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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 23: Everyone is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask)

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 23 of my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. This chapter shares a lesson about dealing with talent (i.e. employees) and their unique quirks, and recognizing that everyone is expendable… even you and me.

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, 17181920, 21 and 22. 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

NOTE: Earlier this year, and subsequent to the publishing of this book, the talented John Altamura passed away unexpectedly. John shared the role of The Toxic Avenger and is referenced in this chapter. His contributions to Troma and these films will never be forgotten, and my condolences go out to all of his family, friends, and fans. R.I.P. John.

Chapter 23: Everyone Is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask)

Dealing with “talent” is a special skill in and of itself. Like it or not, “talent” is special, and often for the best results, you need to treat them special. Fortunately, by the time I made it to Tromaville, I had a good sense of this, having produced the early cable TV show Celebrity when I worked at Satori. The hostess of that show was the great NY disc jockey Alison “ The Nightbird” Steele. When I worked with Alison, she was already a celebrity in her own right, one of the first female FM radio DJ’s to make it big on the prestigious NY City Classic Rock station, WNEW. For the show, we often had to show up at various hotels to interview famous actors and actresses in town to promote their latest movies. Everyone, from Jane Fonda to Robin Williams, to Christopher Reeve, and countless other A-list stars of the day.

Alison was a pro, and wonderful to work with, but she had one quirk. She was always late. Always. We were typically on a tight interview schedule as the stars were basically on a junket conducting back-to-back interviews all day long, so we needed to show up and be ready to go at our appointed slot. Difficult to do with Alison’s chronic tardiness. So, we began to adjust her call time to account for this. If our interview was scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. and she needed thirty minutes to get ready, we’d tell Alison that her call time was 8:00 a.m. Invariably she’d show up at 8:30 a.m., and we’d be on time for the 9:00 a.m. shoot. This worked like a charm until one day she actually showed up “on time” and saw that we were just sitting around doing nothing because we had plenty of time to set up. She figured out our game, and we could never play it again. Talent.

Back in Tromaville, we had our own set of talent issues, from on-set relationships gone awry, to drinking issues, and on and on. Often what was most challenging was what I’d call “prima donna syndrome”—when our stars became star struck with themselves. It turns out that actors and actresses don’t have to be paid huge sums to think and act like a star (or, more accurately, their warped personal vision of how a “real” star might behave). Even in the context of a low-budget action/horror film, the stars want to be treated as such. Those of us on the production side, if we wanted to keep the set moving and on schedule, often needed to swallow our pride, roll our eyes (when nobody was looking), and suck up to the whims of those with the most screen time. To a point.

And then there was Toxie.

The titular role in The Toxic Avenger is, of course, the Toxic Avenger himself, affectionately known as “Toxie.” Mind you that the actor (and, as you’ll soon see, actors) who portrayed Toxie on film all had one very crucial thing in common: they wore a freakin’ mask over their heads! The popular hideously formed creature of superhuman size and strength, the first superhero from New Jersey, the goofy guy who emerged from a vat of toxic chemicals, was always played by an actor wearing a full- head mask, not makeup. Other than the whites of their eyes and teeth, essentially there was no individually identifiable part of the actor’s face or features visible when they were in front of the camera as Toxie. Toxie was the star. The actor(s) in the costume and mask were, for all intents and purposes, anonymous. This came in handy in a number of ways.

First of all, when we decided to create a sequel to The Toxic Avenger, we didn’t have to worry about trying to dig up the dude who played Toxie in the original film. We could cast any muscular mensch we wanted and have them fill our hero’s goo-soled shoes.

Having Toxie’s presence dictated by the presence of virtually anyone wearing the mask had many other efficiencies. In particular, while the real Toxie was filming one scene, a second unit could be off shooting stunts or effects with Toxie at the same time. All we needed was to have duplicate masks and costumes, and the stunt teams and effects teams were ready to rock and roll, with one of their own dressed as Toxie. From a production perspective, it was super-efficient. From the point of view of the actor playing the primary Toxie, it was super annoying. In his mask-covered mind, he was the star. He should be the only one in front of the camera in his hideously deformed glory.

