The first time I met Lloyd Kaufman, it was in his Troma Tower on Ninth Avenue in New York City. It was before the premiere of my film PEP SQUAD at the Cannes Film Festival, where I would later get to know him better.
I first learned who Lloyd Kaufman was during the shooting of my first film PEP SQUAD. My CalArts mentor and confidant Eric Sherman introduced me to the world of Troma. Eric had been Lloyd’s college roommate at Yale, and spoke highly of him. When I first saw the brochure for Troma movies and merchandise, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I was getting my first taste of truly independent filmmaking, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Was there a market for movies like this? I had no idea how important and groundbreaking Lloyd’s empire was.
I agreed that Troma would announce my film at the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France in 1998. My team (well, my father, sister, and best friend) flew to NYC to seal the deal. We met at the Troma headquarters and I was overwhelmed. It was reminiscent of what I imagined the New York Times reporting room to be like. Desks of reporters lined wall to wall, and smoke rising to the ceilings while they banged on typewriters and answered rotary dial phones. I can’t recall what it was really like, but that’s my romantic memory.
Lloyd has a mammoth energy. It felt like I was meeting royalty. And indeed, Lloyd remains, a King among men. He sat behind his big leather desk. I imagined Madonna and other celebrities, sitting where I was, seeing the same thing. It was humbling. And scary! I would learn later that Madonna had, in fact, done just that, earlier in her career.
The deal was signed and stamped. Soon we were in the south of France. I joined Lloyd at the Carlton Hotel. It was a massive white cream-frosting of a place, with armed guards to keep the uninvited out. But we had official badges, so we were allowed inside the inner sanctum (lobby). And then up to the rooms where all the Industry (Miramax, etc) rented out make-shift offices while in town.
The next day I joined Lloyd on a panel with Roger Corman. E! Entertainment filmed it. It was awesome. Later I found out that my hometown hadn’t yet subscribed to E! so no one I knew saw me. O, the travesty.
The two weeks flew by with a snap. And then I was back home in Kansas and no idea what had happened or what was to happen next.
It came to me nearly half a decade later. Lloyd Kaufman was indeed a King among us. His empire and know-how became an inspiration to me. What he has done to shape the TRULY independent film industry is nothing more than an extraordinary accomplishment. And beyond. What I love most of all: he did it on his own terms. He followed his dreams, his plan, HIS inner spirit. And he will always remain one of the most important and influential filmmakers of all time.