Now, let’s go make some art

By By James Davis

By James Davis

Lloyd Kaufman is arguably one of the most influential filmmakers around. And chances are, you’ve never heard of him.

For those not in the know, Kaufman is the director of dozens of films, including “The Toxic Avenger” series, “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” and the forthcoming “Poultrygeist.” Kaufman is also the president of world-renowned Troma Entertainment, which he described as “the world’s oldest continuously running independent film studio.”

While Troma’s films may not be intended for the faint of heart–gobs of gore and bevies of bodacious beauties are staples–they should not be dismissed like so many failed actors at an open casting call.

Troma has long displayed a keen eye for talent, having helped launch the careers of such media darlings as “Law and Order” alums Chris Noth and Vincent D’Onofrio, Academy Award-winner Marisa Tomei, Samuel “I-have-a-purple-lightsaber!” Jackson and Fergie, of Black Eyed Peas fame.

More important, however, is Troma’s fiercely independent voice.

“In short, we are about art, which is a rapidly disappearing idea in the cinema of today,” Kaufman said. “Nowadays, it’s all big-budget remakes and celebrity blockbusters.”

For more than 30 years, Troma has fostered independent filmmaking, promoting such breakout creative talents as “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Hayao Miyazaki, creator of “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Spirited Away,” among others. And when all is said and done, creating a venue for new creative talent is exactly what TromaDance is all about.

TromaDance is a film festival held here in Salt Lake City and nearby Park City and is enjoying its eighth year of giving “art back to the people.”

“TromaDance is an entirely free festival, and its mission is to serve filmmakers and fans,” Kaufman said.

The bottom line for this bold concept is that filmmakers pay no fees to submit their work and admission to screenings is free to anyone.

“We live in an age of corporate and media consolidation. Each passing day marks fewer and fewer voices in the media,” Kaufman said. “Sure, you may have 500 TV channels, but what’s the difference when half are owned by AOL Time Warner? Where is the diversity?”

Kaufman’s best advice to budding filmmakers is, “Get experience any way you can. Pick up a camera, (be a production assistant) on films, make your own damn movie. I’ve been told hundreds of times by people that worked on Troma films that they learned more in a couple months on one of our sets than they ever learned in film school.”

The TromaDance debauchery fest kicks off today at noon at the main branch of the Salt Lake City Library with the “Best of TromaDance Past” screening and an opening reception at Night Flight Comics. The festivities end on Saturday with an obscene cavalcade of screenings, panels and after-partying at Kristauf’s Martini Bar in Park City.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit www.tromadance.com.