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Friday, December 8, 2006

An Afternoon in Tromaville

Despite what you might assume from judging his often gory and sex-filled independent movies, Lloyd Kaufman is witty, well-spoken, and smarter than you or me.

Lloyd and I sat down this afternoon to discuss Mr. Tom Graeff and how independent movies have changed from the 50's to today. Citing influences from Renoir and Lang to Corman and Warhol, Mr. Kaufman's knowledge of cinema's renouned auteurs rivals that of any film snob. And despite what major studios would have you think, Mr. Kaufman is one of many well-educated and logically sound filmmakers struggling outside the closely-guarded gates of Hollywood.

Much of our discussion revolved around how the studio system, or "cartels," as Kaufman puts it, will do anything in its power to reduce competition from outside independent filmmakers. He was relieved to find another person who disliked Tim Burton's acclaimed "classic" Ed Wood-- a film Mr. Kaufman finds offensive to independent filmmakers. "It's Hollywood saying, this is what an independent filmmaker is. A clown who wears women's clothing. Who has no talent. Whose audience only watches to make fun, to feel superior to the films of Ed Wood. This is all we lose if independent filmmakers go away." I query, why haven't they made a film about Roger Corman, a man who's made literally hundreds of films, someone who's been extraordinarily influential to today's filmmakers. Kaufman surmises studios would never want to advocate something outside the system.

And it's true. Ed Wood tells us that indies are bad, piteable, and talentless hacks. We went on to discuss how the majority of so-called independent films today are actually wrangled through the studio system -- Fox Searchlight, Sony Picture Classics, and Warner Indie, to name the big ones -- and how even at venues like Sundance you're hard-pressed to find any real independent cinema.

Later, we began to talk about the pressure Hollywood puts on new talent, talent which, with one false move, can be tossed to the curb in an instant. "This is a company town," Lloyd says of Graeff's stomping grounds, "If they wouldn't have him, he didn't have anything left. It's no surprise he committed suicide. I think about suicide every day. It's isolating out here by yourself."

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