Posts

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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.

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

Chapters 5 & 6: Working FREE-Lance & Becoming a Full-time Tromite

Greetings from Tromaville! Here are Chapters 5 & 6 from my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. Since they are short and related, I am including both chapters here. 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 123, and 4. 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 5: Working FREE-Lance

Lloyd, Michael, and I hit it off quite well, and I was immediately fond of them and enamored by the crazy, self-contained, and self-controlled world they had created for themselves in that messy building on Ninth Avenue. But despite our good connection, they had absolutely zero interest in doing any business with Satori. Troma was, and is, fiercely independent, and if anyone were going to distribute their movies to pay TV and beyond, it would be them (or someone willing to pay an exorbitant fee in the form of an offer they could not refuse.) So we parted ways as friends.

Until, some six months later, when I decided to leave my job at Satori to become a screenwriter.

I had been with Satori for five and a half years and at that point felt I had gone as far as I could within the organization in its current structure. It had been a great run for me, and I had gained incredible experiences there, producing the early Cable TV show, Celebrity with hostess Alison Steele, traveling the world to film festivals, and much, much more. But my personal creative itch was screaming to be scratched. I wanted to be a screenwriter and make movies. While Satori gave me many opportunities to be creative, it was clear the company was on a path focused more on distribution than production, and I wanted to make stuff.

So I struck out on my own, with the initial goal of writing (and hopefully selling) original screenplays. I got to work on my very first screenplay, Wunderkind, and upon completion, I sent it over to Lloyd and asked him to read it. While a comedy, Wunderkind wasn’t a Troma-style film, but I was hoping to get feedback from someone who actually made movies.

Lloyd was kind enough to read my script, and he and Michael invited me to visit them again in Tromaville to see what I was up to. I once again found myself sitting in the kooky chasm between the desks of Messrs. Kaufman and Herz. I was young and green and passionately told them how “I wanted to write and make movies.” They said that based on Wunderkind they thought I could write and if I wanted to, I could write a screenplay for them. They had an idea for a story.

They offered to pay a little something if I was able to turn their story idea into a full screenplay. My recollection was that it was around $1,200, payable when an acceptable script was delivered. I probably would have done it for free, but it was even more exciting to have a “paid” writing assignment. I was briefed on their story idea, took notes and their treatment, and got to work on it.

During the eighteen months after leaving Satori, I wrote three full screenplays (Wunderkind, Deep Cover, and the Troma Project). I also formed a production company with Academy Award-winning animator Jimmy Picker and another partner to write and produce a clay-animated and live-action special, My Friend Liberty, which aired on CBS in the summer of 1986 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. Troma paid me my small fee, I made a modest fee from My Friend Liberty, and one of my screenplays, Deep Cover, was optioned by a Hollywood producer. I also got married, and we eventually became pregnant.

I thought My Friend Liberty would immediately lead to tons of work for our burgeoning production company and that I was on my way. But I was way off in my naive enthusiasm. More production work was not forthcoming, and the dwindling funds and insecurities of the freelance life were not conducive to starting a family, not to mention supporting one. I needed a job. A real job. I settled for working for Troma.

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Chapter 6: Becoming a Full-time Tromite

Back at the Troma Building, I told Lloyd and Michael that I was ready for full-time employment. I wanted to make movies. They thought that was nice. But, they weren’t in production on anything at the moment, and besides, they didn’t really pay much to the folks they hired for production work since there were so many willing and eager to work for literal peanuts (and a cold beverage to wash the nuts down with) just to gain some hands-on experience on a real film crew. If I wanted a working wage, I’d need to do something more important than making the movies, I’d have to sell them.

Given my background in acquisitions and distribution over at Satori, they thought I’d be the perfect guy to start moving Troma into the blooming home-video and pay-TV markets. It wasn’t much of a salary, but it was a real job. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was a step closer to making movies, and I figured (correctly, as it turned out) that once they were actually in production again, I’d find a way to get more intimately involved in that process, along with my sales responsibilities.

We came to an agreement and shook hands. And Lloyd walked me out into the main office, swiped a mess of papers off the corner of a desk where there was a phone, and pulled up an orphaned chair. “Here you go, Sass,” as he pointed to the workspace he just created. “Welcome to Tromaville!”

And so it began.

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That’s Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 – Two more short and sweet ones (are you seeing a pattern here? This book is an easy, enjoyable read!) Stay tuned for “Chapter 7: Branding Begins on the Ground Floor” where I share insights as to how Troma built a unique brand that has lasted more than forty years… 

 

 

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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?

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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

 

Chapter 3: Meet the Moguls

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 3 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 1 and 2. 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 3: Meet the Moguls

There were three stories above the street-level storefront and countless stories within those three stories. On the first floor (actually the second floor of the building, but the first floor of the Troma offices), after climbing the narrow stairs, one entered the main office landing. To use the word “reception” area would be disingenuous, as visitors were not received as much as they were ignored, and once noticed, most likely put to work.

Two uncomfortable and mismatched office chairs were against the wall to your left. Before you was a beat-up desk, most likely occupied by a heavily tattooed and pierced young person of indiscriminate gender who had been “working” for Troma anywhere from two hours to two days. If they had survived for longer than two days, they would no longer be assigned to the front desk but would probably have been reassigned to head up theatrical sales, or edit trailers on one of the flatbeds on the fourth floor, or given some other critically important task they were grossly ill prepared and underqualified for.

Eventually, some screaming and yelling would emanate from behind the smoke-glass walls of the office diagonally opposite the “reception” desk. The yelling was often followed by the slamming of phone receivers (the old, heavy plastic kind, with cords and such) and perhaps the sound of books, magazines, and film cans being tossed across the room and into the walls. If you were lucky, the screaming and yelling would get the attention of the heavily tattooed and pierced young person of indiscriminate gender who would finally notice your presence. “Oh,” he/she/ it would say. “May I help you?”

“I am here to see Lloyd and Michael.”

And before he/she/it could respond further, Lloyd himself would come bursting out of the office, screaming like a banshee, “What is it? Asshole time?” Blasting past you as if you were the invisible man himself, Lloyd would light into the reception person as a lion attacks its prey, tearing them apart, psychological limb by psychological limb, until they either quit, broke down in tears, or simply accepted their fate and moved on to the next outrageous task Lloyd would assign to them.

And then his attention would drift to his unannounced guest, and zap! Kaufman transforms into the charming, almost delightful, intelligent, and affable Yale graduate (albeit a slightly scruffy one) you may have imagined.

“Come in, come in.”

Their office was a cluttered and messy room, large enough for two desks facing each other, with a sizable chasm between, Michael to the left and Lloyd to the right. Set up for an intentional daily literal face-off, staring at each other with no privacy. By design, they could overhear each other’s every phone call, and chime in from across the room. By design, they could argue over the smallest minutiae and yell and scream at each other with freedom and abandon whenever their muse manifest itself. It was manufactured mayhem. And, for them, it worked.

I sat in the aisle between them, shifting back and forth to face the speaker of the moment. It was funny. It was fun. We sort of all got along. I explained about Satori and asked about their video and TV syndication plans. They ignored me and asked if I’d like the tour of the Troma Building. Of course, I would. And up the stairs we went, starting at the top—the editing rooms.

The fourth floor of the Troma Building was arguably where the magic happened.

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That’s Chapter 3 – Another short and sweet one. Stay tuned for “Chapter 4: Trailer Trash” and the story of how I came up with the now classic tag-line, “The First Superhero from New Jersey.”

The book in previous posts:

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

 


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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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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!)