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All I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from the Toxic Avenger Paperback – August 1, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
"When in doubt, vomit green foam" is the motto of the B-movie empire, Troma Studios, the brainchild of Kaufman and Michael Herz, whose exploitation hits, Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke 'Em High and Tromeo & Juliet, today clutter the midnight movie section of most video rental shops. Here, Kaufman traces his lifelong dedication to big-screen gore, disfigurement, mutation and raunchy sex from his days in the Yale film society as a disaffected undergrad in the mid-1960s (where he made a feature-length film that consisted mainly of a braless woman jogging) to his present career as a leading impresario of bad taste. After a stint with Cannon, a low-budget studio in New York City, Kaufman launched Troma out of a broom closet he rented from McCall's magazine in 1974, while taking mainstream Hollywood jobs on the side, including acting as pre-production supervisor on Rocky. The Toxic Avenger, produced in 1982, catapulted Troma into the international limelight and has since become an icon of fringe cinema, spawning merchandise, a Saturday morning cartoon and hours and hours of ongoing late-night cable exposure. Not content to recount his story in linear fashion, Kaufman free-associates on such topics as the "erotic components of colostomy bags" and the pitfalls of Hollywood cinema. Kaufman's gross-out humor and rambling style will wear thin for all but the most devoted Troma fans, but his perspective on independent film production stands to benefit low-budget auteurs everywhere. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The Troma studio and Kaufman, its founder, probably go unreferenced in most libraries' film history collections. Let that be no disincentive to acquiring this account of a prolific and spirited producer of schlock cinema. From the Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'em High series to the more recent Tromeo & Juliet and Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy, Troma has delivered the goods as far as grotesque costumes, maniacal (or nonexistent) plots, and gratuitous partial nudity are concerned. Kaufman and writing buddy Gunn's sprightly overview of Kaufman's "art" is perforce a case history from a segment of the U.S. film industry whose most famous denizens are John (Pink Flamingos) Waters and Russ (The Vixens) Meyer and whose wares exemplify sexploitation, perhaps, but hardly hard core porn. Featuring glimpses of the early careers of Billy Bob Thornton, Melissa Tomei, and others who have gone on to bigger things; claims of influence on big time film directors; and Troma's patented assortment of nymphomaniacs, surf Nazis, and sleazy monsters, this is not-to-be-missed pop culture stuff. Mike Tribby
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I am very knowledgeable in the horror genre of film and merchandise. This book taught this old dog a few tricks.
Well worth the price of admission.
That stuff is interesting, but then he goes right back to making bad jokes. I like his brand of humor --- he's the kind of guy who likes bodily functions, squashed baby heads, and tall tales about Thai hookers --- but the humor is really forced. He seems so eager to please when all he has to do is tell the story of making cheesy, entertaining low-budget films. The Troma stories are really good. Lloyd Kaufman has a lot to say about how the film industry works, directing non-union films, setting up stunts, coming up with good exploitation movie ideas, and even merchandising. (The stuff about working in Japan and making a TV cartoon are particularly enlightening.)
But the bad jokes get in the way. Kaufman is a gifted storyteller and his subject matter is important and fun, so I can easily recommend this book. If you want to know about making movies that have no stars in them, this is the book for you. But you might be disappointed --- Kaufman could have described his work in greater detail, but he chose to amuse his readers instead.
"I wanted to eat them, dream them, put them in an eyedropper and let them sink into my optic nerve."
This is a perfect example of the type of narrative banter that exemplifies Lloyd's love of film from his early days at Yale to the introdution and hiring of James Gunn. (Mr. Gunn wrote screenplay for Tromeo and Juliet.) I haven't had this much fun reading since Kenneth Stars manuscript was released over the net. Each chapter details true and, on occasion, pretentious tales of Lloyds indiana Jones-ish adventures in filmmaking. When it comes to shooting a film Lloyd is king of budgetary restriction. His thoughts funnell down to details on how to cut corners, save money by working around Unions. He also mentions instances where he shot a film without the use of location permits. Throughout the book Lloyd relates to his early achievements, Sugar Cookies -(released on DVD June 29th 2004)and potential disasters, Battle of Loves Return and Squeeze Play - (Just bought an original One Sheet. Hot chicks on the poster) He explains how critics first viewed these opuses as cow dung. Lloyd also explains how Lady Luck turned his movies into classic cult favorites. Lloyd emphasizes to young potential filmmakers that it may not only take one opportunity, such as a hungry movie theatre owner looking for that one film to fill its open time slot, to get exposure. Miss Luck granted Lloyd a few of these opportunities. This gave adiences a taste of his cinematic experimentalism. Lloyd also explains the importance of video, relating to how independent films can be released through this less expensive medium. Lloyd explains a key factor to his success is hooking the savvy moviegoers with obscure, obscene and over the top craziness portraid in his films. With a success here and a success there the money started to flow. Once the money flowed Lloyd along with his partner Michael Herz created Troma Studios, the largest independent studio in the world.
Lloyd's creativity stems from many years of film inspirations and partly because he experienced many of lifes lessions working on other productions. (He worked as Line producer, location manager, production manager for films such as Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Final Countdown - Final Countdown is released on DVD by Blue Underground) Through these experiences Lloyd was able to learn many short cuts to save money, time and manpower to complete his Troma produced films.
While reading through his book I began to affiliate his experiences and personalize them with mine. I really enjoyed everything Lloyd had to share. His book does not get into exact detail on how to make a film but Lloyd emphasizes a very important message for young filmmakers.
Lloyd states, "A filmmaker needs to have an idea, keep going and never give up. The odds may be stacked against the filmmaker but be creative, be genuine and honest with yourself."
Besides being very entertaining, Lloyds book is a major inspiration for the "little guy." Lloyd was defeated in almost every imaginable way. He overcame all obstacles and made Troma what it is today. The Toxic Avenger stands for bravery, honesty, one who will stick up for the "little guy", and one who will not bow down to the megaconglomerate. Every fimmaker should read this book to acquire an inspiration to never give up, keep fighting those obstacles and get your vision across and complete your film. Pat Kaufman, Lloyds wife, summed up the moral of his book in one sentence.
"Lloyd is Toxie, he is honest, he is on to stick up for his beliefs. Lloyd Kaufman is the Toxic Avenger of filmmaking."
In my opinion I decided this book should have an alternate title.
I believe Lloyd Kaufman really wanted to say, "All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From Lloyd Kaufman, the Toxic Avenger of Filmmaking."
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