It seems like only yesterda – wait, no it doesn’t. It seems like about twelve years ago I attended the first Chicago-area Fangoria convention in about a decade. It was actually way back in April of 2006. And let me tell you, kiddies – it was the right time to do so. Where else was I gonna’ go all moony over Jenna Fischer, y’know?

This particular “Weekend o’ Hos” (as it has been affectionately referred to by me and mine since ‘89) was memorable for many different reasons. I met a few really cool people…got moony over Jenna Fischer (and Michael Rooker – but that’s a tale for another time)…and I saw Poultrygeist for the first time.

The event was billed as a “Test Screening” – which I found comical. I mean, can you imagine Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz, and Gabe Friedman sitting in high-backed black leather chairs…around a marble conference table (probably purchased cheap – and as a set – at a post-Ovitz CAA garage sale)…worried about the results?

“We didn’t score high enough in the first three boxes!”

“Lloyd – the cards say we need to make more fun of the gays!”

“America has spoken, Lloyd – we need more shaved lesbians!”

But yeah – “test screening”.

The film screened at the now-deceased Crossroads Theater in Merrillville, Indiana. I grew up there, forty miles outside Chicago – and the Crossroads Plaza remains a font of fond memories…like donning a Don Post “Shape” mask and coveralls and creeping about outside fast food jernts back in junior high…or staging pretend fights in the giant parking lot…or playing “hide and seek” in the various shops (we were hiding – I have no idea what the cops were doing)…getting propositioned by guys whilst shooting pool (again, in junior high – I musta’ been a stone cold fox back then)…doing impromptu improvisational song-and-dance routines in front of the supermarket (and I wonder why I was being hit on by men)…or plotting to steal the vintage Megaforce one-sheet inexplicably hung in the bedroom furniture store…

I’d not roamed those grounds since 1996 – when a bunch of us went to take in a screening of Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx on its second run. But that is a story for anot – nevermind.

The Crossroads was the perfect venue for Poultrygeist, in that it still had a bit of the ol’ Grindhouse vibe left in it (the last “first run” I saw at the Crossroads was Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, so it had been awhile since a fresh print of anything had shipped there). It was the kind of theater where the patrons didn’t always come to watch the flick – they showed up because it was closer than a soup kitchen or cheaper than a motel. What was onscreen didn’t matter to them – or to me, if Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is an indicator.

Poultrygeist was a flick I went into with no expectations – and one so high-concept I got a nosebleed thinking about it. Sure, sure – it’s not like the Horror/Comedy/Musical hasn’t been done before (Rocky Horror, Happiness of the Katakuris, and Sweeney Todd spring immediately to mind, of course) – but Poultrygeist takes “high concept” into rare air. This is a film wherein the displeased spirits of displaced Native Americans possess the deceased chickens at a fast food franchise…who then attack humans…who in turn are possessed by the spirits of both the Indians and the chickens…creating havoc for the poor (and, in many instances, stupid) humans still trapped NotLD-stylee in the restaurant…a film in which the voice of reason is a talking homosexual Hispanic BBQ sandwich…a film in which the only noble character is a Muslim suicide bomber. But really – it’s the story of us all.

I might be laying it on a bit thick, but I’ll be damned if the sentiments espoused by many of the characters (and the filmmakers behind the madness) aren’t things we should all be considering right now. This is a film that takes on institutional hypocrisy at every turn, with Corporate America (or do I spell it “AmeriKKKa”? I never know for sure) set squarely in its sights.

On the eve of the film’s official stateside premiere (after sold out playdates in the U.K. and screenings at Cannes and South Korea’s Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival) I sat down with Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman to “peck” his brain (judging by my use of puns, I stayed too long) in an attempt to deduce just how a Romantic-Musical-Horror-Comedy featuring reanimated foodstuffs happens in the first place. It turns out that the gears of madness began turning when the Fast Food Nation beat a path to Troma’s door.

Kaufman explains, “McDonalds moved in next to Troma – and they screwed up the Troma building. They put a hole in our building to put their sign up…they put their garbage in front of our place – because they didn’t want their garbage near their own building – and then we had these enormous rats running around our basement…”

Attempts at dealing with the company in a civil fashion went unanswered, and Kaufman was stunned to see such an iconic corporation literally shit on everything around it. Wondering aloud how the franchise could be so flagrant in its grotesquerie, some of his employees began telling tales of their time served in the bowels of the Fast Food Devil.

