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Talking Toxie & More on the #BeardSpeaks Podcast (video/adult language)

Chuck Reeves (aka #BeastHost) is a pretty interesting dude. After serving 10 years in the US Navy (thank you for your service, Chuck!) he’s been an outspoken character as a rapper, radio DJ, MC of hundreds of live events, and now as host of the #BeardSpeaks YouTube show and podcast. Chuck is very familiar with Troma and The Toxic Avenger, and he actually read and enjoyed my book before we spoke, so this was a lively and entertaining conversation. Chuck is also a passionate marketer himself and we also dive into a bit about my role at .CLUB Domains and the importance of domain names to independent creators (about 32:33 into the interview).

You can watch the full interview on YouTube below, or you can listen to the audio version embedded below the video. Enjoy, and if you do, give a shout out to Chuck the BeastHost and #BeardSpeaks!

Watch now above. Listen now below!

Chapter 25: Influencing the Influencers

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 25 of my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. This chapter shares a lesson about self-awareness and authenticity, so get ready to get real! 

This Chapter also talks about the many filmmakers and celebrities who have been inspired and influenced by Troma.

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, 23 and 24. 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 25: INFLUENCING THE INFLUENCERS

One of the amazing things about Troma is the incredible impact Lloyd, Michael, and the Troma Team have had on today’s mainstream film industry. Because of the general lack of respect for Troma’s inimitable style of moviemaking, the deep influence it has had has gone largely unnoticed by the public at large. In fact, I should not say Troma’s “inimitable” style because indeed it has been imitated by Hollywood proper many, many times (see the original Robocop for one example). Yet more than the on-screen talent that has passed through Tromaville (the likes of Kevin Costner, Marisa Tomei, Vincent D’Onofrio, Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Bob Thornton, and many others) perhaps the greatest influence is the impact Troma has had on some of today’s most well-known and well-respected filmmakers.

As a young Tromite myself, I witnessed many of these soon-to-be– greats come by to visit Troma at our office or at an industry event to pay homage to Lloyd and Michael and catch a bit of the “Eau du Troma” in per-son. The Troma suite at the Carlton Hotel during the annual Cannes Film Festival or our hotel room office at the annual American Film Market in Los Angeles were both particularly popular hangouts for the soon-to-be- famous filmmakers.

Like the time a scruffy kid from New Zealand came by the Troma suite in Cannes. He professed his Troma fandom and hung out to talk 6with Lloyd about his film, which we had seen and admired, and which he said was influenced by his admiration for Troma. The film in question was aptly named Bad Taste (after all, it was inspired by Troma). Oh, and the scruffy filmmaker from New Zealand? His name was (and still is) Peter Jackson. Yes, that Peter “Lord of The Rings” Jackson. Others who would visit with us in Cannes in the early days of their budding careers included Quentin Tarantino, another loyal fan. And then there are filmmakers who were groomed in Tromaville.

After I left Tromaville in 1994, a young, educated lad was hired, ostensibly to replace me. His name was (and still is) James Gunn. James cowrote Tromeo and Juliet with Lloyd, and of course has gone on to become one of the greatest directors of our time, helming, among other films, the megasuccessful Marvel/Disney epic Guardians of the Galaxy. Other bigwigs who have collaborated with Troma include South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Before they created one of the most successful musicals in Broadway history, Book of Mormon, their early film Cannibal! The Musical was released by the Troma Team.

So what is it about Troma that so influences the influencers? I think it boils down to a culture, creativity, and freedom that many filmmakers and creatives find genuinely inspiring. And a great deal of credit goes to Lloyd and Michael, and especially Lloyd as the more visible face of Troma (if you don’t count Toxie’s hideously deformed face). To filmmaker-fans, Troma represents the embodiment of the independent auteur. Lloyd and Michael created a world for themselves where they are beholden to no one and can make any film, and any creative choices they want. It could be bizarre, it could be silly, it could be funny, it could be gory, it could be all of the above. Most of all, if they are willing to create it, it can be— without the interference and baggage that normally comes with making a movie.

Lloyd and Michael are a quirky pair. They met at Yale. Michael went on to NYU Law School. Lloyd studied Chinese in college and spoke fluent Mandarin decades before it became both a fashionable and profitable pursuit. Somehow, Lloyd, this educated and erudite, bow-tie-wearing, sometime socialite, Upper East Side son of a successful attorney had a predilection for creating goofy, often cheesy (dare I say schlocky) and often violent and bloody, yet somehow very human, films. And he convinced his equally smart and strongly business-minded Yale buddy to join him in a venture that became a forty-plus-year adventure. It’s like the very first time the Reese’s folks put chocolate and peanut butter together. Who knew? The quirky combo and quirkier tastes of Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz became an object of admiration to some, and even jealousy to others.

