Site created 12/15/97.
page created: 2/3/00
A Visit to the Set
of Citizen Toxie
a recent Sunday, here in the sprawling metropolis that is La-La Land
(that's L.A. to you), director Lloyd Kaufman and the folks at Troma
came a-callin'. That is to say, they took over the West Coast office
of Troma Entertainment for a day or two, to shoot some final pick-up
shots for their latest film masterpiece, Citizen
Toxie: The Toxic Avenger, Part 4. Through a mutual
friend, The Digital Bits staff
was invited to visit the set, to observe Lloyd working his magic
firsthand. And it was quite an adventure. Before we get into that
however, I've asked Doogan to say a few words for those of you who
may not be so familiar with Troma. Take it away, Todd...
Thanks, Bill. Troma Entertainment stands proudly in it's home on
Ninth Avenue, in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. Once, Hell's
Kitchen was home to crazies, addicts, pushers and whores. And in a
way it still is. Now, the crazies are working for Troma, the addicts
and pushers there are only addicted to B-movies (and they'll try
their mightiest to get you hooked too) and the whore is a man named
Now, I don't mean to use the word "whore" in any negative
way. When I talk about Lloyd, my heart wells up inside. You see,
I've known Lloyd since I was a teen. I've only been able to truly
call him my friend for maybe 4 years or so. But I've been a big fan
since I first laid eyes on The Toxic
Avenger, way back in 1985 (you can read
review of the DVD here). That's when my love affair first
started for Lloyd and his dream called Troma.
Lloyd is a whore for his art... which is to say that he'll do
anything to get his movie made (and he expects everyone he works
with to be just as dedicated). Pound for pound, Lloyd is the most
dedicated filmmaker around, and I'm glad he's making movies. Because
of his drive and dedication, Troma is the oldest American
independent film studio still in operation (and is also becoming a
driving force on the Internet at
Just about every genre of film has been churned out of the hallowed
halls at 733 Ninth Avenue. Just walking inside, you can feel the
passion for film pouring out of the place. The people that work for
Lloyd (and his partner Michael Herz) are as crazy about film as
Lloyd and Michael are. There are posters, props, toys and just about
everything else you could imagine floating around in there - all
objects to inspire the imagination. In fact, Lloyd and Michael's
shared office is a shrine to everything Troma, where file cabinets
are overstuffed with business papers and comic books, and shelves
display toys from The Toxic Crusader
cartoon series and other assorted treasures. Best of all, the main
office area showcases the many awards Lloyd and Troma have won for
their work, proudly posted next to blow-ups of the many articles
written about the company over the years. And among it all, quietly
making the place hum with activity, is a group of film fanatics clad
in t-shirts and jeans, with more than a few tattoos and piercings
divided between them.
I've hung out at Troma a couple of times - one of the added perks
of being the East Coast editor of The
Digital Bits. I've worked on projects for Lloyd, become
good friends with more than a few members of his creative team, and
have developed a great admiration for the man and his studio. And
yet... I've never been in one of his movies. It's been threatened -
but it's just something that's never come together. Lloyd's sets are
often described as controlled chaos, where everyone who wants to can
pitch in, both behind and in front of the camera. But as the lucky
West Coast staff of the Bits,
Bill and Frank managed to find their way onto the set of Citizen
Toxie. So here's Bill to tell the whole sordid tale...
Damn fine intro, Todd. Well, I can honestly say that Frank and I
had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The shoot wasn't
scheduled to begin until the afternoon, so Frank and I met to watch
the Vikings' first win in this year's playoffs (it would also be
their last), and figured we'd head up to the set after that. I've
worked on a number of movie and TV sets over the years, but really
had no idea what to expect on a Troma set. So as we made our way up
the 405 Freeway, speculation dominated the conversation. I mean,
anyone who's seen a Troma flick knows that they're basically
B-movies on steroids. ANYTHING goes in a Troma flick, from bad
dialogue to silly plots involving mutants and bimbos to blood and
gore and nudity - you name it. And it's all on purpose - Troma knows
what they do best, and they set out to do it better than anyone
else. They're the kings of B-movies. There's just something...
perfect and pure and fun about their flicks. But what it would be
like to visit the set of one... well, that was anyone's guess.
We rolled into Troma's West Coast office in Santa Monica at about
1:30 PM. There's no mistaking their building for anything other than
what it is. The windows of the corner storefront property are
covered with the Troma logo and posters of their latest projects -
Terror Firmer in this
instance. And if you have any doubts at all, one need only look at
the mural on the side of the building, which shows Toxie's twisted
visage in all its mutated glory.
West Coast office in Santa Monica, CA.
Toxie's on the wall at Troma.
parked on the office's side street, which is lined with
pleasant-looking California-style family houses. If we had any
worries about finding the set, we were put as ease quickly - the
alleyway behind the Troma building was bustling with activity,
filled with crew and equipment.
Our first clue as to what we were in for came just at that moment.
