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Chapter 24: Be Open to the Unexpected

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 24 of my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. This chapter shares the lesson that inspiration comes in many forms and often in unexpected shapes and sizes. You need to be ready to see it, and embrace it!

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 12345 and 67 ,8910111213141516, 171819202122 and 23. You can also see me read a few chapters live, along with Lloyd and Toxie, at Florida Supercon as well as a few chapters I read on Facebook Live. 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 24: Be Open to the Unexpected

You never know where inspiration will come from. The key is to be open to seeing it and acting upon it when it decides to burst in on you unexpectedly.

Back in the days when our cars were not actually computers on wheels, there was a fad when anyone with a child would stick a suction cupped diamond-shaped yellow sign to the window of their car that said “Baby on board,” the idea being that other drivers would be more careful driving around a car that was transporting a young, defenseless human. Parents loved it, and the signs became a literal sign of the times. You’d see them stuck inside vehicle windows everywhere. Whoever came up with those signs was making serious bank. And of course, the more popular they became, the riper they became for being copied and parodied. Soon, as an attempt to deter would-be robbers, some cars started posting the same yellow diamond sign that said “No radio on board.”

There’s a running visual joke throughout Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, where a parked car is broken into, and then we see it has one of the “No radio on board” signs, in this case presumably left by the lowlifes who just broke in and stole the car’s radio. Throughout the film, we revisit the car as more things are stolen, and more yellow suction cup signs are added to the window. Eventually, we see the car, up on blocks, stripped bare, with a “No tires on board” sign added to the crowded windows. Hahaha. Corny but timely (those yellow suction cup signs were really a thing).

Whether you thought the car gag was funny or not, there’s a story behind how it ended up in the script. Lloyd and I were writing the screenplay for Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD at his place on the Upper East Side. As we sat in the small room (the former closet that was now “the computer room” so we could type our script in bits and bytes), we were interrupted by the persistent shrill piercing sound of a car alarm. Any excuse to not write was welcome, so we stopped what we were doing (or not doing) and gathered by the second-story window.

There, on the street below us, we watched the dude who had just smashed the window of the car parked on the street in front of the Kaufmans’ humble abode. It was summer time, hot, and the window was already half-way open to welcome the occasional breeze. Instinctively we screamed out the window in unison, “Hey! Get away from that car!” Startled, the would-be car thief looked up at us and started to run. Without hesitation, Lloyd and I looked at each other, turned, and bounded down the stairs and out the front door onto the street. A quick glance at the smashed car window and requisite glass on the curb beside, and another glance down the street toward the corner where our culprit could be seen running from the scene.

Perhaps it was because we were in the midst of writing the story of a crime-fighting New York City cop who turns into a crime-fighting, kimono-wearing superhero, or perhaps because we were just a couple of nerdy idiots, but whatever reason we felt compelled to run down the block screaming “stop, thief!” Needless to say, the thief did not stop. The jaded New Yorkers around us looked at us as if we were indeed a couple of nerdy idiots. Huffing and puffing from our brief, unexpected bout of cardiovascular activity, we put our tails between our legs and dejectedly walked back to Lloyd’s. We were clearly not effective crime-fighters in real life. So we trudged back up the stairs to the computer closet and our screenplay in progress and memorialized the experience by writing in the aforementioned car gag.

Inspiration comes in many forms and often in unexpected shapes and sizes. You need to be ready to see it and embrace it (even if doing so makes you appear to be a nerdy idiot).

No tires on board! (Screen capture from Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD)

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That’s Chapter 24  –  Are you always ready for the unexpected? What random events have influenced the outcomes of your project? Stay tuned for Chapter 25: “Influencing the Influencers” which shares the lesson of being real, authentic and self-aware, and how those traits have helped Troma influence filmmakers and celebrities over the years, from Quentin Tarrantino to Peter Jackson, and countless others.

The book in previous posts:

Chapter 17: Always Salute the Schwag!

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 17 from my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. In this chapter, we take a look at the importance of always carrying… not weapon, but rather, marketing materials – SCHWAG! What do you think?

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 12345 and 67 ,89101112131415 and 16. You can also see me read a few chapters live, along with Lloyd and Toxie, at Florida Supercon as well as a few chapters I read on Facebook Live. 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 17: Always Salute the Schwag!

“I pledge allegiance to the schwag…of the United States of Tromaville.” As part of the Troma Team, I quickly learned the power of “schwag” and the importance of always “carrying.” In this instance carrying did not mean a concealed weapon, although one could argue that good schwag is an excellent sales and marketing weapon. In Tromaville carrying meant you were always equipped with a supply of stuff—stickers, flyers, T-shirts—schwag. Your briefcase was full of the stuff. If you owned a car, your trunk was full of the stuff. If you carried a purse or murse*, your purse or murse was full of the stuff. While representing the Troma Team, you never walked into a meeting empty-handed. You always had your schwag at the ready. Schwag sells.