There are plenty of folks in Hollywood who made more money than Troma did. But there are few, if any, that have had a career with the real creative freedom Lloyd and Michael enjoy and the ability to say “no” to anything that did not suit their muse of the moment. They are also very transparent and very humble. While the Troma Team really does take the business of making movies seriously, they never take themselves too seriously. They are fully aware that almost everything they do is done with at least somebody’s ripped-out tongue held firmly in cheek. That self-deprecating and honest approach has proven to be very appealing. And not just to the filmmaking community and fans, but also to the media.

Given the genre of gory, silly, low-budget and often low-brow films Troma is known for, the studio gets widespread and kind treatment from the press and media. I always attributed this to being authentic and realistic, traits the media greatly appreciated in an industry where far too many believed that their proverbial “shit” did not stink. Troma, on the other hand, had no qualms about their scent, because their arguably stinky films made sense to their fans, and made enough cents to keep the dream alive for over forty years.

The Lesson: Be real. Be authentic. Take your business seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Be self-aware about your business, and its role in your industry and the world. Some folks are out there saving lives and curing cancer. Most of us are not, so be true to the true value of your products and services. That’s not to diminish them, but rather to present them in the right light and context.

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That’s Chapter 25  –  Are you self-aware about the role your business plays in the Universe? Or are you guilty of taking yourself too seriously when it comes to presenting your business? Something to think about… Stay tuned for Chapter 26: “Yes, We Cannes!” which talks about the residual value of trade shows and conferences, the Cannes Film Festival and Market, and the only time I ever was in a fist fight (thanks to Toxie!)

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 4: Trailer Trash
Chapters 5 and 6: Working FREE-lance & Becoming a Full-time Tromite
Chapter 7: Branding Begins on the Ground Floor
Chapter 8: The Power of We
Chapter 9: Old Yeller (and Be Your Brand)
Chapter 10: Find Something to Believe In
Chapter 11: Show Up!
Chapter 12: Sink or Swim!
Chapter 13: Embrace your Vision and Culture!
Chapter 14: Strategic Partners – Burn Houses, Not Bridges
Chapter 15: If You Don’t Want to Swallow a Frog, Start with a Stunt
Chapter 16: Repurpose, On Purpose!
Chapter 17: Always Salute the Schwag!
Chapter 18: Playing by the Rules
Chapter 19: Fix it, or Forget it… Fast!
Chapter 20: This Means WAR!
Chapter 21: Delegate or Die!
Chapter 22: Location, Location, Location
Chapter 23: Everyone is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask!)
Chapter 24: Be Open to the Unexpected

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Legendary Indy Studio Troma Joins Hollywood Studio Legendary for Toxic Avenger Reboot

Still Toxic After All These Years!

My monster mentor The Toxic Avenger (aka Toxie) is in the news again as word spreads through the media touting a brand new Hollywood remake. Yes, the legendary independent studio Troma is teaming up with the Hollywood studio Legendary to bring Toxie back to the silver screen!

This is not the first time Hollywood has threatened to embrace Tromaville and welcome Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (and their hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength) to cross over to the dark side and “go mainstream.” Back toward the end of my stint in Tromaville, riding on the grossly green backs of The Toxic Crusaders cartoon series (of which I was a co-creator), we had a deal with New Line Cinema to produce a big budget theatrical “Toxie” flick. But alas that flick flickered away and never came to be. Sad.

In more recent years, there have been rumors of a Toxic Avenger remake to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as Toxie. It looks like Arnold won’t be back, but at least now The Toxic Avenger will!

As someone who lived intimately with Toxie for more than seven years, through two sequels and a cartoon series spinoff, I can personally vouch for the lovability and durability of The First Superhero from New Jersey. Like Troma itself, this new take on The Toxic Avenger is destined to be Legendary!

I couldn’t be more happy for Lloyd, Michael, and the Troma Team. After all, “Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER!”

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 22: Location, Location, Location

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 22 of my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER. This chapter explores some of the negotiation skills learned from scouting film locations and the importance of finding and leveraging your team’s hidden passions and talents.