“Gabe Friedman, who edited Citizen Toxie and Terror Firmer - he’s been with us for about 10 years – worked in a fast food place. A chicken place. He’s the guy who inspired the whole movie – the way it’s so realistic…”

“‘Cause Friedman fought off undead chickens…”

“It’s not autobiographical – but what makes Poultrygeist interesting is that it is real in terms of…calling the people taking orders the “Counter Girl” – if a man worked at the counter, he was still the “Counter Girl”…or the people whacking off into the “special sauce”…all, uh – all the things that happened during the workday…uh-oh…”

Lloyd reacts to something over my shoulder, and I turn to spot two sheepish teens – a boy and a girl – being led out of the theater by a thoroughly incensed older woman. She looks like someone just tried to feed her a shit sandwich.  Poultrygeist has been playing for less than ten minutes.

“I see an elderly lady with a young couple…it’s obvious they want to stay, and she…oh no…”

“Why in the hell did they bring the old lady?”

“They probably don’t drive…”

“They don’t look that young, Lloyd.”

“No – they do look older.”

“We should tell her that we could give the kids a ride back.”

“Yeah – we’ll give ‘em a ride all right…at any rate – we’d read Fast Food Nation, and I interviewed people who worked in fast food…”

And everybody’s got a horror story about that – when you’re a teen looking for a job, you’ve got almost no choice. It’s either fast food or porn – or a sitcom-style combination of the two, as I recall from my own days of high school-aged Meximelt manufacturing. I look back, and it was people on both sides of the counter being thoughtless, ignorant, and unkind. And crazy. And funny. Fast food is a lot like life – only smellier. Friedman scripted a film that zeroes in on the observations of working-class youth, using his own awful truth for seasoning – which made me wonder how much of Kaufman’s own life philosophy colored (tainted?) the project.

“Every film I make is very personal,” the director states in earnest fashion. “Just because Troma films are filled with sex and violence and slapstick doesn’t mean they can’t be personal, you know? Charlie Chaplin’s movies are broad and filled with slapstick – but his movies are extremely personal.

They did have too much sex and violence, perhaps, but…”

The timing on this gag – coupled with Kaufman’s very serious demeanor – makes me laugh harder than I feel like I should have. I imagine The Tramp moving undercrankedly through a frame, stabbing at people with a butcher knife…bending some ingénue over a chair…

Kaufman smiles. “I think Arbie’s immaturity is definitely a reflection of my own personality.”

The owner of the theater stops by to tell us that Poultrygeist was savaged in the day’s newspaper. Lloyd’s mood completely sours, and he asks the guy if he’s got a copy of the fish wrapper on the premises.

“This idiot who reviewed the movie in Milwaukee – he’s gotta’ be an idiot if he doesn’t get that this film has some great things going on below the surface – this is a movie that has amazing subtext – and not just the fast food element. There’s the Muslim element…the plight of the Native Americans…a comment on alternative lifestyles…the animal rights message-“

His righteous indignation on the rise, he adds – “Wolfgang Puck saw Poultrygeist - and he now doesn’t want the egg-laying chickens to be cooped up in these horrible torture machines!”

He says stuff like that with such a flatline deadpan that you’re not sure what to think. This causes confusion constantly – a fan-submitted trivia blurb at the IMDB states that Kaufman claimes he wanted to title his film “Good Night and Good Cluck” – until George Clooney pilfered the title. I’m pretty certain that you could chalk that Puck quote up to Lloyd riffing, but considering the nature of his output…you never can be too sure. Maybe Lloyd did slip into the kitchen after dinner at Spago to drop a disc on Wolfie…

“It’s absurd this guy panned the film, when so many really informed critics love Troma – I think a lot of critics who don’t know anything about movies, you know…they see a little bit of Grand Guignol – they don’t even know what that means, Grand Guignol – and they just switch off. But if Harvey Weinstein distributed Poultrygeist…

Harvey Weinstein should distribute Poultrygeist. If “Splat Pack” guys who’ve obviously been influenced by Troma can populate Dimension’s slate…and the Weinsteins see themselves as champions of raw, edgy fare – why not pick up the Poultrygeist domestic rights at the American Film Market? Whither Lionsgate – those purveyors of low-ball (and, in many instances, no-balls) splatter films? They do direct-to-video acquisitions on all manner of shoddy no-budget creature features – why not try on a really cool no-budget creature feature for size?