So, as we set out to make the sequel to The Toxic Avenger, we hired a well-muscled hunk to play the infamous lead role. I’ll call him John (mostly because his name was John, and because, smart as you are, I know you’ll just look at the publicly available film credits and figure it out!) John was indeed a great Toxie until he got a bit too full of himself. While he never went so far as to demand that there would be no brown M&M’s on set, he did start to make things difficult as his case of “prima donna syndrome” kicked into high gear. Eventually, Toxie John became his own worst enemy, and we mutually decided it was time for us to go our separate ways. Fortunately, seeing the proverbial writing on the wall, we had already been integrating Toxie’s backup, who I’ll call Ron (mostly because his name was Ron, and because, smart as you are, I know you’ll just look at the publicly available film credits and figure it out!) By the time John moved on, Ron was all set to be the primary Toxie.

So, if you watch carefully, in The Toxic Avenger Part II and III, you can spot the physical differences between Toxie John and Toxie Ron, in height and musculature, but Toxie is such a strong character that his heart and soul stands out and rings true, regardless of who the man is behind the mask, and the film plays on just fine.

Everyone is expendable.
Even me and you.
Don’t worry about it, but don’t forget it either.

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That’s Chapter 23  –  Do you agree? Is everyone on your team actually expendable (including you)? Stay tuned for Chapter 24: “Be Open to the Unexpected” which 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!

The book in previous posts:

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Mister Productivity Gets Some Productivity Tips from Making Movies

Mark Struczewski calls himself “Mister Productivity” and with good reason. He’s singularly focused on solving productivity problems. Through his website, speaking, coaching, and podcast he brings valuable productivity advice to thousands. With that in mind, when Mark invited me to be a guest on his show I focused on lessons I learned from making movies that have an emphasis on productivity. The truth is, even though my book is called Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER, a lot of the learnings I gained from filmmaking are indeed productivity related (and not just about marketing). Mark is a smart and passionate host, and he had some great questions as he had read my book in advance of our talk. To listen, click here or on the player embedded below. I hope you enjoy it and find some value in the productivity advice we discuss.

 

Chapter 19: Fix It, or Forget It… Fast!

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 19 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 having a plan B and making sure every day is moving your business agenda forward! 

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, 17 and 18. 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 19: Fix It, or Forget It… Fast

On a movie set, there is no shortage of things that can go wrong. Your camera truck can be stolen. Your location can be locked when you arrive with the owner completely denying they ever gave you permission to come and film there. Your lead actress can refuse to come out of the bathroom to film a scene or refuse to kiss the leading monster—er, man, despite the romantic scene that was in the script and agreed to when she was hired. Essential costumes and props disappear. Cars containing essential talent or equipment break down. It rains (it pours). Actors show up drunk. Actors show up without knowing their lines. Actors don’t show up. Assholes do show up. Equipment breaks. Crew members quit. Sound people forget to record. Camera people forget to load film. It rains (it pours). Teamsters protest and interfere. Stunts don’t work as planned. You run out of power. You run out of light. You run out of time. You run out of money. You run out screaming.

Shit happens.
Lots of shit.
Every day.
All the time.
It is fun, really.
That’s Hollywood (well, Tromaville).

But on a set, the clock is always ticking, and whether you are on a shoestring Indy budget or a gazillion-dollar studio budget, time is still money. There are pages to cover, and a schedule to follow. The shit may hit the fan, but the film still needs to end up in the can. So, when something does go wrong, and it will, you need to make a decision. You need to fix it, fast, or work around it, fast. Innovation and creativity will save the day more than money will, and that’s a solid lesson for any business.

Even if you have the money, replacing something that breaks can take time and delay production. What’s the backup plan? To successfully make a B-movie, you’d better always have a plan B (and frankly, the same applies even if you are attempting to make a blockbuster).

Do you have a true plan B for your business? When making a movie, learning to be prepared and expect the unexpected is essential (which actually makes the unexpected the expected).