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 and 21. 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 22: Location, Location, Location

War is hell. And the hell of Troma’s War, according to the script, begins with a horrific, fiery plane crash onto a deserted tropical island. So, all we needed to recreate such a scene was a beautiful, desolate beach, with no hint of civilization. Oh, and of course we would need to “dress” such a pristine and lovely beach with the smoldering remains of a commercial passenger aircraft, post-crash. Easy, right? As it turned out, thanks to the terrific support of the NY State Governor’s Film Commission (again, many years before Lloyd’s wife Pat would be appointed to head said commission), we were told about a little-known property of the state, on the north shore of Long Island, Caumsett State Park.

Once owned by Marshall Field III and purchased by the State of New York in 1961, the beach at the park was situated on a peninsula, Lloyd Neck (coincidence? I think not) that jutted out into the Long Island sound in such a way that you could create a view where no buildings or lights were visible. Just unobstructed water and hilly beach, with trees along the edges of the sand. It was perfect, but it was complicated. There was nothing in the area where we needed to film. No buildings, no structures, no electricity or bathrooms or phones. At least three miles from anything even resembling civilization. Visually perfect and a logistic nightmare. Not only would we have to get cast, crew, equipment, and props there (and back) but we had night filming on the schedule and a wide range of required environmental rules and guidelines we’d have to adhere to in order to keep the location in the same condition as we found it. Still, the location was perfect (and, as a state-owned property, the price was right…zippo, as long as we arranged for the proper permits).

Troma’s War was essentially shot on two primary locations: Caumsett State Park on Long Island and Camp Smith in Peekskill, NY. Both locations were handed to us courtesy of the NY State Governor’s Film Commission, an invaluable resource for an independent production such as ours. Our set department managed to get hold of airplane doors and pieces of fuselage and other airplane parts such that we truly made the once-pristine beach look like an actual crash site. The natural beauty of the location created production values that far exceeded our budget and made Troma’s War one of the best-looking Troma films to date when it was released. The woods on the edges of the beach blended well with the woods of Camp Smith creating a realistic and believable deserted island setting as, in the finished film, we seamlessly move back and forth between the two distinct (and distinctly different) locales. Essentially, everything on the beach was shot at Caumsett State Park, and everything in the woods was shot at Camp Smith. When actors are seen stepping into the woods from the beach, they were essentially then teleporting themselves to the woods of Camp Smith. Ahh, the magic of the cinema…

As one can glean from the title, Troma’s War involved lots of battles (and I am not just referring to the arguments between Lloyd, Michael, and myself…one of which drove me to quit. But I returned, and I digress). The script called for lots of action, guns, and explosions. Pyrotechnics was practically a supporting actor based on the number of scenes that called for explosions and blasts. Fortunately, we had the services of the soft-spoken Will Caban, aptly nicknamed “Will Kaboom,” to handle the more explosive pages of the script. Will was quiet, calm, and completely dedicated to his craft of blowing things to kingdom come. He drove around in a nondescript, beat-up brown panel van loaded with mortars and mounds of flammable and explosive materials. I could not imagine today how he could do what he did then, but I always admired him as a man who truly had a blast at work.

The weapons of War were another challenge as the script called for a very well-armed militia of terrorist baddies and near-constant gunfights. Renting realistic stage guns, including heavy arms and automatic weapons, along with the requisite rounds of noisy, flash-firing “blanks,” can be a costly and complicated proposition. As much as the actual rental of such equipment was a big deal, as weapons were needed just about every day, we’d need a near full-time weapons wrangler to manage, secure, and clean all the weapons, as well as train our actors and actresses in the proper and safe use of the arsenal. As it turned out, the owner of NY’s best modern theatrical gun collection was also an accomplished actor in his own right, and so not only did we rent his guns, buy his ammunition, and hire him as their daily wrangler but we also cast Rick Washburn in one of the lead roles. If he had to be on the set every day to handle the weapons anyway, we might as well use him in front of the camera too. And we did.

Lesson learned: Find out the hidden talents of your teammates, and explore how they can use their passions to further your cause. Just as we were able to leverage Rick Washburn, the actor, to maximize his contribution as more than just the weapons guy, what are the talents of your team that can be utilized? Do you have budding photographers and videographers among your midst? Wouldn’t they love to show off their talents to benefit the company rather than have you hire some outsider to do something they are already passionate about? Your best contractors and evangelists could already be in your midst. Give them a chance to shine in an area they weren’t necessarily hired for. What do you think?

