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Marketing Lessons From The Toxic Avenger – This Week’s Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Mitch Joel is not just a highly regarded author and marketing thought leader, nor is he just a long-established blogger and podcaster. He’s also not just a co-founder and president of a successful global digital agency, nor is he just a former rock and roll journalist. Mitch Joel, above all these things, is a mensch, in the truest sense of the word. For those of you perhaps not as familiar with the Yiddish term, a “mensch” is a person of integrity and honor – an all around great guy. That’s Mitch Joel, and I am fortunate to have had the pleasure of breaking bread (not bad) with him on more than one occasion. I am even more fortunate to be the guest on Episode #593 of his long-running and popular marketing podcast, Six Pixels of Separation.

It was great to talk with Mitch about my book, marketing, and even share some mutual love for the Mel Brooks comedy classic, Blazing Saddles… It is a fun, and hopefully informative and entertaining conversation. Click here or on the embed below to listen, and if you’re not already a follower of Mitch, please consider subscribing to the Six Pixels of Separation podcast.

If you enjoy listening to my conversation with Mitch, please consider reading my book!

 

 

 

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Chapter 4: Trailer Trash

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 4 from my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. If you haven’t done so already, you can read the Foreword by Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, and the Introduction to the book as well as Chapter 12 and 3. You can also see me read this chapter live, along with Lloyd and Toxie, at Florida Supercon. Stay tuned for additional chapters to be published here. If you like what you read and can’t wait for more, please don’t be shy. You can buy the book now on Amazon (and also please don’t be shy about sharing, and reviewing the book when you do read it.) Both Toxie and I greatly appreciate your support! – Jeff Sass

 

Chapter 4: Trailer Trash

Having huffed and puffed my way up to the fourth floor, I entered the editing lair. Here, there were a few seemingly ancient Moviola “flatbed” film editing consoles. Remember, this was more or less predigital, and still in the age of film. Editing involved literally cutting and splicing strips of film and magnetic sound tapes in an attempt to make something cohesive. A film editor works with prints of the raw footage that was shot during production. When the edited film is finalized and approved by the director, it gets sent to a “negative cutter”—someone skilled in the art of carefully and cleanly handling the camera negatives. The negative cutter conforms the original film negative to the approved edit, and that cut negative, when married to optical effects and a fully mixed soundtrack, becomes the master from which all the prints are made, that eventually end up in theaters. This was 1985. The first nonlinear video editing systems were just being demonstrated and were several years away from being put to any practical use by filmmakers. And, anyway, Troma was decidedly “old school” in those days.

As I took my tour with Lloyd, he showed me a work in progress, a new trailer for the intentionally gross, soon to become legendary, Troma epic, The Toxic Avenger. The film had enjoyed some early notoriety but had yet to find its niche in B-movie history as the so-called cult classic it remains today. I don’t think I had actually seen The Toxic Avenger at the time, but its reputation preceded it and I had a pretty good inkling as to what it was all about. My impression, from reviews and word of mouth, was that it was fairly gross and somewhat sophomoric, yet somehow charming and disarming because of an underlying sweetness and humor. Lloyd showed me the trailer in progress, which was fairly graphic and straightforward, and ended with a particularly dry and emotionless tagline, “A Different Kind of Hero!”

Lloyd asked me what I thought. I answered honestly. “Meh.” My understanding was that part of the movie’s appeal was that it had an element of comedy to it, despite the graphic, arguably tasteless violence. I felt the trailer, in the end, fell flat, largely because the tagline, “A Different Kind of Hero,” didn’t really convey how Toxie (or the movie for that matter) was indeed different. It was boring. It was plain.

“Well,” said Lloyd, “What tagline would you use instead?”

I thought about it a moment and asked a question. I had done my homework and read up on the film. I knew that much of it was filmed across the Hudson River from Manhattan and that the locale had been worked into the story as Toxie’s home. Like any good New Yorker, I also knew the various slurs and aspersions we’d lovingly cast at our Garden State neighbor. So, thinking fast I responded, “The Toxic Avenger is from Jersey City, right?”

