5- Troma is the oldest independent film studio in existence
Kaufman and partner Michael Herz have taken their low-budget film company, Troma, and turned it into the longest-running independent film studio in the history of cinema. The site (troma.com) advertises, “Almost 40 years of reel independence,” and that is no understatement (though 38 years is more on the money).
Think about it: while film is, admittedly, a relatively new medium in comparison to other art forms, Troma has scraped and crawled its way to the top of the independent heap for over 30 years. This is in the face of the corporate monopolization of nationwide theater chains (which cut Troma out of distribution in the ’90s), the slow death of 35mm (which Kaufman himself held onto through 2010 despite high production costs), the multitude of homepermutations that have come and gone (The Toxic Avenger is available on every format from laserdisc to Blu-ray to UMD), and the rise of the Internet and new media.
Under Kaufman and Herz’ direction, Troma has remained a typically cutting-edge company all while spending as little money as possible. Yes, this is at the willing expense of many employees who work not for fortune or fame, but because they love Troma movies. In many ways, Troma is more of a troupe than a company, fueled by insane passion to create something pure, gross, funny, and shocking that would never exist in the mainstream studio system.
Their current production, Return To Nuke ‘Em High (the third sequel to Class of Nuke ‘Em High), is currently underway and seems to be made up exclusively of a cast and crew of volunteers. Seriously, a casting call on the site reads “Long hours, low/no pay, great experience” while stating “NUDITY REQUIRED” for every lead role in the film. Who else would be willing to audition for no pay, long hours, and possible humiliation at the hands of Kaufman but a Troma fanatic?
Might I reiterate, too, that he’s been doing this for nearly 40 years? This alone is a testament to Kaufman’s achievements in film. Of the cult filmmakers going today, he’s one of the few who actually seems to be leading a legitimate cult, brainwashing, nay, inspiring fans to make their own damn movies and, of course, help make Troma’s as well. Keep in mind this is on top of buying DVDs, merchandise, and other paraphernalia.
Still, no matter how long I work on this feature, I can’t help but think that I’m only scratching the surface of the importance of Kaufman and Troma. For the real skinny on Troma I highly recommend both books Make Your Own Damn Movie (by Kaufman, Trent Haaga and Adam Jahnke) and All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger (by Kaufman and James Gunn). Head over to their official website to pick them up, along with DVDs and Blu-rays of their entire catalogue.