Lloyd, for his part, says that he’s been “economically blackballed” – which suggests no small amount of paranoia. But we’re not there yet – we’re still talking about critics…

“Critics are all the same – they just want TV shows. So they’ll beat up on a guy like me and give some…they’ll give a terrible Weinstein horror movie a good review…they’ll give Freddy vs Jason a good review because it comes from a division of Time Warner-”

“Lloyd – I don’t know that anyone gave Freddy vs Jason a good review.”

“Well, this little twerp probably did! Or he gave this crappy movie with Mandy Moore a good review – although I like Mandy Moore…”

“There is nothing wrong with Mandy Moore” I agree.

“No – she’s fantastic. And she picks her projects – Dedication is a good attempt, it’s just a shit movie. It’s not her fault. Her other movies are great.”

“I really liked Saved.”

Saved is great, American Dreamz is good. She’s terrific. Mandy Moore makes up for all of the other young people who seem to be destroying their careers. And Lindsey Lohan is talented – it’s a shame she just can’t get her act together. Anyway…that’s enough of that…”

“No, no – go for it. Go where you need to – I want you to go home clean tonight.”

“The point is – a lot went into Poultrygeist. Our movies are very sophisticated. (New York Times critic) Stephen Holden said, ‘You’ve got to be smart to get Troma.’”

It’s in that quote that you get a sense of what Kaufman’s feeling. This is a guy looking for his due. A guy who feels he has given a bit of himself for his art…who knows he’s probably never gonna’ get that Lifetime Achievement Oscar…and he just wants a little respect.

Almost too late to be considered a part of his previous statement, Lloyd adds, “You know, Van Gogh didn’t sell a lot of paintings in his day…” 

 

 

It’s in that quote that you get a sense of what Kaufman’s feeling. This is a guy looking for his due. A guy who feels he has given a bit of himself for his art…who knows he’s probably never gonna’ get that Lifetime Achievement Oscar…and he just wants a little respect.

Kaufman smiles wistfully. “Fistfights broke out at Cannes when a few French critics there compared me to Marcel Duchamp (Duchamp was a French fixture of the New York Dadaist movement who famously submitted one of his “readymade” works – a toilet entitled “Fountain” – to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibit – an event he chaired).

I laugh. “I think that comparison’s valid…”

“I didn’t say it! It happened at Cannes. But I think there’s some truth to it. We are, to some extent, Dadaist.”

“Well…Troma confounds convention…pushes boundaries in terms of content…”

“And there’s a certain…the films are self conscious – self referential – which can be seen as ‘Brechtian’ – and I’m a fan of Brecht. I grew up with Brecht…

And this idiot critic here in Milwaukee-”

Here we go again

“I’ll be he’s never even heard of Brecht! There’s more of an intellect at work in Poultrygeist than this guy’s ever had in his whole life. This guy probably loves the Julia Roberts…ehh. What can you do? What can you do…?”

“Lloyd – the audience for this film doesn’t even read the newspaper. I don’t think anyone reads them anymore – I think old women buy newspapers so they can bundle them with yarn and put them in their basements until they turn to pulp and return to the earth. Print is dead.”

Lloyd diminishes now. He’s expelled his demons, perhaps. Or perhaps my observation made sense – in any case, I use the opportunity to turn the discussion to the film once more.

Poultrygeist paints everyone with the same brush – liberals, conservatives, activists-”

“Good point, Jason – absolutely.”

“The corporate entity cares for nothing and no one. The activism is mostly self-serving. The only truly heroic character is a Muslim suicide bomber.”

“That’s right.”

“It seems like a pretty nihilistic worldview, and so I’m wondering where your own beliefs fall. Whose side are you on?”

