At 19, I decided that I wanted to make movies but unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to attend film school. I relied on DVD extras and books in order to educate myself about cinema and how to make film. One of those books was the autobiography of Roger Corman, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime. While reading it I realized that films like “Attack of the Crab Monsters,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” the Vincent Price Edgar Allen Poe movies, “Death Race 2000,” Grand Theft Auto,” and “Rock N Roll High School” had all actually been made by one person.
One of the most inspiring things about Roger Corman is his ‘do it yourself’ approach to low-budget filmmaking. Shockingly, he has produced over 300 films outside of the mainstream studio system over the span of a six-decade long career.
He also launched the careers of some of the industry’s biggest heavyweights like Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Jim Cameron and Ron Howard, but Roger, also made other giant contributions to cinema. He spawned the New Hollywood era by launching artists such as Robert Towne, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Peter Bogdanovich, and Bruce Dern. You can even trace Corman’s influence in the advent of the blockbuster. When “Jaws” was released, Vincent Canby from the New York Times wrote “What is ‘Jaws’ but a big budget Roger Corman movie?”
As a businessman, Roger blazed the trail for independent film creating a business model for people to see how they could stay in business by creating low budget independent films. I might add that there are probably very few, if any, companies that have managed to stay in business as long as Roger has. He is still churning out films today with his wife, and producing partner, Julie Corman.
There are also things that Roger has done that people rarely talk about. Corman was one of the first people in the film industry to hire women behind the camera. He was an equal opportunity employer long before any laws were set up demanding such. Back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Roger was really the only place in town where a woman could be hired as a writer, director, producer, or executive. He launched the careers of numerous female producers, directors, and writers like Catherine Hardwicke, Penelope Spheeris, Gale Anne Hurd, Polly Platt, and Francis Doel.
I continued to uncover so much more about him but at a certain point a light bulb went off and I thought all of this would make for a great documentary. Corman’s legacy should be introduced to younger generations of aspiring filmmakers. People should understand his place and influence in American cinema.
After Roger agreed to be the subject of my documentary – which nearly six years later has turned into CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (now out in NY and LA ) – one of the first opportunities I had to shoot him was in Mexico when he invited me to the set of his latest film “Dinoshark.” As a rite of passage, I got drafted into the production of his film and unexpectedly became a member of the crew, all while shooting and editing my own film about him. Could that be any more Cormanesque? Even though I didn’t go to a traditional film school, you could say I graduated from the Corman School of Filmmaking, which just might be a better experience than any film school could offer.
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, is now open in NY and LA.