With the near-daily requirement of shooting off weapons and blowing stuff up, we needed a location that would allow such things. Not every neighborhood would welcome such noisy violence as easily as Croton-on- Hudson took to our explosive home demolition. And besides, the blast we had at Croton-on-Hudson was a year or so after Troma’s War was over. But Camp Smith was perfect! As a military training facility, the sound of artillery fire and explosions were de rigueur. They even had their own on-site fire department to handle the aftermath of Mr. Caban’s kabooms. The Colonel and his staff could not have been more accommodating, and the woods and grounds of Camp Smith became our home away from home for the majority of the filming of Troma’s War.

In truth, the two locations, Caumsett State Park and Camp Smith, played a substantial role in the success of the film (and by Troma standards, the war was won, and Troma’s War was a success). It was also the early and growing days of home video, and Troma’s War was first in a series of well-publicized Troma VHS releases by Media Home Entertainment, one of the leaders in the then-nascent home-video industry.

Scouting for and securing filming locations was by far one of my favorite aspects of making movies, and the skills and experiences handling such negotiations are some of the most valuable I’ve carried forward throughout my career. Relationships, sincerity, authenticity, and directness were the keys to successfully securing locations like Camp Smith and Caumsett State Park. We were upfront about our needs and the content we were creating, and we were upfront about our respect for the process and responsibility to care for the people and property under our watch (remember the “Rules of Production”).

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That’s Chapter 22  –  What do you think? Have you given your team the chance to use their hidden talents in addition to their core responsibilities? Has it had an impact? Stay tuned for Chapter 23: “Everyone is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask)” which shares a lesson about dealing with talent (i.e. employees) and their unique quirks, and recognizing that everyone is expendable… even y0u and me.

The book in previous posts:

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Indie Film Marketing, and How Things Have Changed… (video) #GetIndieWise

I was on a panel about Indie Film Marketing at the Grand Indiewise Convention in Hollywood (Florida, that is…). I had the chance to share some of my experiences in the “old days” and how things have changed today with the proliferation of Social Media and new distribution channels. As the saying goes, “everything old is new again,” and I think that many of the marketing angles we applied “back in the day” can be applied to the Indie Film world today (but with a few new twists), and I share some of those ideas and tips in the video below. NOTE: This is an edited version of the panel, of mostly my bits, as I just had my phone pointed at me…  🙂

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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 20: This Means WAR!

Greetings from Tromaville! Here is Chapter 20 of 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 breaking down your objectives into manageable tasks… similar to the strategies of war (and Troma’s WAR).…

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, 18, and 19. 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 20: This Means WAR!

They say “business is war.” I am not sure who “they” are, but I can assure you that when I began getting involved in Troma’s business, my first shot at working on a movie was indeed war. Literally. The very first Troma film I had the opportunity to work on was Troma’s War. When I enlisted, my job at Troma was to sell movies, but I dreamed of making them. When plans began for Troma’s War, my number came up, and I was drafted to “temporarily” move over from sales to production. My dream had come true, and like many dreams we have, be careful what you wish for—you might get it.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure and delight of seeing Troma’s War, it is the story of a plane crash on a mysterious island long before the TV series Lost laid claim to similar territory. Rather than the long-unfulfilled, and unexplained, “monsters” of the TV series, the lost crash survivors in Troma’s War find themselves on an island run by bizarre and deadly terrorists. According to Variety, Troma’s War “makes Rambo III look like Lassie Come Home!” It was quite an entrée into filmmaking for me.

Yes, I wanted to make movies. No, I had no freakin’ idea what that meant, especially in Tromaville. One moment I was trying to sell Rabid Grannies to a home-video distributor in Japan, and the next moment I was on my way to Camp Smith, training ground for the NY Army National Guard, outside Peekskill, NY, to meet with Colonel Garvey to see if I could convince him to let us use their grounds to film and blow shit up (and let our kooky cast and crew live in their barracks for weeks at a time). The irony of having the cast and crew of Troma’s War living and filming on a military base was not lost on any of us.

But let’s start by looking at how the War began.

Once there’s a script and a budget and funds to cover said budget (or enough of the promise of funds, through pre-sales and other means, to risk taking the risk of pulling the trigger on the production), it is time to start staffing up and commencing “preproduction.” Preproduction is the planning stage for a movie production when the script is broken down into manageable daily chunks, and the schedule is set. The locations are scouted and finalized, cast and crew are hired, and costumes and props are decided upon and created. Basically, everything and anything you can do in advance of actual filming so that you are ready to go like a well-oiled machine when that first day of “Principal Photography” rolls around.

