April 5th 1926, the day a Legend was born.
This is Roger Corman. He may look like an accountant, engineer, or a dentist, but he, most likely, is responsible for some of your favorite movies. I know he is a big reason I love the cinema, and movies in general. He's also the reason, I understand not every movie can be perfect or have the polish of a big studio blockbuster, and to remember how little control movie makers have.
Corman started in the movie business 3 days out of college. He went to Stanford...to become an engineer oddly enough, but as time passed he realized his passion was in movies. So after 3 days working at an engineer firm he quit and took a job as a messenger for 20th Century Fox. It was here that he began what can only be thought of as pure 100% hustling. As he did anything and everything he could to move up the ranks. Finally he made it to Story Analyst.
[on his first job in the film industry, looking through material that might be turned into movies] I was a reader at 20th Century Fox, and I'd only been there a few months, and the story editor called me in and said: "Roger, you have never given a positive analysis of anything we've ever given you". And I said: "That's because I'm the youngest guy here and you give me all the rotten stuff. Give me something that's good and I'm perfectly willing to praise it".
After a small break, traveling in Europe, he returned ready to become a screen writer and producer. One of his tricks early on was getting credits on different films, he would trade salary for producer credits, and then use those to pad his resume. As he gained more clout, he was able to sell a script. However, after seeing how different the final product was from the script he wrote, he decided he wanted more control.
He took the little money he had and made another picture, acting as the producer. Using the profits from Monster from the Ocean Floor, he then made The Fast and the Furious. He used that picture to get a multi-picture deal with ARC, soon to be come AIP (American-International Pictures). Corman would become their star behind the camera and make AIP one of the most successful independent studios in cinematic history.
"In science-fiction films, the monster should always be bigger than the leading lady."
"I felt Jack Nicholson was brilliant from the time I met him. I enrolled in a method acting class, not to learn how to act, but to learn how to relate to actors. And that's where I met Jack. The thing that surprised me is that it took so long for him to be recognized."
It was during this time that Corman learned how to make movies while finishing on time and under budget. During his 15 years at AIP, he directed 53 films. He filmed Little Shop of Horrors in 2 days and a night. But his masterpieces came in the 60s, when he started using his newfound skills to take on more ambitious projects. Corman began to adapt Edgar Allen Poe's stories, some in name only. It was here that he cast Vincent Price in many of those roles. The Raven, House of Usher, and the Pit and the Pendulum, and The Masque of the Red Death all meet with commercial and critical success, helping to cement Price as the king of horror.
At the end of the 60s Corman became upset with AIP's practices of re-editing his pictures and left the studio. He retired from directing and set up his own production company, New World Picture. Here he would focus on producing and distributing the pictures he wanted to be made. And to do this he brought in and taught a large group of young, hungry talent. He taught them how to make a film from actors to writers to directors. And when those films were finished, it was on-time and rarely over budget. If they did well, he would offer them more work until they graduated to the bigger studios. If they couldn't grasp how to make a "Corman" film, they were let go and had to fend for themselves.
Some of the people he helped, Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Robert Deniro, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, and Sandra Bullock.
"The $100 and $200 million films are dominating the box office so much that there is no space, or very little space, for the independent films. Every now and then an independent film will come through and can do some business at the box office. So the genre is not completely dead, but it's been heavily damaged."
"I've never made the film I wanted to make. No matter what happens, it never turns out exactly as I hoped."
Roger Corman's influence on America cinema is almost incalculable and in 2009, the master of the B-movie received an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. His movies are still being made today, but no longer for the silver screen; most of the ones he's produced since the 2000s have been direct to video, on Scy-Fy, or Video on demand.
If you haven't seen his movies many are available to watch on Amazon Prime, Vudu free, and tubitv.com. No matter the genre you are interested in, there is a Roger Corman version out there...and it will be wonderful in all its low-budget, B-movie glory.
I started as a writer and then I became a writer-producer. I produced two films and I watched what the directors were doing and I simply said: "I can do that". So, I just took over on the third film that I produced and started directing. I watched the two directors and saw what they were doing. I looked to other films and studied them, the way the shots were laid out and so forth, and taught myself to direct.