Filming on a soundstage is expensive and outside the budget of most independent films. As a result, to get great on-screen production values at a reasonable cost, many Indy films are shot “on location,” leveraging the scenic beauty of the real world in lieu of the fabricated beauty and control of a costly studio set. But in the real world, you can’t control Mother Nature, and your location is always at risk of being shut down by bad weather. Having a plan B means that for every day of exterior filming, you had better have an alternate scene ready to be shot indoors should Mother Nature decide to fool you for a change. That means an alternative location, indoors and nearby, so you could quickly and efficiently save the day.

So, when we were filming The Toxic Avenger Part II (and Part III) in and around the lovely town of Peekskill, NY, we always had several indoor “sets” ready and waiting inside the abandoned Masonic temple that doubled as our local production office. While these makeshift sets were far from “studio” quality, they were good enough, and if Mother Nature decided to poop on our heads, without hesitation we knew exactly what to do, where to go, and how to make the day as productive as possible.

This is a lesson that is easy to forget in the nonmovie world because in most businesses there is a lot more flexibility on a day-to-day basis than there is on a movie set. You may be under pressure to meet a monthly or quarterly goal, but what about losing sunlight before all the necessary pages are shot in a location you absolutely, positively can never return to after the end of the day? Movies function day to day, and that fosters a discipline that would be beneficial to apply to any business. Every day on set must contribute to the end-goal of a finished film.

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Get Ready for a Super Time at Florida Supercon!

 

It’s Supercon time! On July 12-15, 2018 Supercon returns to the Broward County Convention Center, which is literally in my backyard, just a few minutes from my home. So how could I not take advantage of this great opportunity to promote my book to avid pop-culture fans!

I’ll be selling and signing books at Booth 735 all four days of the show. Also, on Saturday, July 14th at 1:00 pm I’ll be giving a presentation in Room 304 sharing some of the business and marketing lessons I learned working for Troma that have helped guide my career from B-movies to the C-suite!

During Jeff Sass’ 7-year tenure in Tromaville he worked on classics including TROMA’S WAR, TOXIC AVENGER II & III, CLASS OF NUKE’EM HIGH II & III, he co-wrote SGT. KABUKIMAN, NYPD and he was instrumental in the creation and launch of THE TOXIC CRUSADERS cartoon series and merchandise. In this entertaining and educational talk, Jeff shares the lessons he learned making Troma movies that have helped him throughout his career as a tech entrepreneur and CMO – lessons that you too can apply to your career. Fun Fact: When Jeff left Troma in 1994, they hired James Gunn to replace him…

(By, the way, I offer a customized version of this presentation as a free webinar for businesses that purchase 12 or more copies of the book  – contact me for more information).

If you are in South Florida and love movies, comics, cosplay and pop-culture you should definitely make your way to Supercon. It is an awesome event, with costumes, celebrities, tons of great products and merchandise, and great content sessions every day. Organizers Mike Broder and Sandy Martin and their team run an amazing show!

And if you do attend, please be sure to stop by Booth 735 and say hello!

 

 

Chapter 14: Strategic Partners – Burn Houses, Not Bridges

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 14 from my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. In this chapter, I talk about an early career lesson – “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” – and how it led to literally explosive results! 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 , 89101112 and 13. 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 14: Strategic Partners – Burn Houses, Not Bridges

Croton-on-Hudson is a lovely, quaint, and somewhat exclusive village overlooking the Hudson River in a ritzy part of Westchester County, about thirty-five minutes north of Manhattan. Lush greenery, winding roads, large picture-perfect homes, and a reasonable commute to the city make it a desirable and expensive area in which to live. Croton-on-Hudson is one of those dreamy communities that, as you drive through for the first time, your eyes and mind wander together as you imagine what it must be like to live in such an elite and peaceful hamlet. You pass the homes with tall trees and thick lawns, a luxury sedan and SUV or nice minivan parked in the driveway, and you imagine yourself in their shoes…and their clothes, and their homes and cars and country clubs for brunch on Sundays, wondering how your third Bloody Mary will impact your afternoon tennis game. Ah, Croton-on-Hudson…

So, I was a little intimidated when I entered the adorable Town Hall building for my scheduled meeting with the town supervisor to discuss my request, nay, a small favor. I was coming to ask for permission to blow up a small vacant home that was scheduled for demolition anyway. Yes, I literally asked if we could use real-live explosives and blow up a home nestled in a lovely little lakefront valley in the heart of the lovely village of Croton-on-Hudson, nestled above the lovely Hudson River.

