California might be the movie capital of the world, but a New York City headquarters perfectly befits Troma Entertainment, one of the oldest and most notorious independent film companies in the United States. Specializing in horror and comedy—or a combination of both, typically with a surreal edge—Troma was established in 1974 by Yale graduates Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz and broke into underground pop culture stardom in 1985 with the release of a gore-filled horror parody titled “The Toxic Avenger” (which, in a bizarre twist of fate, was subsequently turned into a musical play that was performed on New Jersey and New York stages). The title character of that film, which is by far the company’s most successful, is now the official mascot of Troma Entertainment. Most of the films made by Troma Entertainment—including those in “The Toxic Avenger” franchise—take place in the fictional city of Tromaville, New Jersey, known as the “Toxic Chemical Capital of the World.” Hence, die-hard fans know to look and listen for references to Tromaville in any movie that is produced by the company.
Since it’s establishment, Troma has produced, acquired and/or distributed more than 1,000 independent films. Proudly dedicated to the B-movies of the world, the company does not shy away from scripts that illicit shock, squirms, and laughter. While Troma is still an active production company, their catalogue also contains an impressive roster of independently made films that they secured the distribution rights for. In 2015, the company launched Troma Now, a streaming service that subscribers pay $4.99 a month for.
Stanley Lloyd Kaufman—who simply goes by Lloyd Kaufman—has remained at Troma’s helm for nearly fifty years. A director, producer, actor, and author, Lloyd has established a career out of creating films whilst also making the movie industry more accessible and decentralized. Lloyd is also proud to note that many major stars got their start in a Troma film or worked with Troma. These celebrities include James Gunn, Eli Roth, Oliver Stone, Kevin Costner, Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert DeNiro.
Lloyd’s seven books are focused on how to effectively make movies as an independent filmmaker. His dedication to the craft has spawned a dedicated fan following who are proactive to keeping Troma around.
“They’ll invest in films knowing they’re going to lose money,” Lloyd declared via a recent phone interview. “Our fans are so loyal. It’s because of them that Troma NOW is such a success with over 800 films in the catalog. Amazon, Netflix, and other big companies typically screw over independent filmmakers—in fifty years, we’ve never screwed anybody over and I’m proud of that.”
Whilst synonymous with independent filmmaking, Troma has recently gotten some attention from big production houses, such as Warner Brothers, who have ambitions to remake some Troma classics—with big budgets—including “The Toxic Avenger.” Yet Troma still foots the bill for producing scripts that they deem to be especially worthwhile.
One of their latest endeavors is not a horror film at all, but a gross-out comedy with Shakespearean undertones that harpoons the modern-day climate of wokism and quick offense. #Shakespereshitstorm is a whirlwind of action in a crude, yet entirely entertaining, storyline that bears more than a passing resemblance to a fever dream. The movie—which was the first American movie to be filmed in Albania—starred Lloyd Kaufman himself who played the role of a mad scientist and the scientist’s greedy sister; watching Lloyd sashay around in a dress and a high-pitch voice is worth the price of admission.
“I like films that make fun of social and political realities,” Lloyd explained. “For instance, The Toxic Avenger was partly inspired by the screenwriter’s fears of pollution and global warming. SGT. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. was inspired by the hate and resentment that many Americans felt towards the Japanese as their economy was on the rise in the 1980s; the perception at that time was that Japan was takin jobs from Americans. Divide and Conquer is a feminist film. It should be noted that our films typically aren’t very scary—they are more comedic but with excellent props and special effects. We make things look good—or at least realistically gross—on a budget!”
Troma also assures screenwriters that their work will be accepted for production as intended and not widely altered or edited—although directors are trusted with artistic license.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously but we do take filmmaking seriously,” Lloyd explained. “We now host an annual Troma Dance Film Festival which is free and set up at a drive through. We have such a good time showing these independent films on the big screen—both premieres and even classics! It used to be in Utah but we now host it in Pennsylvania around the Poconos. It’s a good time.”
To learn more, visit the official Troma website.