Sounds great, right? Of course, it is never as smooth as the previous few sentences make it sound, and come day one of filming that ideal well- oiled machine may well spit and sputter like an aged clunker only partially restored. Still, it can and must move forward. The proverbial clock is ticking, and, like the car you drive around in the midst of rebuilding it, you can keep working on the film machine while it is running. Not ideal, but not unusual, especially for a low-budget Indy production, where location and talent availability might dictate a hard start date. Ready or not, here we come!

As we started hiring (and given the lack of actual monetary compensation offered to many early staffers I am using the term “hiring” lightly), we needed to set up a temporary production office to act as home base, ideally somewhere nearby (but definitely not in) the Troma Building. We found a great deal on a short-term lease on a dinky and dirty four-story, walk-up brownstone on West Forty-Eighth Street, a short walk from Tromaville central. I remember thinking it was an odd building with an odd smell, and odd-looking “cubicles,” each curtained off and just wide enough for a small mattress to fit inside. Oh, and did I mention that there was a red light by the front door stoop?

Admittedly, I was quite naive in those days, and it took me a few late nights in the production office (where some of our young, more adventurous Troma Team members had essentially moved in) before I realized why this building was “available” so inexpensively. I figured it out when every night an odd “gentleman” or two would ring the doorbell only to be awkwardly surprised when one of our heavily pierced and tattooed young folks of indiscriminate gender would answer the door. The “gentlemen” would invariably look past the welcoming Tromite as if they were hoping to see a familiar face inside, and then, clearly disappointed that they did not, would turn and hurriedly leave, mumbling obscenities under their alcohol-laced breath. Yep, our production office had previously been an operating brothel. Oh, brothel, er, oh brother! When the realization dawned on me, I felt truly blessed that I had a home to retreat to each night and was not one of the “adventurous ones” camping out on the “great mattresses” the previous tenants had left behind.

Despite its lewd history, our production office for Troma’s War served its purpose, and our preproduction was off and running, and I was learning on the fly. I went to battle in Troma’s War, and it was my deployment to film school…on steroids. But the lessons I learned in preparation, scheduling, and negotiation, were lessons that have proven to be valuable in every career move I’ve made since. The discipline and planning of pre-production is something that every product launch could benefit from. Few businesses understand their processes as well as a film production, where literally every page of the script (think product roadmap) is broken down into manageable (well, hopefully manageable) chunks, to be executed according to a strict schedule, literally laid out on a schedule board for all to see. Imagine how much more efficient your business would be if it were broken down with the detail and depth even a lowly Troma production had. Every day was fully accounted for, with a breakdown of every needed element—location, actors, costumes, set pieces, props, equipment, crew, a plan to get us all there, a plan to shoot something else should Mother Nature, or other forces, interfere.

Of course, things were fluid and could and would change along the way, but at the onset, we had a plan that, in theory, would successfully get us from point A to point B. From having nothing to having all the necessary footage in the can to piece together the film we intended to make.

Do you have a script breakdown for your business?

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That’s Chapter 20  –  Do you breakdown your objectives as if you are going to WAR? Should you? Stay tuned for Chapter 21: “Delegate or Die!” which explores the importance of letting go and surrounding yourself with smarter, better people, and letting them do the things they are good at (while you do the things you are best suited for!)… 

The book in previous posts:

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My Weekend as a CON Man! (Supercon, that is…)

A great time was had by all at Florida Supercon (as mentioned before). It was great to talk to people about my book, including some who had already read it and came by the booth to let me know. It was especially fun to chat with folks who had watched and loved THE TOXIC CRUSADERS and various Troma movies I had been involved in the making of. Good times, then and now.

Aside from enjoying my time hawking my book, one of the highlights of my long weekend at Supercon was the chance to be reunited with William Shatner. Almost 23 years ago I had the pleasure of working very closely with him on the release of his TekWar computer game. At the time I was VP marketing at IntraCorp Entertainment, the developer and publisher of the game, and I personally accompanied Bill-er, Mr. Shatner, on both East and West Coast press tours for the launch of the game. They were great times, and thanks to the Queen of Supercon, Sandy Martin, I was able to say hello and spend a few minutes catching up with Shatner (and yes, I gave him a copy of my book). 🙂

I had a great weekend being a “CON” man at Florida Supercon. Here’s a short video with a few more highlights. Enjoy!


 

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.