Kaufman turns exceedingly serious when it comes to taking swipes at the status quo (and rightly so. I mean, “Pictures of Matchstick Men” my ass). And while it can be argued that his filmography is devoid of any sort of social commentary, it doesn’t take much egging-on (I thought I told ya’ that we won’t stop) to get him to tell you – flat-out – where he stands. He offers, without a moment’s pause, “It’s not nihilism. I believe in what Shakespeare wrote – ‘To thine own self be true’ – the problem with that is we’re living in an age of phonies who will say and do anything. If Nazism comes back – John Kerry, Al Gore, and his big fat wife – they’ll jump on that bandwagon. They’ll go any way the wind blows – and that’s disgusting. And that is one of the messages of Poultrygeist – don’t let the wind blow you. You’ll have people…standing around in Tevas…picketing all of this phony-baloney…

If Al Gore were really an environmentalist, he’d have the guts to say, “Hey folks, stop buying DVDs and CDs – they’re made of oil. Go get your entertainment from the internet.”

“But that might offend his friends in the entertainment industry – which is sorta’ ironic, given his wife’s past flirtation with fascism.”

“Yes – his wife tried to censor entertainment! The other thing Gore could say is, ‘Wanna’ help the environment? Stop eating meat!’ Every time a cow farts, you increase global warming. And that’s not to mention how much they eat, and how much land could be used…if not for grubby cows – you could feed God knows how many starving Ethiopians – or Darfurs or whatever!”

It’s sentiments like those that allow me to legitimately consider Kaufman’s “blacklisting” theory as more than paranoia. His ideas make sense, and they fly in the face of politicians and moguls alike. In what amounts to one sentence, Kaufman calls Al Gore a hypocrite, and demonizes packaged media and factory farming. Why give someone who does that a spot on the roster, you know? He’s gonna’ tear you an exciting new hole – and, more than likely, let some deformed infant puppet monster sex you in it.

Speaking of which-

“You know, I can respect George Bush – at least George Bush stands for something…

This revelation completely slaughtered my next question. As I was keenly aware that George W. and Lloyd K. attended Yale together, I had planned to ask:
“Lloyd, if you knew then what you know now, or if you could go back in time – would you terminate George Bush and save us all? Just so you know, I’ve totally got your back – I’d kill Hitler and Jesus.”

I thought this was off-kilter/tasteless enough to maybe elicit a chuckle from him – now I had visions of Bush and Kaufman engaged in “low-jinx” at Bohemian Grove…

“I prefer someone who believes in something to someone who just goes with the wind. John Kerry has never held a belief in his life. When I was at Yale, I saw Kerry speak to the political union – and was copying Kennedy! He has no style of his own. And Hillary – did you see this thing she did with her husband?”

“The Sopranos thing?”

“Yes – if you go to Troma.com, I did a PSA about it – can you believe what a disgrace that was? To have a former president and a would-be future president compare themselves – ‘How cute! We’re Mafia!’”

“Well, they kinda’ are…”

“Yes! Absolutely. These are the kind of people you don’t want to be president! Obama, though – that could be interesting. I dunno’…enough of that…”

“As you wish.” I return once more to my prepared questions. “Poultrygeist is the best-looking Troma film in terms of production design and cinematography…”

“We had our best group on Poultrygeist. We had about 80 people – from Japan, Canada, Australia, France, Sweden, England – we put a notice on the website, and they came from all over the world. And we all lived in a vacant church…it was terrific. They were great people – and they all believed in what we were doing. That’s why I think the film looked so good. If you watch the documentary on the making of Terror Firmer – you can see how dysfunctional things were – but Poultrygeist…everybody got along. Two couples who met on the film are married – it was a great, great group. And Brendan Flynt – he’s been doing this for me for ten years – he was the DP on Tromeo and Juliet, Terror Firmer, and Citzen Toxie – he’s grown so much. Gabe Friedman has been editing my films for as long – and he’s very much responsible for writing this movie – fantastic…Andy Deemer and Keil Walker were amazing producers – these people are all “can-do” people. And this movie has the best acting of any Troma movie by far…”

“But it wasn’t the result of a beefier budget?”

“No. The movie cost about half a million dollars – which is the same as the first Toxic Avenger twenty-five years ago. $500,000 for this movie? In 35mm? It’s absolutely nothing.”

“And you self-financed?”
“My wife and I paid for it. We had a couple of friends who put up about twenty percent of the money.”

“My next question would then be, ‘Where are you sleeping now?”’

“Yeah! Exactly. It’s getting very hard for true indies to survive…”

“When you hosted the first Poultrygeist screening I attended, you mentioned that Troma was not in a good place…”

“We’re in a terrible place. But Troma is Troma. We own about 800 movies…it has a life of its own – but that life has never been more difficult. And we’ve never been more famous – the problem is that the movie studios are killing all the independents.”