“Uh, yeah,” said Lloyd.

“So,” I continued. “I’d use the tagline “The First Superhero…from New Jersey!’—something that is an immediate wink to the audience, letting them know that there’s a hint of comedy here too.”

Lloyd paused a moment in deep thought. Then he repeated my suggestion aloud, quietly, like a freshly assigned mantra. “The First Superhero from New Jersey…That’s great. Can we use it?”

“Sure,” I said.

The trailer was changed. The posters too. And like that Toxie became the first superhero from New Jersey.

And that was the first of the many things I would end up writing for Troma.

 

The lesson here, of course, and one I have used again and again since is to share your ideas. Don’t be afraid to give someone a good idea or help them without expecting anything from it. Holding back your ideas because they are precious or valuable or because you are afraid someone will steal them, is just a way to hold yourself back. This is especially true when you are trying to get a job or a new client. Give them a tangible taste of what you are really capable of. Give them a sampling of your valuable ideas that they can use and benefit from whether they hire you or not. More often than not, if your ideas are good, you will get hired or get the client. If you allow your best ideas to be turned into secrets, you may never get to see your ideas put to use.

There’s also a great lesson here from Lloyd’s behavior. He listened! Even though it was probably he who came up with the original tagline, “A Different Kind of Hero,” Lloyd was open to change and to new ideas, regardless of where they came from. Who was this Sass guy, anyway? He had just met me for the first time. I had no track record to speak of, and yet when Lloyd heard a good idea, a better choice, he was ready and willing to discard what he had already done and make a change that he perceived to be for the better. And it cost money to change the trailer and the posters and flyers. But it was the right move.

How open are you to accepting suggestions and new ideas?

•••

That’s Chapter 4 – Another short and sweet one (are you seeing a pattern here? This book is an easy, enjoyable read!) Stay tuned for “Chapter 5: Working FREE-lance” and the story of how Troma became my full-time employer… 

The book in previous posts:

Foreword, by Lloyd Kaufman
Introduction: Lights, Camera, Action!
Chapter 1: Welcome to Tromaville!
Chapter 2: The Troma Building
Chapter 3: Meet the Moguls

 

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John Oliver Tackles Nuclear Waste with The Toxic Avenger on HBO’s Last Week Tonight

My monster mentor is going mainstream! Not only is Toxie the star of movies, cartoons, and an off-broadway show, but lately The Toxic Avenger has been a darling of late-night talk show hosts looking to make a convenient comic reference to a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength. First, it was Seth Meyers comparing our illustrious President to our favorite monster hero. Now, HBO star and host of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver, featured excerpts from the trailer for the original Toxic Avenger movie as the lead-in to his extended report on “Nuclear Waste.” So, I am not the only one who has been influenced and inspired by the first superhero from New Jersey. You can watch John Oliver invoke The Toxic Avenger in the video below, and of course, you can read about the many inspired business and marketing lessons I learned from Toxie in my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER.


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Video Highlights from Book Promotion with the Troma Team at Florida Supercon

I had a blast reuniting with the Troma Team at Florida SuperCon to promote, sell and sign copies of my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. Every time I get together with Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, it is just like old times and we slip back into the rapid fire, Troma-esque, witty (if we do say so ourselves) banter that fueled our fun working relationship so many years ago. As much as it was fun to hang out with Lloyd and Toxie for a few days, the highlight of SuperCon was by far having the opportunity to talk about my book with true Troma fans – signing copies, posing for selfies, and even getting great feedback from folks who picked up a copy of the book on one day, and came back the next day to tell me how much they were enjoying reading it. Nothing could possibly be more rewarding for an author, so thanks to all of you who I was lucky enough to meet during Florida SuperCon. And if you missed it, Lloyd, Toxie and I hosted a live reading from the book during one of the SuperCon panel sessions. I was even awarded a long overdue “Troma Diploma” 23 years after my service. 🙂

I took a lot of fun pictures and at SuperCon and below is a short video of some of the highlights. Enjoy!

