We’re pleased to announce Roger Corman as the recipient of the TCFF Michigan Filmmaker Award.
A Detroit native, B-movie legend Roger Corman is one of Hollywood’s most prolific talents, with well over 400 credits to his name as a writer, actor, producer, and director. He is the winner of the Honorary Academy Award for his rich engendering of films and filmmakers.
Our own Katy Gwizdala was able to speak with Mr. Corman about how he got his start, growing up in Michigan, and mentoring today’s film industry giants.
First of all, congratulations on adding the Michigan Filmmaker Award to your long list of accolades.
Why choose cult classics and B-movies as the genre you’ve worked the most with? Is it your passion, or did you find out you’re very, very good at it and stick with it?
I started making low-budget films simply because that’s all the money I had. I had written a screenplay and sold it, and I took that money and made a very low-budget picture “Monster from the Ocean Floor” for $12,000. I primarily finance my pictures myself and since I don’t have that much money, I’m not about to make “Jurassic World” or anything like that. So I stay in the area in which I’m comfortable financing my own films.
When you think about all of the incredible talent you’ve worked with, like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Robert DeNiro – what’s your secret for discovering them? How do you look at Jack Nicholson and see that eventually, he’s going to become the Jack Nicholson we know today?
…There are three things I look for. One is intelligence. I’ve never met anybody, and I’m thinking more as writer, producer, director, who’s had a long successful career that hasn’t had intelligence. There have been a few who’ve had one or two winners but haven’t maintained it that haven’t been so intelligent. But I look for that particularly.
The second is the ability to work long, hard hours. Making films is to a certain extent glamorous, but it’s also a very hard job.
And the third is the intangible, and that’s creativity. One of the ways that you can judge it a little bit is just by talking to a person, and how their mind works — what they say and how they analyze certain things. And to a large extent, I try to work with people who start – such as Francis Coppola, started as my assistant and did second unit directing, editing, one thing or another. He even did carpentry on building some racks for storage equipment on a Volkswagen MiniBus we used for locations shooting. So I’m able to judge the creativity that way, with Francis or with other people like Jim Cameron or Jonathan Demme, or whoever who started with us that way. Other times, somebody like Marty Scorsese, I resisted talking to him and saw an underground black & white film he did in New York. Just judging from that, I thought Marty had the required creativity.
Another widely known fact about you is your cameo career – do you have a favorite story from a film you’ve acted in?
Yes, as a matter of fact. One of the first times I did, in “Godfather Part II,” Francis Coppola had me play one of the Senators on the Senate Crime Investigating Committee and I remember there were so many lights — I’d always been behind the camera, and of course this is a big-budget film, and… I couldn’t see anything at all out there. And when the assistant director said “roll ‘em” and the camera was running, but before Francis could say “action,” somebody yelled out of the dark “don’t get nervous Rog, but your entire career in Hollywood depends on how you say these lines!” It was Jack Nicholson, who by prearrangement with Francis had come over from another sound stage where he was working to throw me off. And make me triple nervous on the first take. Read More →