He’s right. The majors started overpaying for indie product in the wake of the Disney acquisition of Miramax and the subsequent Weinstein buying frenzy. Tiny distribution outfits died, and the studios themselves hung new shingles – Fox Searchlight…Paramount Classics/Vantage – boutique labels dedicated to “independent” (read: moderately priced studio product) films that could nab a bit of that Shakespeare in Love dollar.  They weren’t going to finance She’s Gotta’ Have It. They would never make a Clerks.  They certainly wouldn’t touch something like this.

Though it must be said – a few years ago there were studios interested in partnering with Troma on a large scale revamp of the Toxic Avenger.  With everyone thinking green – and the recent resurgence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I wonder aloud if returning to a once-popular franchise would give Kaufman’s bealeagured studio a bit of finacial breathing room.

“Would you entertain returning to the Toxic Avenger?  Maybe you could do a CG feature – or would Troma CG look like Pong…?”
 
“I’m not really interested. I’d do it if someone wanted me to do it…but I’d like to do something different. I’m looking for a script right now, actually. I’d like to do something akin to Mamet. Something dark…extreme…still the kind of movie only three people will turn out for – but something where a group of actors have a chance to act.”

“They do in Poultrygeist. Jason Yachanin does this great sort of neurotic young Woody Allen thing…”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

“Kate Graham’s got this really funny Disney delivery.”

“She’s very talented.”

“And everybody really gets the tone. If one actor thinks they should be playing this really straight – or that they should be winking at the audience – the movie fails. The entire cast really nails the tone of this, and I suspect that may have been difficult.” 

“We had three months of pre-production.”

“Really?”

“We rehearsed for three months.”

“Is that customary for a Troma film?”

“We always spend a lot of time in pre-production.”

“And a lot of time on post-production. This film was a long time in post.”

“That’s because we’re incompetent!

No…it’s my fault, because I’m really…”

I was going to say “anal” – but perhaps “anal” is something you should never say to the guy who runs Troma…

“Well, it is your money. It’s not ten mil in studio cake that no one notices…”

“But the thing is,” Lloyd says, “What’s the hurry, you know? Nobody wants the movie, so when I think it’s ready, it’s ready.”

“It’s not like you have to get it out for Christmas.”

“Yeah – that’s Peter Jackson’s job. I don’t have a deadline. I can do anything I want. Forty years I’ve made movies and no one’s told me what to do. Who else is out there like that? Woody Allen? Martin Scorsese?”

“Can’t count him. He was kicked out of the editing room on Gangs of New York. Even the heavyweights deal with that crap.”

“Well then, here I am, forty years of total freedom. And that’s wonderful.”

The Times’ owner does a drive by, and he drops the vilified review of the film on the table. Before Lloyd can get to it, I start skimming.

‘Grand Guignol Happy Mealsmartly photographed and ambitiously stagedthe ‘let’s put on a show’ spunk of the cast’…Lloyd – this isn’t bad…”

Lloyd starts to read the review…and you can almost see the clouds part.

“This isn’t bad.” He continues reading. “I guess the guy gets it…”

Kaufman shakes his head. “That’ll be a great way to end your piece, eh? All that over nothing.”

Yeah, Lloyd – It’ll do.

Lloyd’s looking for a script, kiddies.  Maybe it’s yours.  Visit him at Troma.com.

Kate Graham: Princess Poultrygeist

I wrote a bit about my experience at the Fango event for CHUD sister Creature Corner, and while revisiting that coverage in prep for the premiere, I noticed this bit:

“…it appears as though production values have improved since Class of Nuke ‘Em High. I think I even saw an actual cute girl

Turns out the “cute girl” was one Kate Graham. Upon seeing the finished film, I realized a better adjective would be “talented.” Poultrygeist is the NYU grad’s first screen role, and – if she wants it – maybe the start of a career in film.

One of the great things about Graham’s performance is how fearless it is – she shrieks and mugs without a trace of irony. It’s that Will Ferrell school of comedy, wherein you don’t care how awful or stupid you look as long as you get the laugh. I would think this terrifying ground for a performer – ‘cause who wants to look like they’re not in on the joke?