This reminds me of one of the first business lessons I learned from my previous boss at Satori, Ernie Sauer: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Ernie said that to me in the context of me boldly asking him for a raise while dining together on my first-ever business trip abroad. I was a lowly PA (production assistant), earning $250 per week (take that, Ivy League education!) and less than a year into the job, but here we were, me, alone with the company CEO, so I went for it. And he went along, agreeing to my request, mostly because I had the gall (read “balls”) to ask. After all, as he proudly espoused, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

And in the realm of independent (read “low-or no-budget”) filmmaking, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” is a worthy mantra for the production. Especially when it comes to scouting for shooting locations. So I asked.

“You want to do what?” said the town supervisor, now paying very close attention.

“Blow up a house that is already scheduled for demolition.”

“Blow it up? With explosives?”

“Well, it would be hard to do so without explosives,” I smiled and delivered the piece de resistance. “It’s for a movie!”

It is truly amazing what you can get away with when you tell people “it’s for a movie.” Everyone wants to be part of making a movie and have their moment behind the scenes. Remember that church I mentioned, where we shot scenes of drugs, guns, and debauchery? Even a seasoned priest was in awe of the prospect of “lights, camera, action!” Dreams of Hollywood are deeply imprinted in the minds of most humans. Powerfully imprinted, so deeply that intelligent, sane, hardworking individuals can be mesmerized and bedazzled into confusing Tromaville for Hollywood and letting the likes of our literal motley crew and me wreak havoc on their homes and businesses, temporarily turning lives and livelihoods inside out, all in the name of “cinema!” And, in the case of Indy productions like ours, all for no compensation (other than the glory of the experience).

As the wide-eyed Croton-on-Hudson town supervisor pondered my polite pyrotechnic request, I figured I might as well go for broke.

“We’d also like your local fire department to be on hand to put out the raging inferno after the building goes boom. OK? And we have no budget for any of this (except, of course, for the explosives…we have a budget for that). So, what do you say?”

To break the awkward silence, I added, “And the fire department can use this as a great training experience—a controlled explosion for them to put out…a valuable opportunity for sure.”

And boom! That was the clincher that made our big boom possible. The town supervisor got it all approved. Of course, there were permits and insurance and other details to be worked out, but we came to them with the blessing of the N Y Governor’s Film Commission, who had supplied us with the list of “scheduled demolitions” that led us to Croton-on-Hudson in the first place.

Which begs me to mention the value of city and state film commissions. They are populated by hardworking and dedicated film-loving staff that are there to help you, struggling filmmaker, regardless of your pedigree or budget. All you have to do is ask. Long before Lloyd’s lovely and talented wife Pattie Pie (er, I mean Patricia) was appointed to head the NY State Governor’s Film Commission, the Troma Team was wise enough to leverage the free resources of the New York City, New York State, and New Jersey Film Commissions. Are there similar state or city-funded resources to assist you in your industry? Dig in. You might be surprised.

Back to our big blast in Croton-on-Hudson. It was, indeed, a blast. The weather was perfect. The fire department ready and eager to engage in their “training exercise,” and of course, our cast and crew were equally fired up to start production of The Toxic Avenger Part II with a bang!

Croton-on-Hudson got their building demolished as planned. Plus, their fire department had an exemplary training opportunity. And to top it all off, the Troma Team got a great location, and an even better explosion, all on film, and all for free.

The house in Croton-on-Hudson goes “boom” in Toxic Avenger II

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That’s Chapter 14  –  I hope you had as much of a “blast” reading it as I had living it. And remember, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get!”  Stay tuned for “Chapter 15: “If you Don’t Want to Swallow a Frog, Start with a Stunt!,” which explores the benefits of doing the hard stuff first.

 

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R.I.P. John Altamura… Tromaville Weeps for a Toxie

This week it was announced that actor John Altamura passed away of a heart attack at the young age of 52. While the Toxic Avenger was played by Mitch Cohen in the original The Toxic Avenger film, it was John who I first knew as Toxie, working closely with him on The Toxic Avenger II and III (which we shot at once and then edited into the two sequels).

