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Roger Corman on 'Attack of the 50 Ft. Cheerleader,' the Benefit of Budgetary Restraints and Why the Internet's the Next Home for Indie Film

By Danny Bowes | Indiewire August 22, 2012 at 8:54AM

Roger Corman should need no introduction. Without him, independent film in the United States would be an entirely different entity, if it would even exist at all. As a director, he was responsible for a classic series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations in the early 1960s, among many, many others. As a producer he gave early-career breaks to some of the most storied names in American cinema: Coppola, Scorsese, Bogdanovich, Sayles, Demme.
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'Sharktopus'
Syfy 'Sharktopus'

That was around the time you started to make the SyFy original programming like "Sharktopus"?

Yes. Exactly.

Having transitioned to where you are now, do you feel that this is business-wise where your production is going to remain for the time being, with the kind of pictures that you've been making?

Yes, “for the time being” is the correct phrase. Because these are bad times for independents. Theatrical is essentially gone, DVD is declining, there are still sources of income, foreign is much stronger than it used to be, but I'm a strong believer that eventually we'll be on the internet. Really, fully on the internet. And good times will come back. [laughs]

Was there any of the scale of the decline of independent distribution in the '90s that you've had to deal with before? Or was that so major that it overshadowed the other obstacles you've faced before?

[That] really overshadowed everything. It was a major, major change in distribution. It changed the pattern that had existed since I started making films.

A lot of directors who've got their start working on films you've produced have credited you with instilling in them a respect for the practical aspects of filmmaking. To tie it to what we're talking about, "Attack of the 50 Ft. Cheerleader" is a movie that's very direct. It's about a 50 foot cheerleader who attacks, and it doesn't deviate from that, and it's an engine of entertainment. Is that a priority when you're producing for a director?

"These are bad times for independents"

First and foremost there is simply the technique of directing: planning out shots, pre-production planning, which is a major element for me, various things I've learned as a director, what you do on the set, and so forth. A lot of it is simply practical, pragmatic filmmaking. But there is some attention paid to the creative side as well, so I try to make it as well-rounded a couple of sessions as I can.

You first have to know practically how you make a picture before you start to bring the creative elements in. It's the same thing as, say, you as a writer, you have to learn the craft before or as you go along, and you bring the creative or artistic elements into it.

What influence do you feel you've had, if any, over the way that pictures are made? What sort of stamp do you feel you've left on the history of the medium?

My stamp will be light. I have no illusions that I've been a giant in filmmaking. But I think I've helped to build and support the independent end of motion pictures. To bring that up in opposition to the majors. When I first started, almost everything was a major studio. There were small independent companies but there were very few, they were unimportant. By the end of the '60s, even during the '60s, the independents became much stronger and more able to compete with the majors and be a more coherent form of filmmaking.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, Roger Corman, Epix, Attack of the 50 Ft. Cheerleader