An Alabama native/South Carolina transplant by way of NYC, Graham’s recently packed her bags for CHUD home - Hotlanta, Georgia – to take on Juliet Capulet for the Georgia Shakespeare Festival.

But before departure, there’s the Poultrygeist premiere. And me, poor thing…

  

JP: How did your involvement in Poultrygeist begin?

KG: Well, you spend a fortune on an education at NYU, and when you graduate you give them another fifty dollars and they publish your headshot and resume in this thing called the Headshot Book. They use the Headshot Book at Troma, and every intern at Troma got to go through the book and pick somebody they wanted to come to the Poultrygeist auditions. So I was sitting at a café with a friend and I got a call saying, “Hi, this is Ethan from Troma Entertainment – would you like to come audition for a feature film…” And from there…we auditioned six or seven times – and we never auditioned for Lloyd. He was someone people talked about…but we never actually got to see him. And you’d go in and there would be this panel of people and they would say, “…and we’ll show the tapes to Lloyd.”

And I’d think, “Just who is this mysterious ‘Lloyd’…?”

JP: Sorta’ odd he’d not be around…?

KG: Well, he is a celebrity, you know?

JP: Yeah…I guess there would be plenty of Troma kids showing up just to spazz out in his presence – which would be a total waste of his time.

KG: And he wouldn’t really need to see anyone until the casting people narrowed us down.

JP: Was it hard to find the tone?

KG: I don’t think so. We had a lot of rehearsal time, and we found it pretty early.

JP: It wasn’t difficult going as big as you did?

KG: I don’t know if I did (go big). I don’t think the choices I made were that big. I think there were people who made the decision to go bigger – and rightly so, because the character needed that. But Wendy ends up being the straight man a lot of the time, so I just did what was right for her. Even in something as crazy as this, you still have to be honest – you still have to be true to the character. I was just being true to Wendy.

JP: How much of Kate is there in Wendy? Are you an activist? A vegetarian? A lesbian? Please?

There is some Kate in Wendy in that when she gets into something, she dives in headfirst. As far as being an activist – I believe that it starts in the home. There are things you can do as an individual that can help. Vegetarianism…I’m not quite there yet. The amount of meat in my diet has certainly diminished over the years, but I can’t say it’s gone completely.

Am I a lesbian…? Sadly, no.

 

JP: When did it sink in that you were in a film directed by the legendary Lloyd Kaufman? And how did you not vomit or flee?

KG: Well – I hadn’t seen a Troma film before I was cast, so… (laughs)

JP: Was there anything on the set you just couldn’t handle?

KG: The sequence where I’m being assaulted by the Mickie zombie, and…Arbie grabs it by the neck…and he’s screaming, “How! Can! I! Get! You! Off!”

JP: Yeah – “choking the chicken” as it were?

KG: That…was supposed to be me.

JP: Ahh…

KG: And I went through the effects tests for it in the backyard of the church that we were living in – and I had to get shot in the face by the puppet a couple of times…

And you know – I felt like I had already done enough for the fourteen-year old boys with strange fetishes – so I went to Lloyd and told him I didn’t want to do it…

JP: And he was okay with it?

KG: He actually was. And the scene is funnier anyway, I think…

JP: It’s true. It makes sense that your ex would attack you…and that Arbie would jump in.

KG: Yeah. It worked out. And I think that helped. If the change hadn’t worked as well…

JP: …you’d have received the puppet facial.

Switching gears – I don’t want you to pigeonhole yourself, but would you consider yourself a post-feminist?

KG: I do and I don’t. I am a Southern girl, so I really appreciate it when a guy opens a door or pays for things. But there are some things – the glass ceiling…archaic religious or cultural practices…that will get me on a soapbox in a big hurry. Women have come a long way, and we should be grateful for the pioneers before us. I kind of think of my mother that way – with her being the only girl in all of her science classes in college…

I think there is a certain complacency that has come about in my generation. Because we have the choice of whether to work…or be stay-at-home-moms…or even single mothers if we want – work doesn’t always sound quite so great anymore. But I definitely think we live in a patriarchal, externalized society that teaches women that their natural bodies are gross or wrong or bad or meant to be kept secret – even other women cringe when I don’t whisper the word tampon – and that disconnects women from their intuitive senses. If I don’t stop I’m going to go on a rant on misdirected priorities in society in general. Stop me.