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Live Book Reading at Florida Supercon with Lloyd Kaufman and Toxie Himself!

At the recent FLORIDA SUPERCON, I had the chance to read a few chapters from my book accompanied by Troma co-founder Lloyd Kaufman, who wrote the Foreword for the book. Lloyd and I were joined by The Toxic Avenger himself. Needless to say, I was a little nervous to read from my book in front of the very monster – er, mentor, who inspired me to write it. Thankfully, the audience of Troma fans were very welcoming and it was a lot of fun to share a few chapters with them, along with some live commentary from Lloyd and Toxie. Below is a video of the session. Enjoy!

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See, Here’s the Thing: I was on “See, Here’s the Thing!”

 

My podcast tour to promote my book, “Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER” continues, and this latest trip to the podosphere was a blast. I had the pleasure of joining the dynamic duo, the podcasting purveyors of pop-culture, Kate, and Patrick, hosts of the high energy, fan-tastic “See, Here’s the Thing” podcast. We talk about my book, Game of Thrones, Kermit the Frog, the toughest Disney Princess, and much, much more.

I hope you enjoy listening, by clicking here or on the embed below.

 

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Florida Supercon, Here We Come! @Sass and @Troma (@LloydKaufman) United Again!

Greetings from Tromaville! It has been over 20 years since I was officially a member of the Troma Team, but since writing my book, “Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER,” I have been having a blast retelling my tales from Tromaville in interviews and on podcasts (and even on a few random street corners) to promote the book to anyone and everyone I can.

Later this week I’ll be rejoining the Troma Team at FLORIDA SUPERCON – the largest Comic Con in South Florida, where I’ll have a busy schedule signing copies of my book, hanging out with Lloyd, Toxie, Kabukiman and the Troma Team, and presenting my first live public book reading! If you are in South Florida I hope you can stop by and say hello. Besides my unknown self, there will be some amazing REAL celebrities at the Con, from your favorite movies, TV shows and comics including Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek, Dr. Who, The Walking Dead, The Karate Kid, plus world famous comic book artists, wrestlers, amazing CosPlay fans, and much, much more. I’ve been to FLORIDA SUPERCON before and it is an awesome event.

On Saturday, July 29th at 3:00 PM I’ll be reading from my book live in room 304, joined by Troma cofounder Lloyd Kaufman as we relive some of my adventures in Tromaville together in what I can guarantee will be a fun and funny session.

In addition, I’ll be signing copies of my book in the official CELEBRITY AUTOGRAPH AREA at the following times:

Thursday, July 27th:  1:30 pm
Friday, July 28th:  10:30 am
Saturday, July 29th:  10:30 am
Sunday, July 30th:  10:30 am

The rest of the time you’ll find me at the Troma Booth. If you’re at FLORIDA SUPERCON, you’ll be able to spot me, as I’ll be wearing this awesome T-shirt I had made just for SUPERCON…  🙂  (And no, I won’t be wearing the same smelly shirt four days in a row… I had a few of them made!)

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My Mentor was a Monster! (Video)

Here’s a short promotional video for the book:

In business, it is important to have a mentor… Watch the video (and please share!)

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Introduction: Lights, Camera, Action!


Greetings from Tromaville! Here is the Introduction to my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. If you haven’t done so already, you can read the Foreword by Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman. Stay tuned for additional chapters to be published here. If you like what you read and can’t wait for more, please don’t be shy. You can buy the book now on Amazon (and also please don’t be shy about sharing, and reviewing the book when you do read it.) Both Toxie and I greatly appreciate your support! – Jeff Sass

INTRODUCTION: Lights, Camera, Action!