There’s a reason printed paper flyers were called “sell sheets” in the movie business. They were also called “slicks,” perhaps because the slicker they were, the better they sold. For every movie in the Troma library, having a great key art image that became the basis of the poster, and then the smaller sell sheets was essential. As essential as having a good trailer. Arguably far more essential than having a good movie. Back in the day, especially in the realm of international film distribution, the sale (technically, the licensing) of a film for distribution to a small foreign market was often concluded based on the sell sheet and trailer alone, many times long before the film in question had actually been completed (or in some cases, even started). We were selling the dream. Selling the outcome. And schwag helped.

Like trusty Boy and Girl Scouts, always carrying schwag meant you were always prepared. You never knew when you’d have the opportunity to leave behind that flyer for Curse of the Cannibal Confederates or that gorgeous green “I love Toxie” sticker. And then there were the T-shirts. Especially the T-shirts. We would print bright-red (and sometimes yellow) “I made the Troma Team” T-shirts by the hundreds. They were inexpensive thin cotton tees with a big Troma logo on them, and people loved them. When it came to production time, our “I-Made-the-Troma-Team” tees were like a liquid currency. They were our beads, our wampum, our bitcoin, and often our savior. It is amazing what regular unassuming humans will do or give up in exchange for a free T-shirt.

When scouting for locations, popping open the car trunk and tossing a couple of T-shirts to the owner of the property you are begging to trample and defame was often the tipping point that sealed the deal. When casting dozens of background actors (we never had extras…always “background actors”) to fill a scene, hordes of fans would stand for long grueling days, all for a stale bagel at seven in the morning and a Troma T-shirt when they left at the end of the day, often past midnight.

When making a movie, especially a low-budget independent movie, there are 1,000 things that can go wrong at any moment. Giving someone a free T-shirt can solve 937 of them.

As proof that the Troma Team always carries (schwag) wherever they go, I will share a story that Hertz. Not Herz as in Michael Herz, Lloyd’s partner in cinematic crime and Troma co-founder, but rather Hertz as in the car rental company that doesn’t quite try as hard as Avis. Many years after I emigrated from Tromaville, I was in Los Angeles on business, and I rented a car there. At one point while navigating my way through the torturous traffic that is synonymous with driving in LA, I stopped short at a light, my unpracticed foot a bit heavy on the brakes of the unfamiliar vehicle. As I screeched to a sudden stop, a sudden mess of papers and folders slid out from under the driver’s seat. I looked down, and lo and behold, my feet were surrounded by Troma schwag—flyers, stickers, press kits, and the like. It was literally a blast from the past.

I laughed, and at the first opportunity, I called Lloyd asking him if he had recently been in LA. “I just got back last night,” he replied. “How did you know?”

“Did you rent a car there?” I queried.

“Of course, I did; it’s LA,” said Lloyd. (This was years ago, before the invasion of Uber).

“Well, I think I rented the same car you were driving. You left your schwag under the front seat!”

Yep. He did. Schwag rules.

*A “murse” is a man-purse, carried by a man, just as a “manzier” is a brazier worn by a man. Watch Seinfeld reruns for more details.

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Pop Goes the Culture show with Jeff Sass and Special Guest Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman

As part of the ongoing promotion of my book, I’ve been making a lot of appearances on various podcasts, which is always fun for me. Each show and the host(s) has its own unique point of view and approach, and that makes every interview take a different path and talk about the book (and other things) with a fresh perspective. Most of the interviews I’ve done have been audio only, but lately, I’ve done a few video interviews as well. This one, the YouTube show POP GOES THE CULTURE – TV, was especially fun for two reasons. One, the host and producer, David Levin, is an old friend who was actually there and a part of some of the experiences I write about in Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER.

David and I worked together at Satori Entertainment, and in particular, we worked very closely together on the talk show, CELEBRITY, with hostess Alison Steele. I talk a little about Satori in Chapter 1 of the book, and more about CELEBRITY and Alison in “Chapter 23: Everyone is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask).” After I joined Troma, I worked with David again on a number of Troma trailers, and on the Troma Informercial, THE TROMA SYSTEM, for Comedy Central (more on that in “Chapter 34: The Director’s Chair and the Tromamercial”) and there are trailers and clips from the Tromamercial in this show. The second reason this was particularly fun is that Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, called in and joined us for the first half. Although there were a few “technical difficulties” with Lloyd and his phone, the witty banter between us makes it a fun discussion. Well, it was fun for me, but you can decide for yourself. Watch me, Lloyd and David on this special “Ask Them Yourself” version of POP GOES THE CULTURE – TV.

 

 

 

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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!)