at the same time as another small film festival of some kind…
Lloyd: I think that you must be referring to the Tromadance Film Festival. Tromadance takes place each year in Park City, Utah. It’s at the same time and same place as the Sundance Film Festival. Tromadance has been going on for the past nine years and it started out because Sundance isn’t really independent. They [Sundance] charge the filmmakers to submit their movies and the filmmakers who do these independent films are usually very poor and shouldn’t have to be charged to submit a movie to a festival. Especially when we feel that it is fixed. I mean you have Fox Search Light, New Line Cinemas, HBO and others being considered an independent film companies! These are not independent film companies! They’re divisions of Time Warner or Paramount or one of the other mega-conglomerate media companies.
So about ten years ago we set up the Tromadance Film Festival with no entry fee. You can also watch the films for nothing and there isn’t any VIP policy. During Sundance there are all these big stars walking around and acting like they own the town and People magazine wanting to film Jennifer Aniston with eight diamonds on her fingers and celebrities on the ski slopes instead of talking to the real independent filmmakers.
Tromadance is trying to encourage the genuine idealism and creativity of independent cinema.
I’ve also been speaking with Mr. Bill Dever, the man who organized the B-Movie Celebration, and he would like to bring the Tromadance film festival here to Franklin Indiana. He also has a lot of support from the town for this idea, so maybe next summer we could organize Tromadance right here!
Nic: Lloyd, I think a lot of Troma fans would love to see the festival come to Franklin Indiana next year! So, how do you get support for the festival each year?
Lloyd: Well Tromadance is not a good business model; I mean there is absolutely no revenue from it with free admission and free submissions for films. People can visit www.tromadance.com and make a donation to support the festival. Troma has of course in the past supported the festival, but the majority of it comes from contributions. You can go to the site and contribute and you can even take a tax deduction for it!
I also think that the idea of bringing Tromadance here to Franklin in the summer would be great. I mean this is such a beautiful small town and very supportive of the B-Movie Celebration and the idealism behind independent cinema. It would be very cool to have a summer Tromadance here.
Nic: It would be great to see Tromadance grow to include Franklin.
Lloyd: It would indeed! The Mayor of Franklin even spoke with us about it earlier, so the town definitely seems supportive of the idea. We’ll see what happens.
Nic: That sounds great! So Lloyd, anything else you’d like to add about the premiere or the festival?
Lloyd: Well Nic, I hope the people at the B-Movie Celebration don’t think Poultrygeist is a “fowl” movement because it is Troma’s most “eggcellent” film and that’s no “yolk”!