JP: Very well then – how challenging was the musical aspect of the production?

KG: Learning them was pretty easy, because they gave us CDs with vocal tracks and instrumental tracks, and Lloyd really stressed how important repetition was going to be, since we’d be lip-syncing…

Even though I was pretty self-conscious, the fantasy bedroom sequence in “Fast Food Love” was probably one of the most fun scenes to shoot. I love to play, and Jason (Yachanin) was hilarious, just having fun – so it was a good time.

JP: Many actors have trouble getting their early work seen – but this film will end up an instant cult thing. Are you prepared for the potential nerd-cons – and the potential stalkers?
KG: I did go to a convention – Dark X-Mas in Warrenton, Ohio. And probably 90% of the people on my MySpace contacted me because of the film – I don’t actually know them as friends. So far, I haven’t met anyone who’s been anything other than nice.

JP: Every performer thinks about a set of goals, or a career path. Where do you see your career going?

KG: I’d love to continue in independent film. I’m pleasantly surprised by the amount of theatre in Atlanta, so we’ll see what happens here. I’m interested in pursuing classical music and theatre – opera and Shakespeare.

My dream is to be in a production of Streetcar in which I play both Stella and Blanche – not at the same time, of course, but just…with a girlfriend…and we rotate – incredible.

I also love modeling – any time someone wants to pay me to have my picture taken, just call! (smiles) 

Visit Kate’s MySpace profile – where you can get lost in her eyes (did he really do a Debbie Gibson reference there?), peruse her busy blog, and scream “tampon” without fear or shame.

Poultrygeist Made Them Do It – A Majic Extravaganza

As Poultrygeist was a truly independent venture, it brought out a ton of people who wanted only to toil on a motion picture. Some of them wanted it so badly – or were just so clearly insane, that in the off hours (as few as there were) – they grabbed their equipment and made another movie. D.J. Markuson’s Nancy Ray Smiggen’s Family Tree and the Majic Extravaganza is the result of that insanity.

Markuson’s short film is the demented and oddly tragic story of a poorly-socialized man-child named Matthew Smiggen (John Karyus – who plays the cemetery pervo in Poultrygeist’s opening). Matthew dreams of a day when he can perfect his magic act (which should be a red flag right there, but…) and make the “big time”. Unfortunately, he’s saddled with the responsibility of taking care of his grotesque whore of a mother, Nancy Ray – who has a thing for sexing dirty metalhead guys. Constantly.

Turns out that Nancy Ray is pretty fertile, and she tasks poor Matthew with disposing of her at-home abortions – which he dutifully does…in the back yard…constantly.

It doesn’t take long for a great tree to grow on the site of the mass grave – one that bears mewling, embryonic fruit – and before you can imagine the King of Pop singing the theme to Willard, little Matty has an army of “siblings” ready to help him take on the world.

 

 

Almost everybody on this production pulls double or triple duty – Karyus plays Matthew and his mother, writer Dave Malloy handles the special effects chores (and shares the screen with Karyus as “F—k Boy” – Nancy Ray’s…love interest) and Markuson shoots and cuts his film (along with Melissa McAnany – who has since gone on to serve as the Production Designer on a film that might just be this year’s Behind the MaskBrutal Massacre: A Comedy).
 

 

A cursory view of the IMDB credits for this crew sees them in front of, behind, above and beyond the camera – and the call of duty. The Modemzero Studios gang is so into making movies that they’ll take any spot on the roster (Emporium cast member – and Poultrygeist production exec – Beth Charlesworth has since crewed on Michael Haneke’s Funny Games remake, I Am Legend, and the Flight of the Conchords series) – which allows them to get a handle on every aspect of production.  And when you throw yourself in with that kind of relentlessness – you’re bound to break big, right?

Wanna’ drop in on this batch of cinematic sickos? Nancy Ray Smiggen’s staked out a spot on MySpace. Go and see the Fetus Tree.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is playing NYC now – at the Village East Cinema. It goes bi-coastal (and probably, since it’s a Troma film, bisexual) on May 15th – when it opens at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood. Visit Troma.com and/or Poultrygeistmovie.com for the details.

When next we descend – you won’t mind it…but…you’ll be poisoned by it. 

 
 

 

 

 


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