As Frank and I were locking up the car, and grabbing our jackets
from the trunk, we noticed a small gaggle of onlookers gathered
across the street - local neighborhood residents. One of them (a
normal-looking middle aged woman) approached us curiously... and
maybe a bit warily. "Are you guys filming another porn movie
over there, or what?" she asked. Frankie and I looked at each
other nervously. "Uh... I don't think so," I managed to
stammer, which seemed to reassure her. But as we walked towards the
set, we couldn't help but wonder why she had asked US that question.
I mean, we're good-looking American boys... but I don't think we
looked like guys who make porn movies for a living. Did we? And then
there was that "ANOTHER porn movie" comment. What the hell
were we getting ourselves into here? As our minds wrestled with
these questions, little did we know that we'd just experienced "Tromatic"
moment Number One...
location... in the alleyway behind the Troma office.
we strolled onto the set, the first thing we noticed is that no one
cared that we'd just strolled into the set! Let me just tell you...
this is NOT a common experience when you walk on to a movie set in
Hollywood. Usually, security is so tight that you'll never get past
a bunch of burly guys with walkie talkies. And here we were,
standing right next to the camera.
After just a moment, we spotted Scott, our contact at Troma,
walking around the set like a man with a mission. He was quick to
greet us and make us feel at home. "Come on into the office...
there's food and sodas... you can throw your stuff in the corner..."
We followed Scott into the building, which is basically two big
rooms - a back office area and an open main room, which we quickly
learned was the nerve center of Tromaville Online. And as with
Todd's description of Troma's East Coast office, Troma West is a
blizzard of tables, computers, books, toys, posters... and TONS of
videotapes and DVDs. In other words, it was a lot like the offices
of The Digital Bits. Frank and
I breathed a sign of relief, feeling right at home.
After much gear-stowing, soda opening and staff introductions, we
went back outside to the set. There we bumped into our good friend -
the fellow who arranged our invitation - who we'll call John (just
to add to the atmosphere of the story). John was on hand to be an
extra in the film, as (we eventually learned) were most of the
people there that afternoon.
We stood off to the side, chatting affably and watching as crew
members prepared the location. Finally, out of the crowd comes this
smiling little fellow in tan khakis and a tweed coat to start giving
directions... the master himself, Lloyd Kaufman. "Hey, Lloyd
come over here," Scott calls out. "This is Bill and Frank
- the guys from The Digital Bits."
Immediately, Lloyd's smile gets even bigger and he hurries over to
shake our hands. "Oh great... the DVD guys! I know the Bits!",
he says. "Todd Doogan and I go way back. We're big fans of you
guys." It's all Frank and I can do to keep our mouths from
falling open, when suddenly Lloyd says, "So you guys wanna be
in the movie? Come on - let's get you in there." And with that,
"Tromatic" moment Number Two is in the books.
and Frank pose with Lloyd. Do we look bewildered yet?
led us all into the center of the action. We learned that the day's
shooting was at the tail end of production on Citizen
Toxie. The idea was to film a number of pick-up shots
needed to wrap up the production - crowd reaction stuff and a few "celebrity"
cameos. The celebrity of the day was none other than Lemmy
Kilmeister, the lead singer and bassist for the head-banging band
As all good citizens of Tromaville know, Lemmy has cameos in several
Troma flicks, including the recent Terror
Firmer (in which he narrates a funny PSA on
discrimination against hermaphrodites, played by South
Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone). Lemmy is like the
comedic straight man - he gets all the one-liners. And today was no
and Lloyd... pals and professionals!
The first shot of the
day called for a crowd of Tromaville citizens to react as an "Evil
Toxie" starts tossing bodies through the air. Lloyd lined about
10 of us up against a brick wall, with Lemmy front and center. Off
to one side, a stagehand stood on an overturned waste basket,
holding a dummy high over his head. After making some adjustments to
the camera, Lloyd comes over and marks an "X" on the wall
behind us with a pencil. "When you throw the dummy, try to hit
this spot so we can see it on film," he says to the stagehand.
effects at their finest... cue the dummy!
master at work.
And just like that...
the camera rolls and we're off. Lloyd is clearly in his element. "Okay...
everyone is looking over my shoulder... oh my God - Evil Toxie is
picking up a little girl!... everyone is shocked... there's
screaming, screaming... everyone scream but don't make any sound -
we'll add it later... there's pandemonium... everyone start running
back and forth... now everyone run offscreen except Lemmy... cue the
dummy... line Lemmy...!" As we all watch out of breath, the
dummy sails over Lemmy's head and bounces off the wall. Lemmy,
unphased, looks into the camera and says, "Now that's my kind
of hero..." Lloyd victoriously cries, "Cut!" And THAT
folks, is filmmaking Troma-style. We all assemble again for a few
more takes, so the camera can focus on one thing or another - the
dummy, Lemmy, our best panicked faces. And then we're done, and the
crew starts setting up the next shot. When I say crew... I mean that
most of the extras start picking up gear. You see on a Troma film,
EVERYBODY gets involved on BOTH sides of the camera.
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