There are a lot of similarities between making movies and starting companies. Film producers and directors are as much entrepreneurs as anyone who might create or aspire to create a Silicon Valley start-up. The purpose of this book is to draw valuable lessons in business and marketing from my experiences making movies—not in Hollywood, mind you, but rather in Tromaville. Since my filmmaking days, I’ve been a start-up cofounder, COO, CEO, and currently a CMO, and I don’t think I ever could have survived the C-suite if I hadn’t had the experience of making B-movies.

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Early in my career, I spent seven and a half years working for Troma, the low-budget film studio probably best known for the cult-classic action/horror film The Toxic Avenger. As I am sure you must know, The Toxic Avenger is the heartwarming story of Melvin Junko, a lowly mop boy who, teased and taunted, falls into a vat of radioactive waste and emerges as…the Toxic Avenger—the First Superhero from New Jersey!

As a movie, The Toxic Avenger was sloppy, gory, cheesy, tasteless, and perhaps even unsavory. But as a character, the Toxic Avenger (now affectionately known as “Toxie”) was remarkably endearing, especially for a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength. In his 1986 review of the film, Stephen Holden of the New York Times said The Toxic Avenger “may be trash, but it has a maniacally farcical sense of humor, and Tromaville’s evildoers are dispatched in ingenious ways.”

The oft-warped brainchild of two Yale graduates, Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, Troma has indeed been ingenious in creating a world outside the Hollywood norm, their own Tromaville, where the filmmakers are beholden to no force other than their own off-kilter creative muse. The proof of their ingenuity? Today Troma Entertainment still lives on, over forty years old and arguably the world’s oldest independent film studio. That monstrous creature Toxie? He’s gone on to survive three sequels and a Saturday-morning cartoon spin-off, along with the requisite comic books, toys, games, and apparel. A rumored “big studio” remake even threatened to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as Toxie.

The Troma Team is notorious for giving young, inexperienced aspiring filmmakers a chance to work, often way over their heads and always way under their expected minimum wage. But the experience, as they say, is priceless. It was for me. And as I hope this book will expose, my lessons from Tromaville extended far beyond my celluloid dreams. While many former Tromites went on to impressive (and more traditional) Hollywood careers (including the likes of actor Kevin Costner and director James Gunn), my own post-Tromatic career led me down the path of a marketer and tech entrepreneur. I think I am pretty good at what I do. I’ve had many great experiences in the business world since I emigrated from Tromaville in 1994. But if I am truly honest with myself, I must admit that I couldn’t have done it without Toxie.

Making movies is hard work, especially making movies on a shoestring budget. Actually, we couldn’t even afford shoestrings—we had Velcro budgets! But I learned a lot: how to mix theatrical blood, how to make a ripe cantaloupe substitute for a head being crushed…but making movies also taught me a lot about business and entrepreneurship.

In truth, a film production is like a start-up on steroids. You go from screenplay (business plan) to product completion in a matter of months. You have to hire, fire, build up, tear down, raise money, spend money, rally the troops, fight deadlines and external forces, and make constant compromises, all the while fighting to stay the course and make the best film (i.e., product) you can. Teamwork and camaraderie, on and off the set, make a big difference (culture), and in the end, success or failure comes from ultimately finding an audience (satisfied customers).

Nobody sets out to make a bad film, just like nobody starts a company with the intention of failing.

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That’s the book’s introduction. Hope you enjoyed it. Next, “Chapter 1: Welcome to Tromaville.”

 

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Talking Business, Marketing & Toxie on the #ChansLogic Podcast

Chandler Walker is a walking example of motivation. He runs the successful StoneAgeFuel School of Fitness in Reno Nevada, as well as the StoneAgeFuel Barbell Club and StoneAgeFuel Youth Weightlifting and Sports Performance. He is also the host of the ChansLogic Podcast, where Chandler talks about marketing, motivation, management and more.

I enjoyed chatting with Chandler about my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER, and how the lessons I learned making mixed up movies are applicable to all businesses. We also share some valuable tips on leadership, management, and culture. I think it was a good interview and hope you’ll check it out.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to #ChansLogic EP 20 – Jeffrey Sass and The Toxic Avenger