TROMADANCE Film Festival, Brooklyn, NY
July 24 at the Paperbox
Dolphin Man, Bologna and PBR
As I headed out to Lloyd Kaufman’s annual film festival TROMADANCE last night, I had a grand expectation. Thousands of loyal Tromites flooding a street in Brooklyn, NY as they awaited entrance to the Paperbox, a huge film hall bursting at the seams as a standing-room-only crowd debauched the place with the Aroma du Troma. I’d never taken the L train, so when I realized I would be about 15 minutes late of the 6 pm start, I worried I might not get a seat, or for that matter, even get in. When I actually got to the festival, I said to myself I must really be out of touch. TROMADANCE was a much smaller, much more lowbrow affair than my expectation had made it out to be, about on par with any Tromavent. Most pitiable of all, it wasn’t even that fun.
After I got off the L and turned two corners, I thought I was in the wrong place. The Paperbox was on a side street, adorned with pallets and crates. The street was empty, but for some fat Black guy sitting in a chair a few buildings down on the left. I made my way down Meadow Street, and as I got closer I discovered I was in exactly the right place. Spray painted on the side of the next building above the roof of the one I stood in front of was , “THE PAPERBOX.” As I stood in surprise, a young lady had made her way down the street and was showing her ID to the fat Black guy. She mentioned Troma. Oh. Wow.
After showing my ID, I headed in. Three Troma staffers sat at a small table, and one put a green bracelet on my wrist. He was kind enough to leave it loose enough for my blood to continue into my hand and he didn’t catch any of my ample arm hair. This may have been the highlight of the night.
I forged ahead, into the semi-darkness, leaving the light of the day and sanity behind me. Maybe the hordes of Tromites were a particularly punctual crowd and the thousands and thousands were already crowding the massive hall? Nope. The “massive hall” turned out to be one 20×20 or so room with a full service bar to the right and a bunch of cheap folding chairs. The “hordes” turned out to be less than a hundred people. In the heart of a city with millions of people, with a loyal, cultish fanbase of Tromites that spanned the globe… this was TROMADANCE. And TROMADANCE smelled of bologna and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Immediately I had the urge to leave. Hell, Lloyd wasn’t even there. If he could miss at least part of the festival, then I could miss the whole thing and wash my hands of it, no harm no fowl (Oh dear, I haven’t gotten POULTRYGEIST out of my system. See what you do to me, Lloyd?). But hey, since moving to Queens, I haven’t done enough to experience the fine city of NY. The day before, I’d visited the Museum of Natural History. Here I was, the next night, at TROMADANCE. I’d already taken the subway here, and it was FREE. I didn’t even need a press pass for this one. So I sat.
And I watched. Through two blocks of time I saw close to a dozen shorts. On a screen that was partially obscured by bulky, hanging lights. The quality of the shorts themselves was all over the map. Some looked professionally shot and edited, while others looked like three people and an iPhone decided to shoot four minutes of footage and call it a film. During the German blood and guts extravaganza “Mack Blaster,” I noted to myself, “Wow, people make Troma films all over the world.” And that was probably an hour before I got to “Cannibals of Clinton Road,” which took place in New Jersey.
At 7 pm there was a break between blocks. So I stepped outside and called my sister to discuss the Hulk Hogan scandal. When I explained where I was and why, she said, “Enjoy.” I told her I was ready to bail. Sitting through a Troma film festival with a crowd that smelled of bologna and PBR was not quite the fun I’d expected. But I went back in and figured I’d sit through as much as I could stomach of the second block and then leave before the main event.
At 7:10, president of Troma Films and co-creator of THE TOXIC AVENGER Lloyd Kaufman finally arrived with a small entourage that included Dolphin Man. Yes, in his triumphant return, Dolphin Man. Another five minutes and I would have walked out, but now that I knew Lloyd was here, and that Lloyd loves to talk, and that Lloyd and Dolphin Man likely would introduce the main event of the evening, I stayed. I suffered, but I stayed. I sat through “Electric Indigo,” a Belgian production that was far too pretentious among this crowd of short films, and I sat through the best film of the evening, “The Grindhouse Showcase,” three fake trailers that had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt.
A short break at 8 pm, and lo and behold, Dolphin Man hit the stage. I stretched my legs, prepared to leave as soon as he and Lloyd did their Tromaspiel. But Dolphin Man had quite the surprise in store. We were about to be a focus group for the main event, a rough cut of RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOLUME 2. Now they had my attention! One guy walked down the left side handing out paper, another down the right supplying golf pencils. Of course, it was way too dark to distinguish any of the words, but I had an honest to God (oh wait, Troma killed God) focus group sheet in my hand. Kaufman let us know that this was not a polished version, that it was missing some digital effects, ADR and other luxuries of editing. None of this bothered the crowd, which became vocally raucous and may have welled to… a hundred.
As for the film itself, I’ll review RTNH2 separately and link it here once I post it. Suffice it to say for now, it was not good. And I don’t mean, “It was not good in comparison to what non-Tromites refer to as real film.” I mean for a Troma film, it stunk.
As the credits came to an end, Dolphin Man then told us the team would collect the focus sheets. You know, the ones that nobody filled out because it was pitch black and nobody could see a goddamn thing as the movie played. I thought Dolphins were supposed to be smart. Well, this was a Troma Dolphin. Lloyd thankfully intervened and let us have some light and another three minutes to fill out the sheets. Unfortunately, with no clipboard to lean on and my atrocious handwriting, I fear my comments will be worthless. I know they were nigh illegible.
Lloyd then introduced about a half dozen member of the cast and thanked FrightPix, the festival sponsor. He also announced they would be drawing the raffle, with a Roku as the best prize. As part of the promotion, for every drink a Tromite bought at the Paperbox, he got one raffle ticket. I’d abstained from drinking. Even without my legendary high tolerance, I couldn’t have drunk enough beers to make this a joy.
Had I gone to Tromadance four or five years ago, when I was in full Tromatic swing gobbling up everything I could watch and read and winning the Lunch with Lloyd contest, I probably would have had a ball. But time marches on, my script DEADTENTION which I really wrote as a fourth NUKE ‘EM HIGH flick sits in a box, and I’ve obviously changed. Hell, even if there were some hot Tromettes there I would have tried to bang one, but they were conspicuously absent. The rest of the crowd had a great time, and for the small but fervently loyal band of Tromites who showed up for TROMADANCE ’15 last night, I’m glad they had a ball. Even if there weren’t thousands upon thousands of them lining the streets, awaiting entrance to a grand hall.