As I write about in my book, in the end, Toxie was portrayed by both John and Ron Fazio in the final cuts of the films, but there is no question that John made a significant contribution to both films and that his version of Toxie will always be warmly and fondly remembered and admired. John’s portrayal of the Toxic Avenger brought both a strength and humility to the character that helped to make the lovable monster a hero for the ages…

Like John’s memory, the Toxic Avenger will live on, and everyone who ever dons the mutated mask and portrays Toxie in the future will surely be influenced and inspired in some way by the work John did before them.

My condolences to John’s family, friends and fans.

Chapter 10: Find Something to Believe In

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 10 from my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. In this chapter, I reveal my true feelings about Troma films, and one of the keys to success in any career. 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 , 8 and 9. 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 10: Find Something to Believe In

The common thread you will hear people say is that you should “pursue your passion” and find a job you are passionate about. The truth is, in my humble opinion, often the opposite. Most people do not find a job or career that exactly matches their deep inner passion. But that doesn’t mean that being passionate about what you do is not important. It is. But you may need to work a bit to find that passion.

If I am honest, despite the fact I worked for Troma for more than seven years and was intimately involved in the writing, producing, marketing, and sales of many of their signature films, I was never actually a hardcore fan of Troma movies. As a moviegoer, I tolerated them. As a creative, I got caught up in the muse of the moment and immersed myself in every production wholeheartedly. I was able to do this for two reasons.

One: I loved the act of making movies. The creative collaboration was infectious. The concentrated energy and intense focus on one common task was exhilarating. Making a movie, especially an independent film, where the lines of responsibility are perhaps more blurred than in a more formal production, is like going to summer camp (and is for around the same amount of time). For roughly eight weeks, you are practically living with a bunch of strangers with a common interest. Together you are in your own little world for this intense, but short, time period, more or less cut off from or at least not focused on, the rest of the world.

I loved summer camp. I loved making movies too.

The second reason I was a great citizen of Tromaville was that I came to truly appreciate our fans. While maybe these films were not necessarily my cup of tea, I could recognize that there were a lot of loyal tea drinkers out there who really, really loved and enjoyed what we were brewing. Troma fans are loyal and dedicated. They are free spirits, free thinkers (and, if they transitioned from fan to employee, mostly free workers). Regardless, their love and appreciation for our movies was, and is, real. The joy and satisfaction I saw in our fans made me proud to be in a position to help bring our films to them. The work we were doing, as campy and sometimes childish as it was, was anticipated and more importantly, appreciated by our fans.

So, I worked for our fans. I made silly movies I didn’t necessarily want to watch myself because I knew there were people out there who did want to watch. I became passionate about our films because I knew our fans were. My passion was real, and it fueled all the hard work I did to keep the Troma dream alive. I could get inside the heads of our fans, and from their perspective, I could see, enjoy, and contribute to the awesomeness that was, and is, Troma.

There’s a great lesson in this for anyone in business. There are going to be times in your career where you are doing something that is not so great, or that you are not particularly fond of. You still need to do it well, and to do it well you need to embrace it. You need to find something about it that you can love. Find some element of the work that you can be honestly and deeply passionate about. There is always something.

I found the fans. I didn’t have to be passionate about the movies themselves as I was passionate about delivering to the fans exactly what they wanted. I wanted to make great Troma movies—the best we could—to satisfy those fans, and I came to love doing so.

It’s like any good relationship. Eventually, you come to love the whole package, even if, in the beginning, it was just certain bits of him or her that you were attracted to.

Find something to believe in. It is the only way to succeed.

•••

That’s Chapter 10  –  Another one of my favorite lessons in the book: no matter what your job is, there is always something you can find to become genuinely passionate about – and that will make all the difference! Stay tuned for “Chapter 11: “Show Up!” which focuses on finding the true things that matter to move your business forward. What are the bare necessities to make your business succeed?

 

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Author Jeff Sass on The Chris Voss Show (video)

In yet another podcast appearance and another video podcast, it was a pleasure to talk Toxie with Chris Voss of The Chris Voss Show. Turns out Chris is a fan of The Toxic Avenger so our talk was very Tromatic. Enjoy!


 

 

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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.